Here, in our health section of Sussex Business Times, we take a look at the many demands faced by the NHS on a daily basis, and the steps businesses can take to ease the pressure

The UK’s National Health Service is an extraordinary one, and many people consider the NHS to be one of our society’s most precious resources. However, it’s no secret that it has recently been under a huge amount of pressure, whether this is because of economic, social or political reasons – they are all interlinked and have combined to push the national service to its maximum. Services in the NHS in England have been and are continuing to deteriorate in a way not seen since the 1990s – such drops in performance have not been seen for 20 years. Despite this, of course the NHS has done as well as could be expected, given the current financial climate.

So what are the main challenges facing the NHS?

An ageing and growing population are two of the main demands and The Nuffield Trust has estimated that this alone could mean we need an additional 17,000 hospital beds by 2022, along with the number of doctors, nurses and other staff and equipment, which also has to meet demand. Evolving healthcare needs – such as the increase in cases of obesity and diabetes or antibiotic resistance – will also cause problems for the National Health Service later down the line, as will closure of local services due to centralisation drives and an increase in reliance on privatised services. The UK’s lifestyle factors will of course add to this too – the way we live as a country is having a negative impact on our overall health. Drinking too much alcohol, smoking and obesity (despite being at an all time low, more than 15% of the UK population smoke, and 60% are either overweight or obese) are all accumulating factors, and are often the cause of the level of reliability we have on the NHS. The increasing number of overweight children also shows that this problem is set to continue. Of course, this list is pretty much endless, but what’s important is what is being done to overcome these issues…

It seems now that the NHS’s desperate cries are finally being heard. Last month, the annual Spring Budget announced plans for £2 billion to be invested in adult social care over the next three years, helping councils to provide high quality social care to more people and, therefore, helping ease the pressure put on the NHS on a daily basis. £325 million will be invested in a first set of the best local Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs), which in longer term, are the NHS’s plans for improving patient services in local regions, developed collaboratively by NHS service leaders and their local partners. In addition to this, £100 million of the Spring Budget will go to A&E departments throughout 2017 and 2018 as a means of helping them manage demand ahead of next winter, and to help patients get to primary care faster. For example, it will provide more on-site GP facilities and more space in A&E units for assessment of patients when they arrive.

But what can businesses do to take the pressure off the NHS?

Sussex Business Times caught up with Body Mechanics Remedial Ltd, which was founded by Nikki Roy back in 2012 and has since been collaborating with other health practitioners to deliver health and wellbeing programmes. Nikki believes that corporate employers should take responsibility for their employee’s health and wellbeing, and that businesses in general could well be the key to relieving the NHS crisis. After all, according to Health, Safety and Environment (HSE), more than three quarters (78%) of injuries and illnesses are directly related to the workplace and therefore highlights the duty of care employers have towards their employees, but are employers doing enough?

It’s apparent that this isn’t the case, and the well documented cutbacks in NHS resources and funding – supported by a BBC report quoting that 9 our of 10 hospitals are overloaded daily – strongly indicates that another approach needs to be taken towards healthcare, and one that supports and compliments the NHS. In a recent article published by Employee Benefits, Head of Musculoskeletal services at ACA PPP Healthcare, Jan Vickery strongly believes employers should be taking on this responsibility, as the organisation’s research shows that 73% of respondents have musculoskeletal issues, with almost half of them having to sit down for four to six hours per day.

Corporate health and wellbeing programmes – now a must for businesses – need to take a close look at the immediate work environment. Are workstations set up correctly with regards to ergonomics? Are employees using appropriate tools and equipment? Are they taking on a reasonable amount of responsibilities and requirements within their job roles? Physical health is also an important factor, especially for people who work in an office environment all day long – a combination of exercise, nutrition and relaxation is key for a happy and healthy workforce. Additionally, mental health plays a huge role in the stretched NHS service, although psychological, emotional and spiritual health is something that has ranked high on the agenda for the Government as highlighted by Theresa May.

Body Mechanics Remedial Ltd was set up by Nikki in 2012 to specifically address these issues and to offer businesses comprehensive health and wellbeing programmes for the workplace, and has since seen positive results. 100% of their clients reported that it has helped their general health and wellbeing, and 93% of staff regularly attend these programmes. Half of the organisation’s participants effectively use the service to manage stress, 22% use it for treatment of a specific injury and 87% say it enhances their working experience.

Of course, health and wellbeing programmes have positive financial outcomes for employers too. For every £1 invested in an employee health and wellbeing programme, at least £4.17 can be expected as a benefit to cost ratio, according to a report carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in 2008.

With increasing evidence being presented around the costs of work related illnesses and injuries, to individuals, to the NHS, to businesses and to the economy, isn’t it time that employers took more responsibility for their employees and their environment?

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