How Employers Can Play a Role in Healthcare?

This is the third of six blog posts looking at innovative ways in which we can reform and improve healthcare in the United Kingdom.

When we think of healthcare in the United Kingdom, it would be a surprise if every citizen didn’t immediately think of the three words that have defined our approach to health for 70 years; National Health Service.

The NHS has unquestionably been the best solution when it comes to managing our citizens health from ‘cradle to grave’, but we must not become dogmatic on healthcare.

Whilst acknowledging the importance of such a service, we need to look at new innovative solutions to the constant stress around healthcare.

The relationship between private business and health has been a complex one, but involvement can be a positive. Only today have we seen a new initiative by the Duke of Cambridge launching a workplace wellbeing website according to Sky News.

The constant disdain towards anyone who suggests that some level of private sector influence in health could be useful is not going to go away.

In times where the health system is struggling to cope however, how can we remove ourselves from our dogmatic state towards a more pragmatic understanding of where private companies may be of use for employees’ health and in tow, reduce the pressure on the NHS.

The role of private companies shouldn’t be to place themselves at the epicentre of health in the UK and take over previously NHS-run contracts, but the role of private companies should be to offer unquestionably good occupational health to all their employees – allowing workers to be healthy and more productive in their business allowing economies to be made.

We should not however settle for making sure occupational health is merely up to scratch – we need a change of culture and attitude towards health in private companies. They need to carefully measure the impact of their business environment and attitudes towards work in relation to employee’s health.

Do you allow flexi-working hours?

Do you take kindly to sick days?

Do you have anyone in your business for employees to talk to about their health?

Well, although many employers would say yes to the statements it seems that current approaches aren’t working with recent research by Aviva suggesting that 70% of employees go to work when they are ill and that some employees believe their employer always puts the business before their health.

If our private businesses are going to be world leaders in their trade, they need to be health and wellbeing leaders too.

So, what’s the solution?

The Business Health and Wellbeing Agreement

We need to develop a system that allows accountability, better information partnerships between the local NHS trust and local private companies and pursues an agenda of richer health and wellbeing support in business.

The Business Health and Wellbeing Agreement would be a localised system of businesses who would work closely with their local NHS Trusts to improve health and wellbeing in their offices and inevitably aim to reduce the strain on their local NHS Trust through improving the health of their workers.

This would aim to achieve the following:

Accountability and Transparency: All local businesses who sign up to the agreement would survey their staff covering their lifestyle, behavioural and other areas of health over the last year. This system would look to replicate parts of the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace VitalityHealth scheme but on a more localised scale.

At the end of the year, this information would be made public ensuring the highest level of transparency and putting a level of accountability on businesses to succeed in achieving a healthier working environment.

Regaining the partnership between private and public: This scheme would look to improve the partnerships between the public and private sector. Through changing governance arrangements and approval from staff, certain levels of health information could be shared between the correct channels stopping both sectors working in silo. It would aim to allow localised partnerships between the NHS and businesses allowing sharing of information on maintaining good health, health education sessions and closer collaboration on the health issues most visible in local businesses.

Reducing the strain on local NHS trusts: By improving the health of local employees and gaining healthier working environments we can reduce the strain that negative health has on local NHS Trusts. Through better health awareness and healthier working environments, pressure could be reduced.

Better health means better business: Mental ill health, which equated to 15.8 million days lost (11.5%) in the latest research from 2016 by the Office of National Statistics. Healthy employees boost productivity, and therefore the bottom line.

A change of attitude: Businesses need a change of attitude when it comes to health in the workplace. As business evolves further into the globalised world of the 21st century, the key to success must lay in maintaining a healthy, driven and productive workforce. This will involve focusing in on certain issues that may be of concern.

The health issue of focus would depend on the area and the most pressing health concerns for local businesses. Businesses can innovate with the help of the NHS in health and through a change of attitude can make the necessary changes to improve the health of the workforce.

The private sector should not be completely excluded from a 21st century healthcare approach. It can forge a more economically healthy future by improving the health of their own employees in their own local areas.

Through partnership and guidance with the NHS, businesses can play a role in paving the way to a healthier, more productive and thriving workforce in their local area and in turn, reduce the strain on local NHS trusts.

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