Delays in employees seeing GPs can prove costly. But employers can help.
Most of us know that receiving a stitch in time is supposed to save nine, but that first stich or consultation is becoming increasingly hard to access for busy employees.
According to Pulse magazine, the average patient currently waits for 13 days to see a GP, and this time is likely to rocket to nearly three weeks within the next few years.
For those in work the average wait may be longer still as they may not find time to call their GP and may want to arrange visits that fit in with their work schedules.
Even for employees whose local GPs are situated within easy travelling distance from the office, the fact that doctors often run well behind may result in them having to take hours off work.
Furthermore, many commuters work so far away from their GPs that paying them a visit actually necessitates taking an entire day off.
According to figures from a Telegraph survey quoted by Benenden Health, 24% of employees admit that the most likely reason for having to take a day off work would be to attend a doctor’s appointment.
With the 2018 CIPD/Simplyhealth Health and well-being at work survey showing the average level of absenteeism to be 6.6 days per employee per year, this is a problem most employers could do without.
It is not just the time out of the office for the initial GP appointment that is the issue. The longer anyone has to wait to receive a diagnosis and treatment then the more likely their condition is to develop into a serious long-term absenteeism issue.
Worryingly, a recent Personal Group/ VideoDoc survey found that 52% of employees actually delay seeking medical advice because they are worried about taking time off.
Remember also that someone who, because they can’t access a GP, unknowingly comes to work with an illness that is contagious can result in numerous colleagues being off sick as well.
Then there is the issue of presenteeism, which is commonly estimated to be even more costly than absenteeism.
If an employee is struggling on in pain it can severely affect their productivity, and having to share an office with someone behaving like a bear with a sore head can also adversely impact on that of their colleagues.
All this is still relevant to employers who offer private medical insurance (PMI) schemes, because employees wishing to claim will need to be referred by a GP.
But the good news is that nowadays employers have the ability to nip these problems in the bud by offering employees access to prompt diagnosis, and this doesn’t mean investing heavily in an in-house occupational health department.
The last 18 months have seen a marked growth in the number of providers offering services giving employees access to 24-hour private GP helplines or similar facilities via video-link or email.
These can enable employees to discuss their conditions and to receive a diagnosis, followed by appropriate advice and a clear course of action. If necessary, follow-up appointments and referrals to specialists can also be provided.
They are also often able to send prescriptions by post, email or directly to a local chemist, and some providers offer additional specialist psychological wellbeing helplines.
Crucially, access to these services can be made at a time convenient to employees, and this may well mean outside working hours, especially if they are seeking privacy. Further Telegraph survey figures quoted by Benenden Health show that 27% of employees would prefer not to let colleagues or a manager know about a health concern or doctor’s appointment.
Wellbeing has become a very big area for employers, and many of them are wondering what they can give staff here that is different. In our view offering private GP access provides a highly cost-effective way of doing exactly that.
Chase de Vere can look at the options available for you and, in the first instance, provide an initial discussion about how such facilities might benefit you and your workforce.