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Welcome to the July Issue of the IHC Insider

Editor’s letter

In this issue, we take a look at two issues that impact on every business – flexible working legislation and musculoskeletal disorders – and explore the potential implications of these for employers.

Looking back over the past six months, there has been much to discuss, and here we also provide a round-up of some of the key issues affecting the industry.

We hope you find the content useful, informative and interesting. As ever, we are keen to hear from you, so please do send any opinions, questions and feedback to me at

Paul Roberts

Industry news

Number crunching on workplace health and wellbeing
Employee Benefits has done a great job of highlighting the health and wellbeing challenges faced by employers and workers. In a colourful infographic, Employee Benefits makes clear the significance of key stats in the world of work and health.

Drawing together the information gleaned from a variety of sources, we begin to see a picture of the way health and well being impacts on work. In 2013, for example, 131 million working days were lost due to sickness, down from 178 million a decade earlier. And in another survey, 34% of people said they had seen attendance improve over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, 960,000 UK employees are thought to be on sick leave for a month or more each year, according to the Department for Work and Pensions. What’s more, mental health issues cost the UK about £70 billion. Perhaps key to improving these statistics is to be found in this one, from research by Westfield Health: 79% of people surveyed thought the responsibility for managing staff health and wellbeing should be shared between the employer and the employee.

Growth in nips and tucks
As we begin to move away from recession, the private healthcare market as a whole appears to be seeing positive signs. But one area seems to be leading the way. According to Research and Markets, self-pay cosmetic surgery is the only real area of growth in the market.

Research and Markets said: “There is a real sense of optimism about the future of the cosmetic surgery market and this view was consistent from everyone we spoke to or surveyed. Estimates on the scale of growth vary but most feel high single digit growth year on year is achievable.”

IHC consultant Paul Roberts, said: “Cosmetic surgery is growing in the UK. IHC now have a number of qualified sources for delivering top quality cosmetic surgery at the right price. What’s more, PruHealth medical insurance has a new approach to cosmetic surgery, where some procedures are subsidised as well.”

Antibiotics: losing power against infection
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) based on research carried out in 114 countries has shown the prevalence of antibiotic resistance. After extensive use of antibiotics, it is now becoming the norm. An increasing number of infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics, leaving people vulnerable to infections that one would expect to be straightforward to treat.

Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistance Director General for Health Security with WHO, warned: “Without urgent, co-ordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”

PruHealth updates

PruHealth Vitality are continually reviewing the Vitality partnerships.

As you may be aware, LA fitness have been undergoing a restructure of their business and as such are reducing the size of their gym network by selling more than 30 clubs.

Because of this, from 1st August PruHealth will not be providing any new gym memberships at LA fitness. There are other options and they are continuing with, Virgin Active, who are investing in and expanding their network. More detail is available on the timings and changes with your account manager at IHC.

Flexible working for all?

All employees who have been in a job for 26 weeks or more are now allowed to request flexible working, and employers are now obliged to consider their requests – although, crucially ,they are not obliged to agree to those requests.

The law change, which came in on 30 June 2014, has extended the rights that had until then been reserved for parents and carers. A request for flexible working might mean an employee asks for a job share, to work from home on certain days, to work part time or to change the hours they work.

Employees who want to use this right need to put their request in writing, following the statutory procedure, stating just what they would like to change, when they would like the change to start, and the effect that change in working practice might have on the employer.

The employer then needs to address this request by holding a meeting with the employee to discuss the request, and then usually needs to communicate their decision within three months of the request.

If the employer decides to refuse the request, they may give one of the following reasons for their decisions:

“Much of the commentary on this has focused on how the new legislation benefits the employee rather than the employer, but when handled sensitively flexible working can help support businesses by reducing absence and improving engagement. Having a flexible-working culture can go a long way to breaking the cycle of people feeling that they are entitled to days off outside of their holiday allowance,” said IHC consultant, Paul Roberts.

The following websites provide information and advice about the new laws on flexible working:

The UK government website explains the rights of employees and businesses:

ACAS website:

Musculoskeletal disorders: tackling the pain caused to people and businesses the world over

Improvements to early intervention, treatment and return to work practices could help people of working age with even severe musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) stay in work, according to research from the Work Foundation.

The Work Foundation says: “Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) include over 200 conditions causing pain and functional impairment to people living with them. They include widely known conditions such as arthritis and back pain, injuries caused by trauma, such as fractures, and other conditions that are the result of genetic or developmental abnormalities, as well as bone and soft tissue cancer.”

An incredible 21.3% of all disabilities the world over are due to MSDs, making this the second greatest cause of disability globally, and the biggest cause of disability is back pain. Unsurprisingly, then, MSDs have a gigantic impact on both the lives of individuals and their employers. According to the Work Foundation, some 44 million employees across the EU have MSDs which have been caused by their work, and it is believed MSDs are responsible for half of all absences. The Work Foundation says the total cost to the EU through loss of productivity and absence is 240 billion euros.

