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Investing in occupational health is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but rather a must-have. 

Public health services have been diminishing over the years, and while those in the medical profession have continually strived to tackle the ever-increasing demand for their services, most can’t help but wonder whether it’s time to move away from public healthcare for issues that don’t necessitate a hospital visit. We’re talking about day-to-day mental and physical health that takes up your GP’s time but might be better outsourced, specifically to the employer and the services that they can offer. Implementing these come at a cost to businesses, but is the return on investment worth it? 

We are now in the midst of a candidate-driven job market, and many have seen a shift in their expectations when it comes to the responsibilities that the employer should take on. Businesses that don’t adapt to meet these wants and needs can wave goodbye to attracting and retaining top talent. By investing in the health of their employees, businesses can ensure that they are providing competitive benefits and not falling behind amongst the challenges of the great resignation, or the great reevaluation. Employees often have to take time away from work to go to the GP, and the process can often involve several delays, but by bolstering on-site occupational health services, businesses can streamline the process for their employees. They’re also more likely to book an appointment for issues such as mental health and wellbeing due to greater accessibility.

Public health services still have their place but the effect of the strain on the service has been obvious throughout the pandemic: diagnoses on hold, operations delayed, and an appointment with your GP practically unheard of. Deadly diseases like cancer have raged on despite the pandemic, as have ones that have a massive impact on daily life, like hormonal issues and diabetes. The effect of the pandemic on the treatment of these issues has been observed due to the figures that have been provided by researchers like those from Cancer Research UK, however many of them are still indicative rather than conclusive and we won’t know the true effect until we have the full picture in 2023.

There have been a number of factors that have affected these delays, such as the demand on doctors through the pandemic to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, the shortage of blood collection tubes that reduced blood screenings last year, and the fact that many people were apprehensive to go to their GP during the early waves of the pandemic. Many experienced symptoms that could’ve been checked out in their early stages, but perhaps didn’t feel the need to go to the doctors due to the larger public health crisis that occurred. 

According to Cancer Research UK (CRUK), around 3 million fewer people were screened in the UK between March and September 2020 compared with pre-pandemic. The number of patients starting cancer treatment diagnosed through screening was 42% lower from April 2020 to March 2021 compared to pre-pandemic. Of course, it’s not the case that far fewer people were suffering from cancer during this time, but rather that they didn’t have access to screening due to delays caused by the pandemic. Macmillan further adds that more than 650,000 people with cancer in the UK (22%) have experienced disruption to their cancer treatment or care because of Covid-19. For around 150,000 people this included delayed, rescheduled, or cancelled treatment. Of these, more than half (57%) told Macmillan they were worried that delays to their treatment could affect their chance of survival. The delays in cancer care may have very well reduced the life expectancy of people who couldn’t screen their cancer at an early stage.

In August 2021, there were then further issues relating to the supply chain, as the sole supplier of blood collection tubes in the UK couldn’t meet the required quotas. As a result, doctors were told they must reduce their testing by up to 25%, according to the British Medical Association (BMA) and all non-clinically urgent tests such as fertility testing for under 35s and allergy testing were suspended. By transitioning to employer-led healthcare, businesses can ensure that their employees aren’t affected by delays and backlogs in test results that can massively impact their health. From an occupational health standpoint, diagnosing any issues as early as possible means that the employee has a better chance of maintaining their health, and thus is less likely to take time off sick.

There’s also the added challenge of remote working and whether it’s possible for employers to support these workers equally; advancements in the realm of telehealth have now made this a reality. Yodha is the world’s first Connected Health Platform, and is making a significant step towards making employee healthcare entirely remote. By looking into occupational health services that offer remote healthcare, businesses can revolutionise the way they approach employee health and wellbeing and get ahead of the rest of the industry that continue to rely upon in-house occupational health services.