Analysis of patient data shows that cancer, musculoskeletal problems, and mental health concerns were the three conditions that were most referred to RedArc, the nurse-led support organisation, in 2022. Cancer and musculoskeletal issues were up by 18% and 19% respectively in 2022 compared to the previous calendar year, and mental health was down 19% but RedArc believes the latter to be a normalising of referrals following the significant rise during the pandemic, rather a decrease in real terms.
Waiting times for treatments in key areas
With a 25% shortfall in the number of cancer patients receiving treatment within a two-month target, eating disorders seeing an average wait of five months, and up to two years in some cases for a knee or hip replacement, RedArc believes that many of the referrals in 2022 are not solely due to an increase in cases but the impact of longer waiting lists for treatment.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc 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.
“Support is available and employers must offer it to employees, as well as communicate the benefits so staff can manage symptoms, even if there are problems or delays in receiving a diagnosis or treatment plan. 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.”
Type of support needed while on waiting lists
Support may include advice about pain management, symptoms, and when to seek medical attention; how to navigate the NHS, signposting to specialist local and national support groups and charities; provision of relevant reading materials; advice about how to communicate with family, friends and employers; arranging therapies to complement current medication or manage symptoms; and provision of medical aids and equipment.
Christine Husbands concluded: “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.
“Crucially, employees need to understand that health and wellbeing support is there for the before, during, and after and while we all hope that waiting times are reduced soon, we’re glad to have been there for those who needed us in 2022.”