UK employers should embrace digital healthcare to reduce absenteeism and help ease the NHS winter crisis, argues Punter Southall Health & Protection (PSHP).
The consultancy, says that the wider adoption of digital medical services by UK businesses could help ease the crisis that has led NHS hospitals to cancel routine operations and some GPs to turn patients away. More than 60 senior A&E doctors wrote to the Prime Minister today warning that this year’s winter healthcare crisis would see patients dying in corridors without more funding.
PSHP says that advances in telemedicine and the availability of affordable digital healthcare services employers can easily offer their employees virtual GP services.
The winter increase in demand has seen the NHS take the unprecendented step of putting all non-urgent surgery on hold until at least February.
The BMJ recently reported that GPs across the UK are being forced to turn patients away because they are overwhelmed. A separate BMJ report highlighted that providers of out-of-hours GP services are struggling to fill their staff rotas because of “intense” pressures this winter.
A survey from OmniJoin last year found that over half of primary care patients would like the option of online video appointments with their GP, with 23 per cent saying virtual consultations would be useful when they needed a quick appointment, 17 per cent said they would use virtual consultations when they just wanted some advice or reassurance and 11 per cent said virtual consultations would be useful when they can’t take time off work to visit their doctor.
PSHP executive director Jan Lawson says: “The NHS can’t meet the demands being placed upon it this winter. One simple solution is for employers is to offer digital health services, so employees can consult with a GP from their desktops or smart phones as soon as they are ill. Their staff will be able to get medical advice quickly, avoid GP waiting times and taking time off for appointments, obtain prescriptions and get well sooner.”
“According to the CIPD’s ‘Absence Management Survey 2016’, sick days cost UK businesses an average of £522 per employee, with minor illnesses such as coughs and colds being the main cause of short term absences – an unwanted cost most companies are looking to reduce.”