The COVID-19 crisis has shone a spotlight on the importance of health and wellbeing like never before, increasing demand for private healthcare and other health and wellbeing solutions.
Fuelling the demand is the increased awareness of the importance of good health and wellbeing, coupled with the recognition that the NHS is under major strain.
The NHS Confederation recently warned the number of people waiting for NHS treatment could double to 10 million by the end of the year, because of the crisis. Cancer Research estimates that 2.1 million people have missed out on screening; 290,000 people with suspected symptoms have not been referred for hospital tests and more than 23,000 cancers could have gone undiagnosed during lockdown.
The value we place on our health has increased significantly. Coming out of the crisis, people want to ensure they and their families can get quick access to medical advice and treatment, when it’s needed.
Many will be looking to their employers to offer better health and wellbeing solutions or considering paying for private healthcare themselves.
New research from Consumer Intelligence on behalf of Equipsme highlighted that since the pandemic began, there has been a surge in people considering paying for private healthcare to avoid NHS waiting lists and to gain quick access to specialist treatment. Twenty seven per cent of people said they would pay for private healthcare, compared to 15% in 2019.
Companies have a real opportunity to better engage their staff by investing in their employees’ health and wellbeing and refining their health and benefits provision to demonstrate how much they value them. Providing outstanding health benefits and protection will have a positive impact on businesses starting to recover – boosting people’s productivity, engagement and loyalty, as well as reducing the risks of costly absenteeism.
For both companies and individuals considering private medical insurance (PMI), Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing highlights the following benefits of investing in such schemes:
Reduced waiting times – Having medical insurance often allows access to get quicker treatment particularly for non-urgent treatment
Access to virtual GPs – Many insurers offer a 24-hour virtual service, providing an initial assessment in the comfort of your own home.
Faster track services – Some insurers provide faster track services for some conditions such as mental health, cancer, and physiotherapy, to help individuals access treatment more quickly.
Convenience and peace of mind – Treatment can be planned to suit busy lifestyles and commitments.
Greater choice – Individuals can usually choose the hospital and treating consultant from a list of specialists.
Control over treatment – In the private sector a consultant will often be able to prescribe the latest drugs without worrying about NHS funding and the postcode lottery. Treatment not available through the NHS may be funded privately, as can getting a second opinion.
Privacy and quality care – In the private sector not only can people choose the hospital but many policies offer the choice of a private room with en-suite facilities and far more freedom on visiting hours than is possible in the NHS.
Specialist mental health services – Many PMI policies can provide mental health support services quickly and discreetly.
In recent months, we have also seen many smaller businesses considering PMI schemes for the first time or extending their existing schemes to include more employees.
Such schemes enable employees to access healthcare services and treatment quickly and easily, which has never been so important.
For smaller firms who cannot afford fully funded PMI schemes, there are cost-effective alternatives such as health cash plans and providing access to virtual GPs. As a minimum and at no cost, they could signpost employees to independent advisers to review their personal options.
For businesses looking into group healthcare for the first time or individuals considering private healthcare options, seeking independent advice is essential.
It can be a complicated area to navigate and speaking to a broker can save time and money and ensure the right cover and the right benefits are offered at the right price.