Is collaboration in mental health the key to unlocking UK economic growth?

05 November 2015 - Patrick Watt, Corporate Director, Bupa UK
man looking into the camera

The launch of the high profile Equality for Mental Health campaign this week will certainly have struck a chord with business leaders, evidenced by signatories including PWC, BNY Mellon and KPMG. It's perhaps no surprise given the call to action, for mental ill health to be treated as seriously as physical illness, is an issue that goes right to the heart of supporting people, high performance cultures and overall business results. 

With the impact of mental ill health to individuals and estimated cost to the UK economy of 70 billion a year, as businesses we know that tackling the culture of silence around mental health is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. In recent years we have observed a step-change in the way businesses approach this trial, with many leading a cultural shift from originally asking 'what's the business case?' to instead 'where should we invest our efforts?'  

Our role as a health and wellbeing provider has also evolved, as businesses have moved from simply looking to buy products and services to more often seeking insight led partnerships to address the challenges specific to their business. Below we explore three key areas of what’s driving change and consider whether enough progress is being made.

Examples of mental health leadership in businesses

Interestingly businesses have made progress using the same tools that the Equality for Mental Health Campaign is capitalising on, namely: insight and collaboration. Business in the Community Wellbeing Business in the Community Wellbeing and the City Mental Health Alliance have made strides in the business forums to demonstrate what can be achieved through senior leader engagement and sharing knowledge through cross business partnership.

This aspect is especially important as experience tells us that companies with senior leader engagement make more progress in tackling mental health challenges than those without. Often this is the critical factor of success. 

New technologies and innovation

We've also seen businesses embrace a range of initiatives to drive positive health activity and remove barriers to access treatment. 

Traditionally private healthcare has required GP referral to access treatment,  which isn’t supportive of someone struggling to talk or ask for help.  For corporate or SME customers, Bupa no longer require GP referral for access to mental health talking therapies to help address this 'self referral'. 

There is also growing demand for digital tools to support a holistic approach to health and wellbeing and the need to increase employee engagement levels. We recently surveyed 2000 employees who said their biggest need to improve their wellbeing (34%) was help in setting personal goals. 

Bupa Boost is a digital innovation which was developed in response to business need, supported by our 24/7 Healthine for clinical advice, that enables people to set wellbeing goals in: mindfulness, relaxation, fitness and nutrition. With connectivity to a range of fitness and wearables devices it combines your overall wellbeing activity and helps you measures your progress. Businesses can also set company-wide wellbeing challenges using Boost to drive engagement campaigns and raise awareness in preventative health activity. Coupled with the gaming technology and ability cheer on your colleagues, it's even fun!

There is more that needs to be achieved and now is the time to act

Research shows that whilst 80% of leaders say they are committed to wellbeing and have effective measures in place, less than a third of employees feel they are effective. Equally, despite the thought leadership approaches described, many other businesses are just starting their journey with some research suggesting others are not making it a priority which could be costly in the future.

The good news is that there is a huge amount of tools and insight available to help to create a new strategy or build on existing programmes and if businesses receive specialist support on 'how’ to address mental health challenges then this could the next big step towards advancing the wellbeing agenda and unlocking UK economic growth. 

About Bupa

Bupa's purpose is helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives.

At Bupa, we have no shareholders. Our priority is looking after you... through our care homes, health insurance, health centres and dental centres. Bupa. Our focus is your health.

We have 15.7 million health insurance customers, provide healthcare to around 14.5 million people in our clinics and hospitals, and look after over 23,000 aged care residents.

We directly employ around 80,000 people, principally in the UK, Australia, Spain, Poland, Chile, New Zealand, Hong Kong, the USA, Brazil, the Middle East and Ireland, and many more through our associate businesses in Saudi Arabia and India.

Health insurance is around 73% of our business. In a number of countries, we also run clinics, dental centres, hospitals, and care homes and villages.

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