Many small businesses in the UK are missing out on the benefits of private healthcare. This is due to the common perception that private healthcare is something only large corporate companies can provide. However, increased competition in the healthcare industry has made health benefits more affordable and accessible to small businesses within the UK too.
What are the benefits of private healthcare to SMEs?
One of the main advantages of offering private healthcare is that it helps with recruitment and retention. Part of the attraction of working for an SME over a large corporate is being genuinely looked after by your employer instead of being seen as just a number. SMEs don’t take this role lightly, with many being family-run and known to put the health of their employees first. As such, private healthcare appeals to a wide range of employees and encourages them to engage with their health whilst also giving them a good reason to choose your SME over a competitor.
Small teams depend more on their employees, and by offering private healthcare benefits you can help increase morale by demonstrating that you're invested in the wellbeing of your staff. This, in turn, increases productivity, because when employees are healthier, happier, and better motivated, they work better. By looking after the health of your employees and providing quick access to effective treatment, SMEs can also reap the rewards of having healthier, happier staff who feel valued and need less sick days.
If your employee becomes ill, it can often take weeks to get an appointment with an NHS GP, and even longer if they need to be seen by a specialist. During this time, health conditions can deteriorate and possibly become more difficult to treat. What could have been easily addressed with a course of antibiotics might develop into a more serious condition, leading to your employee having to take more time off work. Having private healthcare can encourage your employees to get seen earlier without having to wait for an NHS appointment.
Which private healthcare options are suitable for SMEs?
There a number of different private healthcare options available to businesses. This includes everything from private health insurance to online GP services. Some business health plans cover a lot more than others and pricing can vary significantly, making some options more suitable for SMEs than others. Here's a quick look at three of the most popular options currently available.
1. Private health insurance plans
Private health insurance plans can vary, but most will not cover private GP appointments, chronic illnesses, treatment during pregnancy, emergency treatment and elective treatment including cosmetic surgery and fertility treatment. This means that your employee will still need to get appointments with their NHS GP and pay for any private treatment themselves which are not covered by the policy.
Businesses can usually negotiate a lower monthly cost for private health insurance, known as a premium, than when an individual buys health insurance. Depending on the size of your business, you might be able to offer your employees a service which is perceived to have a high value at a considerably lower price. However, it’s worth noting that health insurance can be costly and SMEs might not have the number of employees necessary to negotiate an attractive rate.
2. Private GP service
Offering a private GP service might be a more appealing option for SMEs because it often takes weeks to get an appointment with an NHS GP. SMEs can offer their employees access to a private GP service within a tight budget by signing up with an online GP provider. This allows your employees to use an app to get quick access to a private GP via a video consultation. However, the added convenience from mobile-only private GP services comes at the cost of having a clinical examination. This means that any health condition that needs to be properly looked at by a GP has to be referred back to an NHS GP.
The problem of having to be referred back to your NHS GP could be solved if the employee can be examined. The traditional way of doing this is to have regular on-site visits from a private GP. This would allow your employees to have a face-to-face consultation and be examined by a private GP. The main drawback of this is that having regular on-site private GP appointments can be very expensive, and in the majority of cases, not suitable for SMEs.
3. Digital healthcare
In addition to the above, there is another option available to SMEs - a new type of private GP service which combines the convenience and accessibility of digital healthcare with the safety and reliability of having a private GP on-site. This works by using on-site clinical stations, allowing employees to have a video consultation with a private GP and be examined using connected diagnostic devices.
This enables a private GP to remotely listen to your employee’s heart and lungs, examine their throat and ears, and take vital signs including oxygen levels, blood pressure and body temperature. Due to the examination capabilities of such clinical stations, as many as 95% of conditions can be treated without being referred back to an NHS GP. Currently, Medicspot is the only private GP service who are offering this technology.
The right choice for you and your business depends on the number of employees, how many locations you operate in and the size of your budget. A good healthcare provider will be able to tailor a plan that suits your needs and works within your budget.
About the author
Dr Zubair Ahmed is the Co-founder and CEO of Medicspot, a private GP service with the largest network of GP practices in the UK. Medicspot offers plans suitable for businesses of all sizes, allowing SMEs to benefit from its unique on-site clinical stations, online GP service and access to the largest network of private GP clinics in the UK.