Half of employees affected by NHS Covid backlog delays, study finds

Report also reveals majority of workers experienced poor mental health in the last year, as experts advise employers to give it the same ‘priority of care’ as physical health

Employees have been significantly impacted by the NHS backlog caused by the pandemic, a report has found.

Half (51 per cent) of workers have been affected by delays in accessing NHS services, while one in 10 (11 per cent) have been extremely affected by operation cancellations.

The findings are part of the PAM Group’s Health at Work Report, which looked at a range of aspects of employees’ physical and mental health.

The report, which polled more than 1,000 employees, also found that over the last year, many have been struggling with their mental health.

Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of employees reported experiencing fatigue and burnout, with the same proportion experiencing workplace stress. Similarly, seven in 10 (72 per cent) said they had felt anxious, while almost two-thirds (64 percent) have felt depressed.

The report also found a quarter (25 per cent) of employees have been diagnosed with clinical anxiety or depression, while a fifth (20 per cent) said they had been extremely affected by loneliness and isolation.

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On top of this, two in five employees (41 per cent) were affected by the death of a colleague or a loved one last year, rising to half among Asian employees and seven in 10 black employees.

The report also found that many workers blamed their employer at least in part for their poor mental and physical health. Two-fifths (39 per cent) of those polled said working for their employer undermined their health or made them sick, while 86 per cent believed their employer was responsible for their health and wellbeing.

The report recommended employers should not ignore increasing levels of anxiety, and called on them to reassure their workforce that not feeling normal during periods of uncertainty was normal, and to help them recognise symptoms of anxiety and develop healthy coping strategies.

Louise Aston, wellbeing director at Business in the Community, said employers needed to take a systemic approach to addressing the causes of poor mental health.

“They need to record mental health risks and hazards and give them the same priority of care as physical health and safety to truly benefit employee wellbeing,” she said. “Furthermore, employers need to actively listen to their employees, in order to design jobs that enhance wellbeing for everyone.”

The report also found that not all workers experienced difficulties equally over the last year: eight out of 10 employees with mixed ethnicity (81 per cent) experienced feelings of depression during the last 12 months, compared to 65 per cent of white employees, 59 per cent of Asian employees, and 61 per cent of black employees.

Women were also more likely than men to have been diagnosed with clinical anxiety or depression (28 per cent compared to 21 per cent).

The report called on employers to devise health and wellbeing strategies in keeping with overall diversity and inclusion plans, and urged employers to adopt a more proactive approach towards helping people stay healthy.

Louise Abbs, managing director of PAM Wellbeing, said it was in businesses’ interests to look after their workforce, noting that one in two people who are proactively helped to stay healthy say they are less likely to want to work elsewhere, compared to just one in 20 who receive little or no support.

“They are also significantly more productive, showing the business benefits associated with a proactive approach to health and wellbeing go far beyond simply reducing sickness absence,” she said.