It will come as no surprise that during the height of the pandemic many people avoided making appointments with their GP. According to a survey of GPs in the Midlands it was discovered that some patients had quite severe medical issues, which have since deteriorated due to delayed treatment.
According to data from The Kings Fund thinktank (Jul 2021), around 20% of patients throughout the UK put off making a GP appointment through fear of being perceived as a burden to the NHS. In some areas of the UK, these figures were even higher. Furthermore, the data highlighted that around 11% of patients had not made appointments because they found it too difficult.
The Royal College of GPs (Sep 2020) has echoed these findings, saying many patients did not seek medical attention whilst feeling unwell.
Warnings of a ‘capacity crunch’ in UK healthcare
The King’s Fund warned that this pent-up demand for GP appointments will lead to a ‘capacity crunch’ within the UK healthcare system, and anecdotal evidence and media coverage appear to support the notion that even though restrictions have now been lifted, getting to see your GP can still be challenging.
Even in pre-pandemic times, having to wait for GP appointments was not a new phenomenon. According to an annual survey of doctors by Pulse (Aug 2021), the leading publication for GPs in the UK, even pre-pandemic the average waiting time for a GP appointment was 15 days. Of the GPs who responded, over 20% cited an average waiting time of more than three weeks for a routine appointment.
Again, the Royal College of GPs echoed these findings and called upon the Government to make good on its 2015 pledge to increase GP headcount.
Is it time for employers to step in and offer support with their people’s health?
As an employer, having a workforce struggling with health issues cannot be helpful for productivity levels. In the north of England in particular, an NHSA study (Mar 2019) found that general health was poorer than anywhere else in the UK, leading to an estimated productivity gap of £4 per person per hour.
As part of a review of wellbeing strategy, a cost-effective solution might be to offer access to a 24/7 GP service which helps to diagnose and treat employees, and support them to be productive again as quickly as possible. This is a tangible benefit which also helps employees deal with any anxiety related to their illness.
All employers have a duty of care to support each individual as a ‘whole person’, not just an employee. If you’d like to find out more about implementing wellbeing benefits that can add real value for your business and your people, speak to one of our wellbeing experts today.