NHS waiting lists have always been a bone of contention but, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, they are threatening previously unimaginable levels.
A new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that the waiting list in England – already some five million strong – could hit a staggering 14 million by the autumn of 2022 if those who failed to receive care during the pandemic come flooding back to receive medical attention.
The prospect of losing key staff to this problem is a potential nightmare for employers trying to kickstart their businesses after lockdown. Indeed, the prolonged absence of a couple of key staff could even threaten the existence of a very small organisation.
Concerns with treatment delays have been such that Chase de Vere has found itself inundated with enquiries from clients interested in private medical insurance (PMI) schemes.
PMI can enable employees to jump the NHS queue and enjoy private treatment at a time convenient to their workloads and to those of their colleagues. It can also provide immediate access to initial specialist consultations, scans and complementary therapies like physiotherapy and osteopathy.
Additionally, providers are increasingly including features like virtual GP appointments and other remote services like online mental health support and at-home screenings.
Some enquiries asking us to cost potential PMI schemes are from firms that have been approached by worried employees requesting company-paid cover. Others have simply resulted from employers being aware of the potential absenteeism and presenteeism costs if employees aren’t able to receive prompt treatment.
They know that even those still able to turn up to work are unlikely to be able to function at anything like their maximum if they are struggling on in pain, and that they can have a detrimental impact on the morale and productivity of others.
Employers are also worried about keeping up with competitors in terms of the employee benefits they offer because they realise that falling behind them could make it hard to attract and retain quality staff.
Chase de Vere carries out regular benchmarking surveys so that it can demonstrate to interested clients how their benefits packages compare with others in their industry, and we wouldn’t be surprised if our next survey detected a significant impact in this area.
It’s not just PMI enquiries that have been going through the roof. The numbers of brand-new schemes that we have actually been implementing have also reached unprecedented levels.
In many cases setting up a new scheme has not involved any additional financial outlay from the client because we have been able to fund it from savings realised elsewhere in their benefits package.
The most common way in which we achieve this is by introducing salary exchange on company pension schemes – which involves employees giving up entitlement to a proportion of salary in exchange for pension contributions.
The approach, as well as reducing tax and NI contributions for employees, usually results in a lower NI contributions for employers, and the savings realised are quite often sufficient to pay for a PMI scheme that covers the whole workforce.
We can also advise on a range of ways of curbing PMI costs, such as opting for a high excess or cutting back on elements of cover.
We are, for example, finding one popular approach at the moment is for the employer to only pay for PMI cover for employees but not for their dependents. Even though dependents need to pay their own premiums, they can still access keener rates and broader cover than is available via the individual market.
There are, however, a bewildering array of different cover formats and providers out there to choose from and it’s easy for those with no expertise to go wrong.
So, it’s essential that employers consider their options in conjunction with a specialist intermediary like Chase de Vere to ensure that they select the scheme most suited to the needs of their workforce and to their available budget.
Content correct at the time of writing and is intended for general information only and should not be construed as advice.