What is health screening?
It is a diagnostic service to establish an employee’s current state of health using a variety of tests.
Where can employers get more information?
Click here for a list of screening centres.
Who are the main providers?
AMS, Axa Icas, Blossom Healthcare, BMI Healthcare, Bupa Health and Wellbeing, Capita Health Solutions, Company Health Europe, Corazon Health, Ihealth, Medifit, New Leaf, Nuffield Health, Prevent, Pulse Health Screening, Relaxa UK, Screenetics, Serco Occupational Health, The Diagnostic Clinic.
Screening keeps a check on employees’ health and flags up any existing problems, making it a cost-effective benefit for employers to provide, says Jennifer Paterson
Health screening can help to identify problems at an early stage or even before they arise, enabling employees to understand health risks and make healthy choices.
Dr Soniya Saha, medical director at Screenetics, says: “It is about preventing illness, early diagnosis, and identifying people who are at high risk so they can take action.”
A general well-person screening is often carried out by a nurse and can include checks on height, weight, blood count, cholesterol profile and blood sugar.
Historically, health screening has been an employer-funded benefit, based on length of service or seniority in the organisation, but it can also be offered in a flexible benefits scheme or on a voluntary basis.
The cost will vary depending on the size of the workforce and what the test includes. Dr Peter Mace, assistant medical director at Bupa Health and Wellbeing, says: “In many cases, larger organisations will be able to negotiate discounts. Some employers choose to cover the entire cost, and others might offer a limit to each employee, giving them the option to have additional tests.”
At the top end, executive screenings can cost between £200 and £700. Dr Mark Simpson, medical director at Axa Icas, says: “This is increasing in importance because employers have to look after senior staff.”
Other specialist scans are also available, such as LifeScan’s detailed health assessment using computed tomography (CT) scans of the abdominal organs. Crispin Lennox, corporate business manager at LifeScan, says: “We are looking at areas of calcification of the coronary arteries for heart disease, early signs of osteoporosis through a bone mineral density scan, early signs of bowel cancer through a scan of the large bowel, plus sight of other organs.”
Employers can also offer online health screenings. Simpson says: “If an employee knows their weight and height, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, then the amount of information they can get out of an online assessment is much better informed.”
How often a health screening is provided depends on the age of the employee. Typically, over-50s would have one annually, those aged between 40 and 50 every two years, and under-40s every three years.
Assessments can also be tailored to suit individuals. For example, Nuffield Health offers a general assessment for people under 45 and a more detailed assessment for those over 45. Chris Jones, professional head of physiology at Nuffield Health, says: “We would not want to put a 22-year-old through the same tests as someone aged 55 because the likelihood of them having the same medical issues is quite small. By focusing on three areas – peace of mind, prevention and how people look and feel – we can tailor the session to individuals.”
Results on site
Screenings can take place at a medical centre or in the workplace. Some providers can also provide results on site. Kevin Hollick, director of Screenetics, says: “It gives the employee the opportunity to get clarity on what those results mean immediately.”
There has been some uncertainty over the tax status of screening. In 2007, the then government said that, to be exempt from tax, screening should be available to all staff on similar terms. But under the Finance Act 2009, employer-provided annual screening is exempt from tax even if it is not offered to all staff on generally similar terms.
Health screenings can also highlight the impact of losing an employee. Simpson says: “The trick is to put people, from a health risk appraisal, into high, medium and low risk, and then begin to target interventions.”
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