As if the NHS wasn’t under enough pressure already, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the situation exponentially. With NHS waiting lists now at their highest levels since records began, it’s clear that there aren’t enough resources in our beloved health system to cope right now.
Add to this the fact that Boris Johnson says the current restrictions could last six months and there really is no immediate end in sight.
It should perhaps come as no surprise, then, that the pandemic has also taken its toll on NHS staff. Figures released by NHS Digital recently reveal Covid-19 caused nearly 341,000 days of sickness absence among NHS staff in May alone. These figures represent the first time data related specifically to Covid-19 have been published.
The figure of 340,900 full-time-equivalent days lost was out of an overall total of 1.8 million sickness days during the month, equating to nearly a fifth (18.9%) of the total absence in May.
With the exception of staff grade positions, every staff group within the NHS reported an increase in Covid-19-related sickness absence between March 2020 and April 2020, NHS Digital concluded. This tallies with national sickness absence figures that show overall sickness absence rates peaked nationally across England at 6.2% during April, the highest rate reported for a decade. However, when looking from just a Covid-19-related perspective, the number of sickness absences was 1.9% — significantly less than NHS levels, highlighting how frontline workers are disproportionately at greater risk.
Furthermore, the second wave of Covid-19 has NHS staff even more anxious. Indeed, according to Prof Tim Orchard, chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, apprehension among its 14,000 staff about the second surge of Covid-19 “feels like we are on a knife-edge.”
Another revelation that probably won’t come as much of a surprise is the fact that NHS staff are actively taking out or considering taking out private medical insurance.
A recent survey for the private health sector revealed that more than 50% of NHS workers polled either had private medical insurance to cover the costs of private healthcare or were actively considering taking out a policy.
It seems the days of NHS workers and their families not even considering healthcare other than that provided by the National Health Service are well and truly over.
Private medical insurance enables individuals to have a greater choice when it comes to their healthcare, as well as avoid increasing waiting lists. With the peace of mind this affords, it’s no wonder NHS staff themselves are taking out such protection.
The fact many NHS staff are taking out PMI for themselves and their families isn’t necessarily a damning indictment of the health service. What it is though is a sad reminder of how our beloved NHS simply cannot cope with the current pandemic.
Individuals value PMI for the peace of mind and flexibility it affords. At times like these, such reassurance can be invaluable.