Workplace is one of fastest growing threats to health, say GPs

Article date: 12 November 2003

Doctors say that the workplace is one of the biggest threats toour health and are calling for employers to be more responsible,according to a new report.

The emotional environment at work was rated worse than unsafesex, drugs, pollution and a poor emotional environment at home inthe degree to which it is damaging our health.

GPs say our working environment is posing as big a threat asalcohol. And 69% of the GP panel interviewed as part of NorwichUnion Healthcare’s ‘Health of the Nation Index’say the incidence of depression attributable to the physical oremotional workplace environment has risen over the last fiveyears.

And more than two thirds of GPs believe that workplace factorsaccount for half of their patients suffering from stress.

GPs believe work is a significant factor in many of theirpatients’ conditions. A third of doctors believe it’s akey factor in cases of sexual impotence; 29% say it’s a causeof eating disorders and 34% believe it’s a significant factorin patients with drug abuse problems.

With Britons now working longer hours and with growing concernsabout workplace bullying and stress, this research brings home theextent to which the pressure to be successful in today’s jobmarket can be damaging to health.

And nearly half of the GP panel interviewed by Dr Foster forNorwich Union Healthcare believe employers’ legalresponsibility for their employees’ health should beincreased.

The findings are part of Norwich Union Healthcare’s second‘Health of the Nation Index’ looking at GPs’views of the health service. The Index also reveals:

  • GPs are feeling frustrated by time wasters and those whoaren’t taking responsibility for their own health –over a quarter of GPs think that more than 30% of theirconsultation time is taken up by patients who did not need to seea doctor.
  • There is widespread support (almost three-quarters of GPs) forthe use of ID cards to confirm entitlement to NHS services.
  • More than 60% of doctors think patients should be able to payfor more convenient appointments – but admit that this isprivatisation by stealth. Two in five GPs would like to see theintroduction of ‘fast track’ appointments, for anaverage £24 fee for patients, and over half would be prepared tooffer out-of-hours consultations for around £62 perappointment.

One of the GPs who took part in the Norwich Union Healthcareresearch, Dr Ann Robinson, says the dilemma of GPs wanting todeliver an effective Health Service without compromising its valuesis clear.

Says Dr Robinson: “One of the biggest causes ofdissatisfaction among patients is lack of convenience. It’sno wonder that GPs are feeling the pressure to offer solutions forpatients who are demanding a more consumer-friendly service, suchas ‘fast track’ appointments.

“By letting patients pay, GPs know this means they willexpect longer consultations, which of course will mean longerworking hours. And, more fundamentally, they’re uncomfortablewith the fact that this flies in the face of the principle of afree and equal health service.”

Tim Baker, director of business development at Norwich UnionHealthcare said: “It’s clear that doctors want torespond to the wishes of their patients but at the same time itappears that they remain keen to get patients to take moreresponsibility for their own health.”

Roger Taylor, research director at Dr Foster said: “Thisresearch has provided a valuable insight into the views of thepeople at the coal face. It’s interesting to see how far GPsare prepared to try and fit in with the needs of patients, and itwill be interesting to track their opinions and see how thisdevelops over the coming months.”


Media contact: Jo Misson, Matt Buchanan or Charlotte Ruddlesdinat QBO Bell Pottinger on 020 7861 2424 (out of hours telephonenumber: 07766 914 746) or Lorna Wiltshire at the Norwich UnionPress Office on 01904 723 236 or 07788 471 849

Notes to Editors:

Norwich Union Healthcare’s ‘Health of the NationIndex’ GP Panel consists of 264 GPs, a representative samplefrom across the UK. They took part in a comprehensive online surveycarried out by health research experts at Dr Foster in August2003.

Norwich Union Healthcare was founded in 1990 as the healthcarearm of Norwich Union and now provides a range of income protectionand private medical insurance products to around 750,000 customers.It is one of the largest providers of income protection and privatemedical insurance in the UK.

Norwich Union Healthcare is a member of the General InsuranceStandards Council, the Association of British Insurers and theFinancial Ombudsman Service.

Norwich Union is the UK’s largest insurer. It is a leadingprovider of life, pensions and investment products and one of theleading IFA providers. IFAs provide around 70% of thecompany’s long-term savings business.

Norwich Union has strategic alliances with building societiesand other leading UK brand names including Tesco Personal Financeand The Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

Norwich Union’s news releases and a selection of imagesare available from Aviva’s internet press centre at

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