Essential early interventions

Employers can do more to encourage staff to seek medical treatment early Dominic Howard, director Europe, Best Doctors

Research carried out Cancer Research UK has highlighted the issues of cancer diagnosis and patient attitudes to seeing their GP. It may not seem immediately apparent but these findings are also relevant to independent corporate advisers, employers and insurers.

The charity has found that 32 per cent of people in the UK say that, if they had an unusual or persistent change to their body, thinking it would go away in its own time would stop them from visiting their GP. The research also found 24 per cent of people would be put off visiting their GP because of the hassle of getting an appointment and 20 per cent because of the worry of what the doctor might find. 19 per cent didn’t want to waste the doctor’s time and 14 per cent were embarrassed.

Not surprisingly Cancer Research UK actively encourages people to see their GP sooner rather than later if they notice any unusual or persistent changes to their body.

But employers and their advisers can also play a part. The insurance industry is doing an enormous amount of work to encourage health and wellbeing in the workplace. However, having a product or suite of benefits in place is often not enough – personal communication is essential. Corporate advisers are often best placed to provide and help employers provide this additional value.

We know from our own research and experience that people are increasingly searching the internet for additional information on their medical condition. More worrying still are those who self diagnose.

Encouragingly, many also will seek additional information and opinion from a consultant other than their own. Does this help? Well, sometimes it just reassures the patient by confirming their original diagnosis and treatment plan.

But sometimes it can offer alternative solutions to treatment or a different diagnosis. With the original doctor onboard through the process of course this can have a significant outcome on the individual’s health and wellbeing but also potentially on direct healthcare costs.

If people are concerned about going to the doctor in the first place, will they want to be seen as doubting their opinion by seeking another one? Again, this is where the neutral and supportive role of the adviser and/or the employer can come in. On the basis of a problem shared employees should always be encouraged to approach straight away their insurer and employer, be it the boss in a small company or the HR department or line manager in a larger company, to outline their situation and concerns.

Employees must know that telling their employer they are ill or have a condition that needs treating will not adversely impact their work. Leaving it longer before getting help or assuming the burden oneself can ultimately be more destructive.

Cancer is of course not the only area people seek information on – we often work with those seeking help or advice or information for orthopaedic or neurological conditions.

Whether employers are offering insurance to their staff or a broader health and wellbeing programme, communicating the need for openness and honesty and letting employees know they can ask for help or just share the load is one piece of added value that is priceless.