You may have questions or concerns regarding coronavirus, so we have tried to answer as many of these as we can here, based on information from our healthcare partners, including Medical Solutions who provide Equipsme members with 24/7 GP access and AXA PPP healthcare who handle physio, diagnosis and treatment insurance claims.
Equipsme members can call or message the 24/7 GP Customer Service Team, who have been trained to identify the symptoms of COVID-19 and will direct patients to NHS 111, where appropriate. Login here or use the Equipsme App to access your account for all the contact details.
Medical Solutions have also created a Coronavirus Content Pod where anyone can find an FAQ-style interview in a series of short videos with their Chief Medical Officer, Dr Chris Morris, who answers some key questions about COVID-19 and provides some useful information and advice.
Help for employers
As an employer, you may have questions about reassuring your staff, what is “furloughing” or ways to minimise the impact of Covid-19 at work. Our stress support partner, Health Assured, has some helpful FAQs as well, which you can find here.
Our insurer partner AXA PPP healthcare has created a risk assessment toolkit to help you put measures in place for a safe and successful return to work. You can find it here.
There is also Government guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic, which you can find here.
New “Clinical Support Centre” providing virtual access to specialist consultations
A ‘virtual’ Clinical Support Centre has been set up by AXA PPP healthcare and will remain in place until the end of the Covid-19 crisis - when private facilities open and face-to-face care is available again. This will depend on your current Equipsme health plan cover level.
AXA PPP healthcare has brought together a panel of the UK’s leading specialists and practitioners who are all available by telephone, video or online. The bespoke panel includes ENT, gastroenterology, gynaecology, orthopaedic, paediatric, cardiology and cancer specialists, many of whom are among the most senior and expert consultants in their respective fields. If your condition is eligible, the team will help signpost Equipsme members to the most appropriate specialist, guiding them to the right support and advice. All without the need for a GP referral letter. This will ensure members can access the right expert at the right time – all from the safety of your own home.
Members with a confirmed diagnosis already, and waiting for non-urgent, elective surgery can also use the Clinical Support Centre to access ‘care while they wait’. This includes support for managing symptoms – for example, accessing pain relief or online physiotherapy. The centre will also support members who are in need of urgent treatment with onwards referral to newly established urgent and immediate care pathways put together by the public and private health systems.
Frequently asked questions
Coronavirus: what is it and how does it spread?
COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.
Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. It is probably predominantly spread by respiratory droplets (from coughing or sneezing) among close contacts (e.g. within 2m) for prolonged periods or direct contact with infected secretions (except sweat).
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- You may have contracted coronavirus if you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
- The symptoms can be similar to the common cold or flu and may appear up to 14 days after exposure.
- The severity of illness can vary from mild to severe symptoms.
Is there any treatment available?
- There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19.
- Antibiotics do not help, as they do not work against this virus.
- Medical care aims to relieve the symptoms while your body fights the illness.
- You’ll need to stay in isolation, away from other people, until you have recovered.
I think I have coronavirus. What should I do?
- Stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms.
- Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
- Stay at home if you have either a high temperature and/or a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly.
- You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
- If you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home, use NHS 111 online.
How long should I stay at home?
- If you are experiencing any symptoms, stay at home for 7 days.
- If you live with others, they should self-isolate for a period of 14 days.
- If you live with someone considered at high risk, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days. If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.
Use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:
- you feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
- your condition gets worse
- your symptoms do not get better after 7 days
- Only call 111 if you can’t get help online.
Who is at risk?
Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading. It is particularly important for people who:
- are 70 or over
- have a long-term health condition
- are pregnant
- have a weakened immune system
- have a serious health condition (such as cancer)
- have had an organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressant medicine
Will my Equipsme health insurance plan pay for diagnostic tests for COVID-19 – the illness caused by the new coronavirus?
While our plans provide cover for the cost of diagnostic tests requested by a specialist recognised by AXA PPP healthcare (after a GP open referral), this is not a scenario that a member suspected of having COVID-19 would currently find themselves in. However, as this is an evolving area, AXA PPP healthcare will be keeping it under review.
Some private vendors claim to be offering tests for the new coronavirus for use at home and then posted back to you. It is not known if these tests are effective. Please note that Public Health England has advised against rapid tests in the community or at home because there is no published evidence that these tests are suitable for this use.
What impact will the recent announcement about the NHS accessing private facilities have on my Equipsme health plan?
Following the recent NHS agreement with the independent sector to reallocate its national hospital capacity, patients in both the private sector and NHS are affected by delays to non-urgent hospital treatment. However, with unprecedented levels of demand on health services across the UK, Equipsme and all our partners understand the requirement to prioritise resources and focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, as well as the safety of the healthcare professionals who treat patients.
Until all private face-to-face care is available again, our insurers AXA PPP healthcare have set up a ‘virtual’ Clinical Support Centre that will remain in place until the end of the Covid-19 crisis. This support centre brings together a panel of the UK’s leading specialists and practitioners who are all available by telephone, video or online. If your condition is eligible, the team will help signpost Equipsme members to the most appropriate specialist, guiding you to the right support and advice. All without the need for a GP referral letter.
It is also important to remember that Equipsme health plans are not just about treatment in hospital. With 24/7 access to GPs, health support and advice lines, AXA PPP healthcare’s own physio team and help to diagnose what’s wrong, you are able to access the majority of services that are available through your Equipsme health insurance plan.
How is the service I can expect from my Equipsme health plan affected?
All of us are having to adapt to the need to ‘work from home’ more at the moment. That goes for the team at Equipsme and all our partners supporting our members’ benefits under their plans.
Our partners have responded incredibly well to mobilise their customer service teams on a remote basis, where necessary. We are all committed to provide our members with as close to a ‘business as usual’ service as possible. As you might imagine helplines are exceptionally busy so please do make use of the online contact forms for questions and claims, which you can find by logging into your Equipsme member portal here.
Of course, you are free to use the helpline numbers provided as well especially if your query is urgent.
How can my Stress Support cover under the Equipsme health plan help?
You may have other family or financial worries as a result of the current work/life challenges facing us all. If your employer has included Stress Support in your Equipsme plan, our specialist employee assistance partner, Health Assured, is only a phone call away to help with confidential advice and counselling where necessary.
Login here to access your Equipsme account for all the contact details.
What can I do to help reduce the risk?
Wash your hands frequently
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and hot water - do this for at least 20 seconds.
- Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
- Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards
- Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol- based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
Avoid touching your face
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
- Why? Your hands regularly come into contact with many different surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth where the virus can then enter your body.
Maintain social distancing
- Try to maintain at least a 2 metre distance between yourself and other people.
- Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms of coronavirus
- Only travel on public transport if you absolutely need to
- Work from home, if you can
- Avoid social activities, such as going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas
- Avoid events with large groups of people
- Use phone, online services, or apps to contact your GP surgery or other NHS services, and only if you need to
- Why? When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the coronavirus if the person coughing or sneezing has the disease.
Practice respiratory hygiene
Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Do wear a mask if you’re sick and also if you are taking care of someone with the symptoms.
Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and coronavirus.
Stay informed and follow advice
Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by the government, your public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information about COVID-19 in your area.
Keep calm and healthy
- It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused and scared during a crisis.
- Talk with people you trust. Contact friends and family.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle - including a good diet, sleep, exercise and social contacts by phone or digital channels.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions.
- Stay informed through credible sources but limit worry by lessening the time spend watching and listening the media coverage.
- Draw on skills used in the past to help you manage your emotions during challenging times.