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Check4Cancer – How Employers Can Help

Everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer, whether they have faced a diagnosis of their own or are caring for a loved one. According to the cancer charity MacMillan, some 2.5 million people in the UK are currently living with the disease, and the charity estimates that around 50% of the UK population may contract the disease at some point in their lives by 2020.

However, as Professor Gordon Wishart, Medical Director of Check4Cancer UK, says: “Survival rates have doubled in the last decade, and 50% of patients diagnosed with cancer now survive 10 years after diagnosis. Better education, increased awareness and improved methods of early detection are taking effect.”

For employers, of course, cancer is a major issue. Increasingly people undergoing treatment will continue to work wherever possible, and the number of people returning to their jobs after treatment is on the rise as medical advances make for more positive outcomes.

A survey carried out for Check4Cancer among HR directors at the start of 2015 has served to highlight some of the key concerns around cancer and the workplace. When asked where the impact of cancer would be felt within their organisations in the near future, two thirds of HR professionals said they believed it would have a significant effect on staff planning, while 59% cited absenteeism, 58% said medical insurance premiums and 50% said other insurance premiums. Half said they believed there would be a high impact on client relationships and management, and those surveyed also said that lower productivity, negative effects on staff morale, a need for more services and long-term support, such as counselling and family support services, would all be important issues.

With the impact potentially significant, the vast majority of HR professionals were in favour of taking action to support staff by providing check-ups for employees. Some 95% gave their backing for regular, free cancer checks for all employees while 63% said they actively planned to introduce awareness programmes and/or screening within their businesses. Only 13% said this was “unlikely.”

However, while HR professionals were keen to provide screening, they did tend to overestimate the role that the NHS has in providing cancer checks. Some 42% believed that bowel cancer screening was generally available when in fact it is only offered to people between the ages of 60 and 69. Similarly, 39% thought prostate cancer checks were available, which is not the case, and roughly a quarter of those asked thought that testicular, lung and skin cancer screenings were all actively provided by the NHS.

Professor Gordon Wishart said: “We all know someone fighting cancer, either through work or in our personal lives. Living with cancer for the long-term is becoming the norm for many people, with consequences for health services, families and employers.
“HR needs to be planning now for the future, thinking through in detail what the implications are, and in practical terms what kinds of support it can offer for its people, as part of its statutory duty of care, but also as an employer in tune with the real concerns and needs of its staff.”

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