UK businesses lost more than 200m hours to health appointments last year, totalling an estimated £900m in paid sick leave, new research shows.

A survey by our partner Unum* reveals that the equivalent of 201m hours were taken by employees visiting the GP and other health professionals, with the average full-time worker spending 8.3 hours attending appointments last year. The average employee made up to 3.1 visits to their GP and 1.7 visits to specialists, of which 2.5 hours were taken as paid sick leave.

Of the 2,000 UK workers who responded to the poll, 60% said they found taking time off for these appointments ‘stressful’, while 25% said they had to cancel an appointment due to personal issues or their workload being too high. More than six in 10 (62%) of full-time workers who had to cancel a healthcare appointment said their health deteriorated as a result - with more than three quarters (77%) admitting that their productivity at work was affected while waiting for appointments.

Unum UK chief executive Peter O’Donnell said: “Good employers understand the importance of enabling workers to attend their health care appointments promptly and it’s concerning that so many feel stressed about taking this time out. What’s even more worrying is the number reporting worsening conditions either due to missing an appointment or having to wait a long time to get the help they need.”

Unum’s Help@hand app, launched last year, is one of a number of health insurance apps giving employees easy access to remote GP appointments and health support. ‘Virtual’ healthcare can include getting a second opinion and mental health services, as well as access to treatment such as physiotherapy. 

Mr Donnell added: “We know that access to convenient medical support can sometimes be difficult for workers and their families and we wanted to offer a service that made a tangible difference. Early treatment can often result in a quicker resolution to a medical issue and bring added peace of mind.”

With a quarter of teens turned away for mental health support and pressure mounting on NHS waiting times, private medical insurance can be an ideal solution for you and your family, should illness or an emergency occur. The right health insurance can help you bypass long waiting lists and allow you to choose the consultant you want to be treated by and the hospital you want to stay in. You can also book into a private room instead of a busy ward.

To find out more, compare private medical insurance quotes to see the full range of physical and mental health benefits for your family.

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* Unum’s study involved 2,031 full-time workers aged 18+ (working 30 hours or more per week).