Employees can receive support pre diagnosis
We are asking employers to encourage employees to access support provided via employee benefits whilst waiting for diagnostic tests or referral appointments.
We believe that it’s hugely important for employers to recognise that support can commence before a condition has been confirmed, so that employees can benefit from the support and reassurance whilst they wait for tests, test results and follow-on appointments.
According to NHS Diagnostic Waiting Times and Activity Data, there were 1,333,900 patients who had been referred to but were waiting for one of 15 key diagnostic tests at the end of May 2021 – and many more may still waiting for their initial referral or GP appointment. Even in normal times, some conditions can take several months, if not years to diagnose, so people can be struggling alone through this limbo period unnecessarily.
Diagnostic testing activity and waiting times have been hugely impacted by the pandemic, in part due to a reduction in testing ability due to new Covid-secure measures, and some missed or delayed referrals due to a fear of getting or spreading the virus. This means there are a huge number of people living with a great deal of uncertainty at present whilst they await a diagnosis, treatment plan and prognosis.
We know that this period is emotionally distressing and many people will be living with physical discomfort or pain with a lot of uncertainty and worries about the future.
By accessing the emotional, physical and medical support available in employer-sponsored health and wellbeing benefits and insurances, people can still get support while they wait for a referral or test:
Worry, frustration, anger and anxiety are all common emotions that occur during this period of limbo, and talking to friends and family may not be an option for everyone, particularly those who feel they do not wish to burden others until a definite outcome is known. At times like this, a lot of reassurance is needed, that the symptoms are real but also that there could be many explanations or outcomes.
Having an independent specialist with whom to discuss everything can be a real relief for many employees experiencing this waiting game, and can also help them prepare to communicate their situation to family, friends and their employer.
Support can help employees with symptoms and pain management which not only have a physical manifestation but which can also lead to mental health issues when experienced on an ongoing basis.
Physical support may also be required if the individual has caring responsibilities for others. Support can help the employee understand their options and investigate solutions for children and eldercare, for example.
Support can help an employee to: navigate the NHS or private healthcare to move things along as quickly as possible, prepare for a GP or consultant appointment by knowing what questions to ask, and to understand medical terminology and treatment plans and options, as well as dovetailing via private medical insurance (PMI) or other employee benefits.
It’s natural for fear of the unknown to become all-consuming with many employees imagining the worst-case scenario coming true. Employees do not have to handle this situation on their own but in too many cases they and their employer don’t know that support is available at an early stage. Too often we hear the words, ‘I wish I’d known you were here for me earlier’ when employees seek the kind of support we offer.
Employees need more than just a sympathetic ear when they encounter delays in their tests and treatment. Many employers have the means to offer this at no additional cost through existing employee benefits, and it’s important they know what’s available.
Christine Husbands is managing director of RedArc, a service that provides personal nurse advisers for people experiencing illness, disability, trauma or bereavement.
Christine spent the initial part of her career in financial roles and she has held several board positions in Financial Services and is a Chartered Director. During her time...