NHS backlog leading to more employee absences

As many as one-in-five businesses across the UK are looking to offer private medical insurance to employees in the next 12 months as the effects of rising ill-health hit their workforce.

New polling shows one third (34%) of all businesses – increasing to over half of those employing in excess of 1,000 people – say that sickness absence rates have increased in their organisation over the last 12 months.

Employers across the UK are also warning that rising NHS waiting times will have a significant impact on their organisation in the coming year and could result in greater employee absences and even staff permanently leaving the workforce. 

New polling by Savanta on behalf of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), found that over half of organisations (53%) are concerned that the current rising NHS waiting times may result in employees taking long absences or permanently leaving work due to sickness. 

This rises to two-thirds (67%) of medium/large businesses and almost three-quarters (72%) of those who have more than 1,000 employees.

The majority of businesses (57%) also say they are concerned that the current NHS waiting times may increase sickness absence rates at their organisation – a figure that rises to over seven-in-ten businesses (71%) with more than 1,000 employees.

In light of these figures, improving the health and well-being of employees will be a rising priority for businesses, with almost one-in-five employers (19%) looking to offer private medical insurance to their staff in the coming year – rising to almost four in ten (37%) of businesses with more than 1,000 employees. 

Around one-in-six businesses are looking to provide more occupational health services (17%) and employment assistance programmes (16%) over the next 12 months. 

IHPN chief executive David Hare said: ‘Businesses across the country are rightly looking at all available options to improve the health and well-being of their staff, whether through offering private medical insurance or more occupational health services.

‘With recent research showing that over half of all people waiting for NHS treatment are of working age, the link between the health and wealth of the country can no longer be ignored.’