Buck Bond Group
12 blogs of Christmas: Rudolph the red nosed patient

12 blogs of Christmas: Rudolph the red nosed patient

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There’s never a good time to be ill, but becoming unwell over a holiday can be even more difficult and stressful if you need to contact a GP for help. Many surgeries close for the holiday period or have skeleton out-of-hours staffing on certain days. This means that patients are often rerouted to the NSH 111 service, or in more serious cases are directed to the nearest A&E. Many cases may be resolved quickly with a GP, and it can be frustrating that a simple call or appointment seems so unobtainable. Of course as we are also all aware, accessing GP appointments has become increasingly difficult for many, even outside holidays.
However, those fortunate employees who have access to digital GP services – some through their group insurance policies – can avoid these difficulties. Digital GP services offer 24/7 access to GPs, nurses or pharmacists though an app and call-back system, providing a guaranteed appointment at a pre-advised set time. These appointments can be booked as a call or live video chat. This service is often a free add-on service to group insurance policies and can include features such as:

  • Access to prescription services (at a private cost rate)
  • Referral to specialists
  • Sharing of the call details with your usual GP
  • Use for immediate family members, including paediatric consultations

These digital GP services are becoming better-established in the market with specialist providers. Where this is a free service attached to group insurance policies, there is often underuse due to lack of understanding about what is available. It is also possible that it does not cover the entire company population, or roll-out and communications may be a challenge. However, the advantages for employers in having a digital GP as part of a benefits package are obvious. This makes it worthwhile to adjust policies where necessary, and overcome hurdles related to implementation and communications.

As well as contributing to improved employee wellbeing, access to this service is also likely to mean significant time and costs saved. Time can be saved when an employee can get an efficient, designated appointment time. This is opposed to long potential wait times through 111 or an otherwise avoidable A&E visit. In the longer term, efficient access to a GP can prevent sick leave – or longer sick leave – due to worsening illness, improving wellbeing and reducing employee absence.
While holiday-specific wait times have always been a challenge, overall access to NHS GPs is worsening. This means that reviewing digital GP benefit provision would be a pertinent priority when it comes to your company benefits and employee wellbeing strategy plan for 2023. This can not only mitigate access challenges during the holiday period, but be a long-term solution to avoid the long NHS wait times which are increasing. Implementing these services can make a significant difference to employee wellbeing, and have substantial benefits for your organisation.