NHS Waiting Times & The Role of Private Healthcare

July 2021
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The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on our health services. Multiple lockdowns and the pressure of treating severely ill patients saw the NHS cancel or postpone non-urgent treatment for thousands of patients in order to ensure there was capacity to care for those sick with Covid. Private hospitals were even drafted in to help out. While the pressure of Covid is slightly less now, the knock-on effects are still being felt:

  • The number of people waiting for NHS treatment has reached 5million for the first time ever [1]. 
  • In the year from April 2020 to May 2021 there were 3.63 million fewer elective procedures and 23.67 million fewer outpatient attendances [2].
  • According to MacMilllan an estimated 50,000 are now missing a cancer diagnosis [3].

What does this mean for you?
With NHS wait times and the cancellation of non-urgent procedures and appointments, a growing number of employees are likely to be unable to access the treatment they require. This could result in a sense of uncertainty, prolonged illness and is likely to take a toll on their mental health. 
All of this will have implications for sickness absence and productivity, with the amount of £92 billion being lost each year to UK businesses because of employee ill health [4]. 

What can you do?
As an employer you can help your employees mitigate some of these problems by providing access to health and wellbeing services. 

Private Medical Insurance is key benefit in this area providing quicker access to both consultations, diagnosis and treatment. Schemes such as Vitality@Work are making it ever more affordable for employers to fund, and far more accessible for employees. It could cost as little as £7.50 per employee per month to ensure fast access to a private virtual GP, physiotherapy services and a range of mental health support. 

Another option for employers is Health Cash Plans, which are an easy introduction for those with a smaller budget for employee benefits. Cash Plans can offer access to medical services privately to beat NHS wait times. Rather than being fully funded like Private Medical Insurance, Cash Plans usually require employees to pay upfront for healthcare before reimbursing them up to certain limits during the policy year. 

An employee assistance programme (EAP) can be standalone product or included in benefits such as Group Life Insurance, and Cash Plans. EAPs can provide support for employees and employers to speed up the return to work following an illness. EAPs often include a range of wellbeing services including counselling, debt advice and mental health support. 

How LEBC can help
Providing a range of health and wellbeing benefits is increasingly important to employees, particularly given the impact of the pandemic. If you are looking to introduce or review your benefits package, LEBC has experienced consultants who can assist you in putting together solutions to suit your strategy and budget. 

Gaby Little

The information contained in this article is based on the opinion of LEBC Group Ltd and does not constitute financial advice or a recommendation to any insurance product, you should seek independent financial advice before embarking on any course of action.

[1]  Number of people on England’s NHS waiting list tops 5 million for first time, Denis Campbell & Pamela Duncan, The Guardian, 10 June 2021
[2]  BMA, NHS Delivery & Workforce, Pressure points in the NHS, April & May 2021 Analysis
[3]  The Fogotten ‘C’? Impact of Covid-19 on cancer care, MacMillan, October 2020
[4]  Vitality at Work Brochure, Vitality (VHB0107_07/20_J5071)

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