The news that the Government may be unveiling annual employee health checks in next week’s budget has been welcomed by a leading health testing expert.
The plans are believed to include subsidies of up to 80% for small and medium size businesses (SMEs) for annual health checks and occupational health services. Currently, only half of the UK’s employers offer any kind of health scheme.
According to plans revealed in the Sunday Times, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will announce health checks intended to help reduce the amount of workers on long-term sick leave. By detecting problems earlier, the tests could also cut the number of people who are economically inactive because of health conditions.
Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at London Medical Laboratory, said, ‘Much of the UK’s current health policy seems to be based around waiting for problems to develop until the symptoms can no longer be ignored, and then treat them. That seems to be a peculiarly British approach; in many other nations, prevention is seen as better than cure.
‘The new annual appraisals are thought to include tests for blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), obvious pointers towards future health problems. By spotting many issues early, not only can illnesses be treated in good time, but many conditions can be avoided entirely. This is of vital importance for businesses and the NHS. Such tests will save many millions of pounds in treating common illnesses that are currently only identified at a more advanced stage.
‘The Government’s primary motivation might be to get Brits back to work but, actually, this could be the start of a more enlightened health policy. The problem is that, here in the UK, it’s only the largest companies that offer an in-house occupational health service, or who buy services from private providers to monitor the health of their staff. Many larger organisations recognise it to be not only a great perk, helping to lure and retain quality staff, but also a key driver in reducing sick days and absenteeism. It has even been shown to boost staff morale, too.
‘However, healthcare provision is seen as prohibitively expensive for many smaller firms, with SMEs five times less likely to invest in occupational health. That’s why it’s very encouraging to see that the Chancellor may trial a new subsidy, enabling smaller companies who purchase occupational health services to claim back up to 80% of the costs from the Government. It’s also thought likely that the Government will expand this scheme further in years to come.
‘Blood tests should become a vital part of any annual health check “MOT”. These are fast, relatively inexpensive and can identify many conditions before symptoms arise, leading to faster, timelier treatments.
‘An annual health check, including a blood test, can’t come too soon. Almost two-thirds of Brits are overweight or obese. Obesity costs the NHS an estimated £6.1bn a year to treat. It’s a major cause of diabetes, cancer, heart conditions, painful joints and other health problems. It’s thought that we have close to 1 million people with undiagnosed diabetes. A simple test, taken at work, or in the comfort of people’s own home, could determine if they are close to or currently affected by this manageable condition.
‘Beyond just testing for a single condition or disease, a general health blood test is certainly a useful course of action for anyone who wants to ensure they are in good health to fight infections, thereby reducing the likelihood of needing access to health services and taking time off work. Many UK employees don’t receive sick pay, making preventative action even more important.
‘Individuals and employers don’t need to wait for the Government to get its new scheme off the ground in order to offer annual tests. For example, London Medical Laboratory’s General Health Profile at-home blood test provides people with a comprehensive check-up of their general health, including diabetes (HbA1c), gout, liver & kidney function, bone health, iron levels and a full cholesterol profile. Other more comprehensive tests check vitamin D levels, which are often low at this gloomy time of year, and any potential thyroid or hormonal imbalances.
‘They can be taken at home through the post, or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores. London Medical Laboratory also has mobile laboratories able to visit workplaces and perform tests swiftly and accurately. If done in-store or lab, a full blood test can be added that can indicate a wide range of issues such as anaemia, thyroid issues and leukaemia.
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