Consultancy OAC has drawn up a report on healthcare mutuals which finds the sector delivered £1bn in savings for the NHS, welfare state and employers in 2022.
The Mutuality: supporting health and wellbeing in the UK report argues for “the valuable contribution to public health finances given by the mutual and not-for-profit sector through the provision of health protection policies to employers and individuals”.
The study looks at 29 mutuals, including Benenden, Liverpool Victoria, NFU Mutual and Royal London. “Most of these organisations are long-established,” say OAC, “with a strong heritage of protecting workers from the impact of ill-health, unemployment or old age.”
It argues that the contribution of the sector is important when public health services face unprecedented pressure from rising costs, pressure on infrastructure, growing waiting lists, the growth in long-term sickness and an ageing population.
“It is clear there are major challenges for this and future UK governments,” it says. “The government has recently launched a consultation aimed at increasing employer uptake and widening the reach of occupational health to keep workers healthy.”
This, warns the report, “could lead to a shift in responsibility for public health away from central health services and onto employers and individuals”.
The mutual sector is useful here, says OAC. “These mutual organisations continue to operate effectively in the healthcare and protection sectors. They do this by complementing, rather than competing, with the NHS and welfare state.
“They actively support employers in helping their employees to remain healthy and productive and, where they are unwell, to help get them back to work sooner.”
The study looks at benefits to the NHS, in terms of savings in treatment costs, rehabilitation and accelerated recuperation; the welfare state, in terms of savings from the replacement of sickness benefit; employers, through a reduction in sick pay and other costs; and to individuals, through receipt of policy benefits.
These savings – from health cash plans, private medical insurance and income protection policies provided by the 29 mutuals in the study – saved almost £1bn, OAC found.
The study included the following mutuals: Benenden Healthcare, BHSF, British Friendly Society, Cirencester Friendly Society, DG Mutual, Dentists’ Provident Society, The Exeter, Health Shield Friendly Society, HSF Health Plan, Liverpool Victoria, MDDUS, MDU, Medicash, Metfriendly, National Friendly, NFU Mutual, Holloway Friendly, Paycare, PG Mutual, Royal London, Shepherds Friendly Society, Simplyhealth, Sovereign Health Care, Transport Friendly Society, Wesleyan Assurance Society, Westfield Health, WHA Healthcare, Wiltshire Friendly and WPA.