A prominent name in the world of health insurance and protection has added her voice to those urging individuals who need health advice, care, support or treatment to seek it – and not to put it off or even cancel it over fears brought on by the COVID-19 crisis.
Since the pandemic emerged, there has been a massive drop in the number of people going for regular screening appointments or seeking medical advice from their GP or from elsewhere. There has also been a huge fall in the number of operations and cancer treatments being carried out in hospital.
Christine Husbands, Managing Director of RedArc Nurses, said that while that is partly because hospital capacity has been set aside to treat potential COVID-19 patients, it is also because many other patients have been reluctant to attend hospital – or even visit their GP – over fears about COVID-19.
As a result, diagnoses of serious illnesses are significantly lower than they should be, with year-on-year cancer diagnoses down 39%, Husbands said.
‘In practice, fewer claims now is just likely to mean bigger claims later, which is worse for the individual and the industry – we must work together to encourage people to access the support available’Christine Husbands, RedArc
The implications of patients’ reluctance to come forward could prove even more damaging in the long-term, not just for those needing hospital care, but also those needing physiotherapy or mental health support.
Husbands said that her organisation often supports people that have inter-related conditions, such as a physical illness affecting mental health.
She said: “The later that people get support, the more serious and complex their needs become.
“This can take a lot of unravelling, takes longer to treat and means a lot more stress for the individual.”
The widespread move to home working is also causing problems that could stack up if people delay seeking help.
The ‘other’ crisis: Health Insurance & Protection has reported regularly in recent weeks on the catastrophic impact that severe lockdown measures – compounded by the unwillingness of patients to seek support and treatment – are having on both physical and mental health
Husbands said: “With an increase in people working from home in unergonomic environments and taking up new exercise regimes, there has been an increase in musculoskeletal concerns.
Husbands said that individuals should feel reassured that many medical facilities have introduced steps which enable them to continue supporting people safely, such as implementing extra hygiene measures, offering virtual diagnoses, treatment at home and having “COVID-free” facilities so people can feel confident using them.
“The later that such issues are addressed, the longer treatment and recovery can take.”
She said: “It’s important that anyone that has health concerns accesses support, and doesn’t put it off, and integral to this is that insurers encourage utilisation of health and wellbeing protection so that people can be fully supported.”
Husbands said that “fewer-than-usual claims is not good”.
She said: “Insurance is in place for when people need it and the industry is available to offer the support needed, be that financial, practical or emotional.
“In practice, fewer claims now is just likely to mean bigger claims later, which is worse for the individual and the industry. We must work together to encourage people to access the support available.”