How the issue should be tackled is a cause for debate. Over years of studies, the organisation has found that there are often real health benefits related to helping employees stay in or return to work. However, it says, many employers, clinicians and even the employees themselves often feel that taking time off or leaving altogether is the only option for coping with MSDs.

If, however, the problem was better managed, then productivity across the workforce could be boosted: “Our estimates show that, if temporary work disability was reduced by 25%, the equivalent number of additional workers available for work each day would be 640,000,” says the Work Foundation.

At IHC, we know from experience that MSD has a very significant impact on our clients and their businesses. IHC’s Paul Roberts says: “IHC clients agree with this research. We know this because the number one reason for private medical insurance and cash plan claims is MSD. A good attitude to managing workplace risks and education of a team can reduce the impact that severe illness or pain can have on the individual and the team they work in.”

Successful management and prevention of MSD must also come down to motivating and supporting employees to be more active and take care of their health and wellbeing, Paul adds: “The human skeleton is not designed to sit for the majority of the day,” he says. “It is becoming more important that employees take responsibility for their wellbeing, supported by the business, with good information and help zones like the one from Bupa”

A review of the past six months

In this section, we take a look at the main stories we at IHC have covered over the past six months. It has been a busy time for the industry, with plenty to discuss, and here we round-up articles on some of the key issues affecting our industry.

Research has once again shown just how important it is for people to engage with their own health, with the Kings Fund demonstrating how crucial “patient activation” is to the wellbeing of individuals. Those who are engaged and activated are likely to have a more effective approach to their own health, recognising problem sooner and being more aware about their own conditions.

Perhaps one way for employees to encourage this increased engagement is to provide on-site health checks and a place to discuss health issues in private, allowing employees to pop in for a quick check up without even having to leave the workplace. Our article on healthcare kiosks explains how this system can be beneficial to businesses and their employees.

And to take it a step or two further, IHC consultant David Jordan recounts his own experience of a more thorough preventative health check. The experience was a positive one for David, and in our article he dispels a few myths and explains just what one can expect from a preventative health check.

Keeping staff healthy: a key part of success
A report published by the CBI with Medicash confirms that keeping staff healthy, both physically and mentally, can have a very positive impact on business performance. On the other side of the coin, failing to do so can have disastrous consequences. Read more…

Britons unsatisfied with health
A survey published by the Office for National Statistics showed that just 58.6% of British adults were somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their general health in 2011/12. This showed a fall from 65.6% in 2010-11, and, most notably a drop of almost 10 percentage points from 68.3% in 2009/10. Read more…

Patient activation: helping people to help themselves
As many as 60% to 70% of premature deaths are caused by behaviours that could be changed, according to a report by US Doctor Steven A. Schroeder MD. It’s a scary statistic, and an issue that a new paper by the Kings Fund, Supporting People to Manage their Health, argues could be tackled through improved “patient activation.” Patient activation is all about becoming knowledgeable, skilled and confident in your approach to health, and about managing your own healthcare and wellbeing. Read more…

Personal experience: preventative health checks
IHC consultant David Jordan tells about his own experience of preventative health checks after undergoing a LifeScan health check, which can reveal the early signs of heart disease, lung cancer, colon cancer and other illnesses, even before symptoms begin. David explains how the process works and the peace of mind it has brought him. Read more…

Wellbeing kiosks – take five to take stock of your health
When it comes to providing health and wellbeing checks, it can pay to bring the service to the people rather than make the people travel. We take a look at the health kiosks being used across the country to give employees quick and easy access to healthcare. Read more…

IHC News

Welcome to Hayley Sheehan

IHC is delighted to welcome Hayley Sheehan to our Group Risk team. Hayley joined us as an Administrative Assistant in June, and will be working in our Fleet Street office reporting to Amy Thorpe.

Before joining us, Amy built up around two years experience in the insurance industry, working with LV= and Brightside PLC in the general insurance market. “I am enjoying working with my team, who have been really patient teaching me all about the group risk market – which is a lot to learn!” she says. “I am also enjoying being back in a broker setting and being able to deal with clients directly.”

Hayley’s main responsibility is to provide admin support for Phil Thorpe, who is the head of the Group Risk team in London. “This involves working alongside my manager Amy and my colleague Nazmi Khanom to ensure all new and existing schemes are up to date and are running smoothly. I will also be providing admin support to John Tredegar who deals with the claims in Group Risk team.”

We are pleased to have Hayley with us and are always looking for high quality candidates as we grow and develop.

Another, smaller, new addition…

Congratulations to Gemma Milford, healthcare consultant at IHC, who has had a baby girl. Little Emily was born on 26 June and weighed in at 8lb 2oz. She and her mum are doing well.

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