Uncertainty, instability and anxiety have plagued 2020, but these feelings don’t have to continue. We have been presented with an opportunity to do better. A renewed focus on our health encourages a positive, proactive and preventative approach to healthcare that improves our resilience in a challenging world.
We aren’t fortune tellers, but we can say with certainty that there will be major issues facing the health of our nation in the months and years to come.
A difficult hand
Could 2020 be the year preventative care is taken off the wish list and becomes an essential part of health and wellbeing strategies? Half of the UK’s adult population reported high levels of anxiety in the week lockdown was announced, and providers have the chance to implement solutions which help address these issues before they develop into more serious, long-term conditions. A study from BUPA revealed 82% of Brits have suffered from issues such as continuous low mood, anxiety, low self-esteem or hopelessness during lockdown, but almost half (44%) said they haven’t told anyone – a significant rise from 2019 when one in four (22%) said they have bottled their feelings up. A survey by the Office for National Statistics in May found  more than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) reported feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life. The most common issues affecting wellbeing are worry about the future (63%), feeling stressed or anxious (56%) and feeling bored (49%).
Back, shoulder and neck pain are on the rise. A snap survey of 500 home workers by the Institute for Employment Studies found 64% reported problems sleeping due to anxiety,
48% are working irregular work patterns and long days and a third feel lonely. It also shows a rapid rise in musculoskeletal complaints with more than half of the survey respondents reporting new aches and pains, especially in the neck (58%), shoulder (56%) and back (55%), compared to their normal physical condition.
In June, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy advised its members to prepare for “a tidal wave” of demand for rehabilitation services from people whose aches and pains have worsened, partly due to lack of exercise and bad habits and partly due to poor posture during lockdown.
According to a Freedom of Information request by Equipsme, in normal circumstances, people are waiting as long as 132 days to see a physiotherapist in England.
The doctor will call you now
Across industries, the long envisaged transformative power of technology has been harnessed and implemented at breakneck speed. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, recently announced that they’ve “seen two years” worth of digital transformation in two months following the explosion in use of Microsoft Teams in response to the monumental shift to almost two in five working from home.
Recent data suggests a comparable revolution is happening in GP services. The RCGP reported that 71% of routine consultations in general practice were delivered remotely
in the month leading up to 12 April 2020, up from only 25% over the same period the previous year. Compare this with the preceding pace of change; between 1995 and 2019, NHS telephone consultations increased by a mere 10%, from 3% to 13%.
The benefits of this shift are not restricted to facilitating social distancing. A new report by AXA PPP healthcare reveals that UK businesses could see a saving of £1.5 billion in economic
output by eliminating the travel time required to attend GP consultations. Along with the substantial economic benefits, the report illuminates the need for a greater level of convenience with 2019 seeing one-in-twenty appointments in general practice recorded as ‘Did Not Attend’.
The most common reasons for skipping consultations were ‘work commitments’ (28%), followed by ‘family commitments’ (26%), and then ‘symptoms had eased by the time the appointment came around’ (26%). Virtual consultations, like those offered by Medical Solutions, mean patients can speak to a GP at a time and place that suits them, and those scheduled through apps can be easier to cancel or amend.
Private virtual GP services offer the added benefit of lessening the burden on the NHS, an important consideration given the latest survey from the British Medical Association which showed a third of GPs predict it will take up to a year or longer for their practice capacity to return to pre-Covid levels, even with ‘no future spikes’ of the virus, due to social distancing measures reducing capacity and a backlog of demand. Offering virtual GP consultations also helps patients feel confident to seek medical advice: 40% of the UK population are not seeking help from their GP because they are afraid to be a burden on the NHS during the pandemic.
Holistic Health – Change the deck
To supplement our core GP service, Medical Solutions has launched Holistic Health, which includes two new services designed to provide convenient, easy access to preventative care and support that helps improve your members’ physical and mental resilience.
Through education, self-help and signposting to other beneficial resources, Holistic Health can equip and empower your members to manage their health proactively and help reduce the risk of more serious conditions developing.