RedArc: Is relying on virtual GPs and Employee Assistance Programmes a risky strategy?

Today’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) data revealed that 667,000 new cases of work-related ill health are reported annually, with new cases during 2021/22 costing £13.1bn.

Related topics:  RedArc,  Long-term support
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
23rd November 2023
Long-term Support
"If in-the-moment care continues to be prioritised, the long-term health and wellbeing of employees may be at risk."
- RedArc

According to the latest Health & Safety Executive (HSE) data, 48% of new cases of work-related ill-health result in seven days absence or longer - 14,200 employees never return to the labour market due to ill-health. The average cost per case of ill-health is £19,300, increasing to £39,400 for absences exceeding a week.

Considering these statistics, RedArc has warned that prioritising short-term support such as access to virtual GPs and Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) over the type of support that is required when an individual is diagnosed with a long-term or chronic health condition could be a risky strategy.

“With NHS services under strain, it is easy to understand the reasons why virtual GPs and EAPs are receiving so much interest and promotion at present.”

RedArc explained that although these in-the-moment support services may give people immediate attention, they are not always adequate for conditions such as diabetes, stroke, or cardiovascular disease. Christine Husbands, Commercial Director at RedArc, said that “There is a place for both shorter-term in-the-moment care and more comprehensive support.” She believes employers and insurers “must recognise the benefits of both, and consider the merits of implementing both, for the best possible health outcomes.”

“Offering in-the-moment support alone, could be a risky strategy for long-term health.”

This is the third NHS-related warning issued by RedArc in the last twelve months, calling on insurers to provide more support to patients on waiting lists. “A common refrain when people are referred to us is, ‘I wish I’d known about you sooner,’ demonstrating that the industry can do more to communicate what is available and how to access support,” Christine explained.

READ MORE: RedArc claims insurers must offer support amidst NHS delays in elective and emergency care

In April, she told Protection Reporter that “We need to provide long-term support rather than short-term transactions [and] mental health services are sometimes not properly tailored, which has caused them to become almost a buzzword in the industry.”

“Insurers, employers, and advisers should play a bigger role in helping people navigate the system and bridge the care gap.”

But “this does not have to mean paying for expensive procedures or treatments, it is often a case of giving someone the knowledge they need to make the most of what is available,” Christine clarified.

READ MORE: RedArc issue second NHS-related warning in 3 months

This second warning was issued after research conducted by Royal London that found that 9 in 10 (88%) of customers have recently dealt with issues such as poor mental health, affecting either themselves or a loved one (57%), physical illness or injury (49%), or the death of a loved one (32%).

READ MORE: Royal London warn insurers of awareness gap after finding only 16% of protection policyholders are familiar with added-value services

The insurer noted that people are struggling to access the help they need because of NHS waiting times; services that “simply can’t meet the demand,” and a lack of awareness of other organisations that can help.

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