Tuesday, 26th November 2019

Mental health, Brexit and cancer were all on the agenda at the annual Health and Wellbeing Summit held by the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII).

Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well the link between increased life expectancy and the financial sustainability of private healthcare were also hot topics at the event, which saw industry leaders come together to debate the future of the UK healthcare industry.

Among the keynote speakers was leading business commentator Simon Jack who offered insight into the future of the healthcare industry, taking into account the implications of the forthcoming General Election and the ‘Brexit saga’.

He said: “The Brexit saga is becoming increasingly difficult to report on in the current economic climate, and there is a formidable task ahead to negotiate trade deals with the likes of the US and the EU for whoever wins the General Election on 12 December. Even after the General Election, it won’t be over.

“Ways of working, job creation, development of skills and productivity are all linked to wellbeing and are all areas which will need to be addressed and improved in the business and economic climate following the General Election.

“However, I’ve been impressed with how business leaders think towards health and wellbeing. Though it may not always come across in the press and on social media, their depth of knowledge and expertise in this area is particularly impressive, and will be crucial as we head into the 2020s.”

The Summit, which was held at One Great George Street in London for the fourth consecutive year, then heard from Prof Willie Hamilton, Professor of Primary Care Diagnostics at the University of Exeter.

Addressing more than 200 representatives of healthcare businesses and organisations from across the country, he shared his views on how far the UK healthcare industry has come in the last 10-15 years in terms of cancer detection, diagnosis, treatment and survival – and how far it still has to go to achieve objectives set out in the NHS 10-year plan, published in January 2019.

Willie said: “In the last decade, we have made huge strides in cancer awareness, diagnosis and treatment – but we still have a long way to go.

“We’re not as good as our sister countries in terms of survival rates, and the gatekeeper system we have in the UK, though it has its positives, can in some respects lower the survival rate.

“We need to help our healthcare professionals diagnose cancer earlier and easier.

“In terms of treatment, surgery and anaesthetic outcomes are much better, and we’ve made incremental progress in radiotherapy, with proton beam therapy now developing in the UK.

“Immunotherapy so far has produced some spectacular results and could be something to keep an eye on.

“Treatment is also becoming more personalised as the healthcare industry realises the importance of DNA testing to further improve treatment choices.”

Willie also alluded to the increased importance of PMI being made easily accessible to those aged 70 or above.

“PMI among the older generation is becoming more of a topic for discussion due to the fact that we are living longer and the demographics in which cancer is most prevalent.”

Willie’s presentation was followed by an in-depth debate which featured directors from five of the market’s leading healthcare providers: Fergus Craig, Commercial Director at AXA PPP Healthcare; James Dalton, Director of General Insurance at the Association of British Insurers; Iain McMillan, Director of Intermediary Distribution at Bupa; Nick Reynolds, Sales Director, Aviva Healthcare; and Athos Rushovich, Director, Specialist Health Sales at Vitality.

The debate focused on a variety of topics including the role of AI and autonomous healthcare in the modern healthcare industry, the role of private GPs, plus both the future of genetics and chronic and acute illnesses going forward.

Helen Undy, Chief Executive of The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, was the final keynote speaker.

Helen, a passionate mental health campaigner with a decade of experience in the sector, has led Mind’s policy and campaigns work on public mental health and social care, campaigning with young care leavers and people who are homeless, as well as working in Parliament as a political researcher. She delivered a detailed presentation on the relative progress being made in dealing with mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, and her view of what the future holds.

Helen said: “Half of adults with a debt problem also have a mental health problem, and one-and-a-half million people in England are currently experiencing both issues. Stark figures also show that more than 100,000 people in problem debt attempt to take their own life every year in England alone, and nearly a quarter of people who attempted suicide last year were in problem debt.

“Research also shows that mental health problems are also strongly linked to the accessibility and cost of insurance premiums. Workplace cashplan schemes which don’t require employees to declare previous mental illnesses are transformational in terms of incentives to stay with large employers – people feel that they’ll be looked after.

“We’d like to see a review of underwriting and pricing for mental health, ensuring compliance with the Equalities Act (2010), plus shared best practice to improve understanding of exclusions.

“In addition, we want to see an accessible and supportive disclosure environment, as well as product innovation to improve inclusion for people with pre-existing conditions.

“There is definitely momentum building, but we need to see an increase in the scale of change in the coming years.”

Closing the Summit, AMII Executive Chairman Stuart Scullion, said: “It was great to see so many of the industry’s thought leaders debating and discussing the key issues for health and wellbeing as we enter the new decade and the business impact for the UK as we prepare for a General Election and a possible exit from the EU.”