Yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock published a new report setting out the government’s thinking on prevention in healthcare, ahead of a more detailed Green Paper to be published in the new year outlining the government’s strategy to improve preventive healthcare in the UK.
The publication of this week’s report and the promise of a Green Paper to come – which will be the first ever on the topic – is hugely welcome. We know that ill health amongst working-age people alone costs the economy around £100 billion a year, and so any means of preventing chronic diseases makes sense not only in terms of personal health, but also economically. The UK currently spends £97 billion of public money on treating disease and only £8 billion on preventive healthcare – we agree with the government that this balance needs to change.
It’s very encouraging to see this week’s report highlight the importance of early, proactive action from employers to support those who are struggling with their health, and the concern the report raises about the current lack of access to expert advice on preventive health. These are both issues we feel strongly about. Through both our insurance business and our health clinics, we have seen the value that businesses and their employees gain from early access to the support and services they need to manage their health.
As the UK’s leading health insurer, and with on the ground expertise from our network of health clinics, we look forward to contributing to the Green Paper in the new year. We will be campaigning hard to build on the government’s recognition that employers have a key role to play in supporting the health and wellbeing of their employees. We will also be pushing the government to ensure that the important role that health insurance can play in enabling employers to support their workforce is recognised. Given the success of our campaign to freeze Insurance Premium Tax in last week’s Budget, we feel there would be a real opportunity for us to engage on these issues and push for a change in the tax treatment of health insurance more broadly. We will also be talking to government about the role that services like health assessments can play in helping people to understand and manage their health.
We welcome the government’s recognition of the vital importance of mental health. We know from our conversations with employers of all sizes, across the UK, that supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their employees is increasingly a priority for them and it’s encouraging to see the government recognise that good preventive healthcare needs to focus on both physical and mental health. The Green Paper will provide an opportunity to talk about our market leading Business Mental Health Advantage, which was launched in April this year, and the work we continue to do to enhance our mental health offering to customers.
We look forward to engaging with the government over the coming months on these vital issues. In the meantime, we remain committed to ensuring our customers get the best possible preventive care, whether through health insurance or through the services offered in our health clinics.