Investing in health - Business Works

Investing in health

St Anthonys Hospital

D ifficult economic conditions call for good time management and a sharp focus on priorities. Healthcare issues are vitally important because they directly affect you and your employees and impact on the efficiency and profitability of the organisation. They can also be expensive and a drain on resources if not managed carefully.

The costs of healthcare benefits for employees continually increase as medical inflation outstrips RPI and insurance premiums go up again. Nevertheless, private medical insurance cover is highly valued by employees, plays an important role in the overall remuneration package and helps to sort out medical problems quickly. Naturally, you will want to control costs as far as possible and this is why some employers are trading down to cheaper insurance products that don’t offer quite as many benefits. Some of these are “directed” products, allowing the insurer to dictate which hospitals and which specialists may be used. This latter choice can be counter- productive as it can lead to dissatisfaction among staff who find they cannot use their usual hospital or see the consultant that their GP recommends. It is also poor medicine as it ignores clinical preferences and tends to fragment patient care. An alternative might be to offer a high quality product, but look to staff to make a part-payment when making claims. This may also help to improve your claims history, providing useful ammunition when the time comes to renegotiate the premium.

On the 6 April 2010 the ‘sick note’ was replaced by the ‘fit note’. The Department of Work and Pensions stated that “Evidence shows that work is generally good for your health and that often, going back to work can actually aid a person’s recovery. On the other hand, staying off work can lead to long-term absence and job loss with the risk of isolation, loss of confidence, mental health issues, de-skilling and social exclusion.” The new fit note can help. Doctors are able to advise people who are on sick leave for over 7 days whether, with extra support from their employer, they could return to work earlier. On the other hand, a fit note can’t help if the problem is actually one of poor administration in hospitals leading to appointments being postponed, operations cancelled at short notice or medical notes going missing. Even if staff private medical insurance is beyond your company’s budget, it is still possible to use private healthcare on an occasional basis to break through delays in the system and get a key worker back into place quickly.

Better still is to pre-empt unexpected sickness absence by offering regular health screening and creating a culture of good health within the organisation. This could range from installing a gym to simply ensuring that working hours are kept within reasonable limits. We still work longer hours in the UK than they do in the rest of Europe and the result can be seen in a 30 year study recently reported in the medical journal Heart. Based on 5000 Danish men aged 40 to 59, the study found that for unfit men, those who regularly worked more than 45 hours a week were twice as likely to die of heart trouble than those who worked less than 40 hours.

An ideal opportunity for senior business managers and HR professionals to catch up on health matters comes on 19 October 2010 when St Anthony’s Hospital at Cheam, Surrey, is hosting a free half-day seminar, “Health in the Workplace”. Short presentations from a range of independent experts will give valuable inside information, tips and advice on how to maintain a happy, healthy and productive workforce.

For further information:
t: 020 8335 4557

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