As the backlog within the NHS continues to grow, we believe that employers, insurers and advisers have a role to play in helping people navigate the system and bridge the gap. People need to know what is available, what to ask for, and the best ways to access care efficiently.

It is about making the most of the NHS, protecting it where possible by providing alternatives but also ensuring that people get the care they need as quickly as possible. This does not have to mean paying for expensive procedures or treatments, it is often a case of giving someone the knowledge they need to make the most of what is available.

There are record numbers of people waiting for treatment: the latest data release from NHS England shows a record 7 million people are waiting for treatment.

There are ways to bridge that gap while people wait for care, and employers, insurers and advisers can help. While a GP is likely to still be the first port of call, employers, insurers and advisers can, for instance, offer people access to the support of a mental health nurse, until the necessary structured therapy becomes available on the NHS.

It is also vital that people know how to navigate the NHS system, which most people don’t. Organisations can assist their employees and customers by giving them access to experts. Specialists will understand the process, options, and how to make the most of the NHS, this might include knowledge of the right questions to ask to the right people how to get medical aids, or local facilities to help with pain or symptom management

There are many aspects of the NHS that the average person simply does not know about. Some of the most help we give people is helping them to understand what support is available and how to access it.

For example, a ‘care package’ is the plan of services often offered to someone after a spell in hospital. However, until someone is in the position of needing this, either for themselves or a loved one, they are unlikely to even be aware of them, let alone how the system works. In some areas, a community matron, who can write prescriptions, may provide an alternative to asking a GP for home visits but people need to know about the services available in their area to be able to access them.

Help available

For someone with a serious or long-term illness, having a trusted professional alongside them to take the strain out of finding and accessing care can remove a huge burden. There are many support networks in place for people with cancer, diabetes, etc, and for those caring for the sick or elderly, but often people are thrown into these situations with no prior knowledge and having a guide to the system and the options available locally to them can offer great comfort.

Understanding the options is an important part of making the most of the NHS and employers, insurers and advisers can provide access to specialists to guide people through the different routes. Knowledge, guidance and support can assist an individual in their recovery and rehabilitation, lead to better health outcomes, and facilitate quicker returns to work. They also play a huge part in reducing stress and anxiety about accessing care.