While the tax increase is expected to yield an extra £15bn, only £5bn will go to the NHS. *1. And, with ever expanding wait times for appointments and treatment, this is only half the sum the NHS says it needs to get things back to pre-pandemic levels. Yet many assume it will be enough and the NHS will, somehow, be fine, perhaps not realising that the NHS was already struggling to deliver for patients even before the pandemic began. For most of recent memory, according to The Health Foundation, May 2021, the NHS has been understaffed and under-resourced, with the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment having doubled in the 12 years prior to the pandemic. Unfortunately, recent metrics paint a picture of a national health service that is now buckling beneath unprecedented burdens.
The impact of Covid
The £10bn asked for by the NHS is merely to return to pre-pandemic levels, but even with enough funding – which the NHS is not being given – the health sector would not be expected to return to
‘normal’ until 2025 at the earliest.
This is what the NHS looks like right now:
- The number of people waiting for over a year for an appointment jumped from 1,613 in March 2020 to over 400,000 just one year later. *2
- The number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment has increased by 900,000 since the start of the pandemic, and now stands at 5.3 million. This figure could grow to 9 million in the next 12 months, and based on some forecasts could reach 14 million by 2024. *3
- Referrals for possible cancer symptoms fell by 350,000 last year, compared to 2019, with 40,000 fewer people
than normal starting treatment for cancer. Concerns are growing about an anticipated wave of cancer cases in the coming year, with patients being diagnosed later and requiring more complex treatments, with the Royal College of Surgeons warning it could take years to clear the resulting backlog of treatment. *4
- A workforce crisis sees a shortage of nurses, GPs and hospital doctors.
- 21% of NHS patients recently surveyed had been forced to pay for their treatment privately because NHS treatment was unavailable
- A quarter of respondents said the length of time they had waited for the treatment they needed had harmed their mental health.
Protecting the health of your workforce can be simple
In the face of all these increasing pressures on the health sector, how can you ensure that your company doesn’t suffer from rising sickness absence costs as a result of the struggling NHS?
A straightforward solution is to consider a company private medical insurance (PMI) policy. While the NI tax rise is a tax on employers, as well as employees, PMI providers have made great efforts in recent years to make PMI more affordable, introducing new directional care products that direct patients to specific networks of consultants and hospitals based on the particular treatment required. Such products reduce the cost of cover significantly and can be ideally suited to previously uninsured employees, especially those without complex medical histories.
A company PMI policy will ensure all of your workforce can access fast, high quality healthcare when they need it, avoiding the physical and mental health implications of waiting many months from treatment, and benefitting from early diagnoses that give the best chance of full recovery. In turn, you’re giving your company the best chance of avoiding looming health-related absence costs totaling many thousands of pounds a year, while protecting the health of your key workers.
1 The Health Foundation, May 2021
2 Nearly 400,000 NHS patients in England waiting more than a year for treatment - The Independent
3 Could NHS waiting lists really reach 13 million? - Institute For Fiscal Studies - IFS
4 COVID-19 and cancer: 1 year on - The Lancet Oncology