Jul 04, 2012 17:12 BST Atos; Atos Healthcare; Occupational health, employee health and rehabilitation; NHS support; employee loyalty and engagement; rehabilitation back into work; support employees returning to work; workplace health provision; ageing workforce; musculoskeletal support; fitness at work
Atos Healhcare: Why the NHS may not always be there for youJul 04, 2012 17:16 BST
We all know the saying, ‘if you want a job done properly, do it yourself’. In fact many managers still seem to swear by it, even if it does fly in the face of good delegation and coaching technique. Unfortunately, for employers who have up to now been relying on the NHS to manage their employee health and rehabilitation, the penny is starting to drop that this may very much need to be the mantra going forward.
Of course, the NHS will always have its uses, for example, in a crisis or for acute medical need what you might term “big ticket” such as treating cancer. Overall, despite the complaints you commonly hear from many employers, the fact the NHS is always there, as a fall-back, is valuable.
But, increasingly, for the low-level medical conditions – physiotherapy, musculoskeletal support, talking therapies and so on – there is recognition among many employers that, while the NHS can still play its part at both primary and secondary level, if they want someone back at work and firing on all cylinders sooner rather than later, they are going to have to push it – and fund it – themselves.
Two good cases in point are diabetes and strokes. Now, obviously, the vast majority of direct medical care for both these conditions occurs within the NHS and we’re not for a moment suggesting that that should stop being the case. But post care needs – the rehabilitation back into work and sustaining the work, day-to-day management of your condition once you are “well”, the lifestyle and exercise choices you may need to make –, increasingly, it seems are falling to employers.
The Stroke Association charity, for example, has highlighted that physiotherapy services for UK stroke survivors remain, at best, patchy. Among stroke survivors 43% say they want more NHS support, with physiotherapy (29%) cited as their main priority.
Similarly, the charity Diabetes UK has warned that diabetes healthcare in England is in a “state of crisis”; fewer than half of people with this condition are getting the basic minimum care they need and, in turn, there’s been a sharp rise in diabetes-related complications, such as amputation, blindness, kidney, failure and stroke. At the same time, the journal Diabetic Medicine has come out with some dire predictions suggesting the cost of treating diabetes complications is expected to almost double from the current total of £7.7bn to £13.5bn.
What’s all that got to do with workplaces? Isn’t this beyond the remit of what would be expected of even a “good” employer? Well, yes and no.
In the case of both illnesses it would be natural to expect the NHS to take the lead, especially around specialist rehabilitation and support services. However, there is scope for employers to provide some workplace services which, ultimately, means people can return to, or spend less time away from work. For example, in areas such as physiotherapy, whether for stroke survivors or otherwise, there is now a wealth of expertise employers can leverage to support employees returning to work. Similarly, in areas such as the day-to-day management of conditions like diabetes, the workplace is a sensible place for those affected to gain easy access to advice and support on managing their conditions.
In fact, employers have a real opportunity to engender employee loyalty and engagement by being more proactive in offering such work-based services to valued employees. There are, however, challenges to this becoming more commonplace.
With obesity, an ageing workforce and lifestyle diseases becoming more prevalent, employers opting to go down this route could find themselves burdened with a heavy bill. Set against a backdrop of an NHS struggling to cope with the government’s latest round of reforms and transformation, employers will need to weigh up the cost against the NHS’ continuing and long-term ability and capacity to support their needs. It’s an issue that requires careful consideration.
The key question then perhaps is: can workplace health provision, if not exactly step in and replace, step in alongside the NHS more on these and other issues?
Let’s just hope it doesn’t end up being the thin end of the wedge.