After a year off work and endless visits to the doctor, she was referred to a specialist. Exactly 18 weeks later (the maximum waiting time) she saw a consultant who put her to the top of the list for surgery because her condition was so serious.
On the day of her hospital admission I went with her. I wanted to be there to ask the right questions and give her support. A stream of people came to see her - nurses, doctors, consultants, auxiliaries and an anaesthetist. You name it, she saw them. I was confident she was in good hands.
My brother and I took it in turns with her at the hospital. There’s no question that individually each member of staff was fantastic at their job and trying their best. But even with so many people involved, we felt something was missing. Her care plan seemed a bit disjointed and with the staff so busy, she felt a bit isolated and didn’t want to be a pest.
Time was definitely a precious commodity which is a shame when the listening and caring aspect can make so much difference to a patient’s experience and recovery.
Thankfully my mum has recovered well and she’s lucky to have family providing the extra care she needs. But for lots of people the situation could be different.
This year the NHS turns 70. It’s one of the UK’s most loved institutions and has achieved so much but recent headlines suggest it’s struggling.
This is echoed by public concern - 57% think the NHS’s ability to deliver care and services has been getting worse and will continue to decline.1
And last year, for the first time, there were more nurses leaving the system than coming into it. 2
Medical professionals are only human. When they’re overworked and burnt-out, there’s less time for comforting talk and educating patients and relatives about their condition.
Understanding medical jargon, waiting list standards and finding your way around NHS bureaucracy are just a few areas where it helps if someone has the time to listen and answer questions. Or you might just want someone to reassure you and lift your spirits.
In my mum’s case all of the above would have been welcomed.
Why added value services matter now more than ever
The road ahead for the NHS looks challenging as demand increases.
As a nation we’re living longer – the over-85s population is 1.3 million and set to double in the next 20 years.1
Chronic conditions like diabetes are becoming more common – an estimated 4.5 million people are living with this illness across the UK3. The condition accounts for 10% of the NHS budget for England and Wales.4
But even more prevalent are mental health issues which now affect 1 in 4.1
It’s time to be realistic. The sustainability of the NHS is uncertain and it can’t offer the holistic care it once did. And turning to private healthcare isn’t an option for everyone.
Bridging the gap
Many insurers now recognise they can help and offer support services alongside the core financial insurance product. Royal London’s Helping Hand is an example of this.
Included with all our protection plans bought through an intermediary, it gives access to a dedicated nurse who can help with many things like the challenges of illness, injury and bereavement.
The nurse gives personal support for as long as it’s needed. Typically our customers are in contact with their nurse for around 9 months but many have ongoing support for longer.5
Beyond the valuable emotional support, the nurse puts together a tailored care plan which can help bridge the gap in support from the NHS. For example, for someone suffering from cancer this could range from help to finding a hairdresser specialising in cancer patients to arranging a course of massage to help with relaxation and the side effects of chemotherapy.
Of course we appreciate everything the NHS does for us. But it’s under pressure and struggling to cope with the increased demands placed on it.
So when you’re thinking about the right protection plan for your client, consider what their needs might be beyond the payout. There’s a good chance they’ll thank you for it.
Find out about the support some of our customers have received from Helping Hand and more about the service on our website.
1 The NHS – At the heart of our national life, NHSproviders.org, 2017
2 New figures show an increase in numbers of nurses and midwives leaving the professions, NMC.org.uk, 2017
3 Facts and Stats, Diabetes UK, 2016
4 Cost of diabetes, Diabetes.co.uk
5 RedArc, Royal London Schemes Review 2016