New government health initiative a “wake-up call” for employers

 

Workplaces have a key role to play in delivering a new government healthcare plan.

Health secretary Matt Hancock set out plans to make prevention a central plank of the upcoming NHS long term plan, and a green paper will be published on this issue next year.

In an accompanying Department of Health paper on this issue, it says the workplace was a “great setting for reaching people with messages promoting and encouraging health lifestyles”.

This will include preventative advice and action on smoking, eating healthily staying active, and improve mental health.

The document states: “Many businesses are already taking action in this space, and see the benefits of higher staff morale, and lower rates of sickness absence. In the end a healthy workforce is a more productive one. More employers should follow suit to help improve the health of their staff and of the nation.”

Hancock says that these plans will build on the work by this and previous governments to improve public health across the UK. It says that this new initiative will shift the focus to primary and community care services and the value they can bring in offering early support.

In a speech to the International Association of National Public Health Institute Hancock says: “We are spending £97bn of public money on treating disease and only £8bn preventing it across the UK. You don’t have to be an economist to see those numbers don’t stack up.

“Our focus must shift from treating single acute illnesses to promoting the health of the whole individual. That requires more resources for prevention.”

He adds that as well as putting prevention at the heart of the NHS long term plan, the government will also focus on new “predictive prevention” to help bring healthcare firmly into the modern era.

VitalityHealth chief executive Nevill Koopowitz commenting on the proposed Government stance said: “Public Health England research in 2016 revealed that illnesses associated with lifestyle cost the NHS £11bn.

“This is an avoidable cost to society and, in an era of challenging financial choices for the country, it is an expense healthcare providers must attempt to address.

“At Vitality we know that a few simple lifestyle changes can have a hugely positive impact on people’s future wellness. Our member data shows claims costs decreased by up to 33% when physical activity levels increased, demonstrating that prevention is as important as cure when it comes to our health.”

Employee benefits specialist Unum also welcomes the Government’s ‘Prevention is better than cure’ report, which they say “recognises the vital role businesses play in supporting the nation’s health and employability.”

Peter O’Donnell, Unum’s CEO said: “Supporting disabled people and those with health conditions so they can continue to work and reach their full potential is vital for individuals, society and the economy.

“Not all businesses have access to resources needed to support their staff and addressing this should be the Government’s next priority. We hope measures to incentivise business of all sizes – especially SMEs – form part of the Government’s prevention plan.

The DoH paper highlighted companies like food manufacturer Rodda which has put a significant emphasis on health and wellbeing among its 178 staff.

Initiatives introduced include free fruit for all staff, a counselling service, bereavement and legal services, cycle to work scheme and a staff volunteer schemes. The company is also introducing Mental Health First Aiders for all staff to help them better understand their own mental health and assist others.

 

This article is based an an article first published in Corporate Advisor . You can view the original article in full here.

 
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