Author Profile Picture

Christine Husbands


Commercial Director

Read more about Christine Husbands

The importance of long-term support

Employers should ensure that they have long-term support in place for those who need it as well as short-term, one-off services such as virtual GPs and EAPs.
lake, fishermen, nature

With NHS services under so much strain, it is easy to understand why employers are keen to offer services such as virtual GPs and EAPs to their employees. 

Whilst these types of typically short-term support services can give people access to help very quickly, they don’t normally cater for those who need longer-term support such as those suffering from conditions such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease or complex mental health issues. 

Employers should therefore ensure that they have long-term support in place for those who need it – as well as short-term, one-off services such as virtual GPs and EAPs.

Appreciate that you may not know what to say and that is OK

Long-term needs

Serious physical and complex health conditions often last for several months, if not years or for life. During this time, individuals usually need a wide range of personalised practical and emotional support alongside their NHS or private primary care. 

Whilst every situation is different and individuals have different needs and concerns, typical support needs over the long term include:

The same trusted professional 

Long-term support from the same professional such as a registered nurse, ensures continuity and trusted support in coping with what can be a roller-coaster of fluctuating emotional and practical needs.


Support needs to be available from pre-diagnosis to help manage symptoms whilst awaiting test results, preparing for consultations, through treatment, into recovery, adjusting to life after serious illness and living with a serious condition.


Physical and emotional needs must be continually addressed concurrently as each impacts the other. Environmental factors such as home and family, work and finances can all impact an individual’s ability to cope with ill health.


Individuals often need information, such as understanding their diagnosis and its potential implications, NICE guidelines, managing symptoms, discussing treatment options, how to navigate the NHS, services available to help and how to access them.


As well as the long-term support of a trusted professional, their assessment and sourcing of other types of support organised quickly can make a real difference. Examples may be a course of counselling or therapy, practical help at home, second medical opinion, nutrition, complementary therapy or equipment. Often individuals don’t know what would most help them, so the professional assessment is vital.


There is a wide range of tools and information tailored to specific needs and health conditions, some are available as leaflets, PDFs and websites. Books and other resources can be very beneficial to support children impacted by family ill health. Condition-specific apps are also available to help individuals self-manage many aspects of their condition and provide the opportunity to become part of an online peer support community.


There is a wide range of support available, but most people are unaware that it exists or how to access it e.g. Local support groups, charities and financial advice. Long-term support from a trusted professional can identify when these would be helpful and research availability locally or online.

Family and friends

Individuals suffering from serious long-term health conditions often find it very difficult to talk to family and friends about their illness, parents are often worried about the impact on their children. Many individuals find it really helpful to discuss these matters as part of their long-term support.

Returning to work

Most people want to return to work, but this can be daunting for many, even if they have made a full recovery. For many, aspects of work may need to change. Discussing concerns and plans for coping with a return to work can be very helpful, and in some cases, specialist return-to-work coaching can be beneficial.

In recovery

The impact of serious ill health can continue for years, if not forever. This may be physical and/or emotional. When the treatment ends, it can often be the most difficult emotionally, so support needs to continue into recovery.

be mindful that needs may change over time.

Role of the employer

Whilst a professional long-term support service is vital, employers and line managers have a key role to play in supporting employees suffering from a long-term health condition.

Training and awareness are key, providing line managers with insight into the difficulties faced by employees as well as the relevant legislation, company policies and benefits.

Managers should also be trained in how to have conversations with employees and how best to offer their support. Some key points are:

  • Appreciate that you may not know what to say and that is OK. You are not expected to have all the answers, but listening and giving your support can be invaluable.
  • Ask what support would be helpful, it is dangerous to make assumptions, everyone deals with illness differently.
  • Respect the employee’s confidentiality and ask what they want to be shared with their colleagues and when.
  • Keep in touch regularly and continue to ask what support would help, be mindful that needs may change over time. 
  • Be flexible to accommodate the employee’s needs and concerns in returning to work.
  • Continue to provide support after the employee has returned as this can be a very difficult phase of adjustment.


Within any workforce, employees will have many different health needs, therefore long-term support mustn’t be overlooked in favour of the more obvious short-term. Both have a vital role to play in ensuring the needs of all employees are addressed. 

Many employers find it helpful to talk to a specialist in this area who can discuss the options available and advise on the most appropriate support to have in place for their organisation.

Interested in this topic? Read Does your employee mental health support fall short?

Author Profile Picture
Christine Husbands

Commercial Director

Read more from Christine Husbands

Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.