A nurse-led support service claims it has seen referrals for cancer and musculoskeletal problems leap by almost a fifth over the past year, driven by longer waiting lists for NHS treatment.
Analysis of RedArc’s patient data showed that referrals for musculoskeletal disorders jumped by 19% in 2022 compared with the previous year, while referrals involving people with cancer rose by 18%.
Referrals for a mental health concern fell 19% compared with figures for 2021, which the company said signified a return to the pre-pandemic rate for mental health referrals, following a significant rise during Covid-19.
Its data chimes with long-term sickness figures released by the Office for National Statistics last year, which showed a 31% increase in people off work with musculoskeletal disorders.
RedArc managing director Christine Husbands said: “Our referral statistics reflect the national picture, that many individuals are experiencing exceptionally long waiting times both for elective and emergency treatment on the NHS.
“The wait before a diagnosis, operation, or treatment plan can be really taxing for employees and their families, with life as normal on hold, and the overriding concern that the delays will exacerbate their illness. The dedicated support of a nurse can be of real benefit at this time both from a clinical and emotional point of view and the support may also help staff to remain at work, and crucially remain earning, which is good for their mental and financial health.”
Husbands said that organisations needed to get better at communicating about the healthcare benefits available to staff, so that they can better manage their symptoms if they are experiencing a delay in diagnosis or treatment from the NHS.
“A common refrain when employees are referred to us is, ‘I wish I’d known about you sooner,’ demonstrating that employers can do more to communicate what is available and how to access support,” she said.