1st July 2019 by Neil Barnes
Medical appointments could be costing the UK economy more than £10 BILLION in lost working hours each year, according to research from Benenden Health
A poll of 2,000 working Brits found they miss an average of four days a year to seek medical advice. Based on the average wage of working Brits in full-time work, this missed time equates to £437.76 per person, per year.
And across the full-time working population of more than 23 million Brits in the UK, that adds up to a staggering £10,177,920,000.
The study was commissioned by health and wellbeing provider Benenden Health, whose Chief Commercial Officer, Helen Smith, said: “For those that work full-time across normal office hours, it’s almost inevitable that you might need time off work to visit a doctor."
“With a mixed bag in how employers approach time off work for medical appointments, tackling our health concerns could be having a huge effect on the economy. And that’s before you consider further commitments such as taking time off to see the dentist, have an eye test, or other things you may do for your health and wellbeing. It’s important to stay fit and healthy to allow you to work at your best, but traditional access to GPs and other medical appointments are ineffective.
“Increasingly, both employers and health providers are looking at alternatives, including use of technology and other ways to access GPs. Proactive employers will recognise the value of good health and wellbeing and have developed strategies that put their people at the heart of their business, but sadly some employers fall short.”
Sixty-five per cent of respondents say their workplace has made allowances for additional time off for medical reasons. But one in five people who suffer from a chronic medical condition have kept it a secret from their employer. More than a third of respondents confess to feeling ‘guilty’ about taking time off work to visit a doctor or another medical professional. But only half say their employer is flexible when they need to book an appointment, even when it’s short notice.
More than seven in 10 workers think their local doctor’s surgery or GP should increase its opening hours to improve accessibility for workers. Three in 10 believe they live too far away from their GP to visit them as often as they’d like, according to the OnePoll.com research. And 27 per cent think the time they take off work to visit the doctor directly affects the productivity of their company.
In fact, a fifth have waited until after their shift at work has finished and gone to A&E, instead of taking time out of the office. One third also fear that taking time off work to deal with health concerns could end up holding them back in their career. And despite all this, a fifth admit they still ‘look down’ on colleagues who take time away from work to go to the doctor.
Helen Smith added: “We know that many GP and health providers are looking at their opening hours to allow more access outside of normal office hours, but employers also have a vital role to play. It shouldn’t be so hard to prioritise our health and wellbeing. Forward-thinking workplaces are including health initiatives such as free access to 24/7 GP helplines video e-consultations, and prescriptions delivered to your door or desk. This means that employees could get medical advice on their breaks without needing to travel to a GP, benefiting both the employer and employee. Furthermore, we should be changing the way we view workplace sickness, tackling this proactively rather than a problem to react to. Benenden Health wants to help employers by making it easier than ever to get an expert’s medical opinion, for example through offering access to a 24/7 GP helpline. Employers with a corporate healthcare package like Benenden Health’s would also enable employees to access video consultations with a GP as well as a prescription service.”
Benenden Health member, Nicky, describes her use of a GP helpline: “Being able to get medical advice from a doctor at a predesignated early hour enabled me to get to work on time and my daughter to get into school. “Swift diagnosis through secure photo exchange had everything under control within hours and on the mend quickly with minimal disruption to my daily routine. It was the first time I'd used the service, couldn't believe how easy and helpful it was!”
Find out more about how employers could make access to GP easier.