GlaxoSmithKline has formula to protect older employees’ health

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) addresses the healthcare needs of its older employees under its Partnership for Prevention programme, an internally-designed healthcare scheme that is being rolled out to its global business sites.

Doctor Timothy Wighton, director of global disease prevention and health promotion at GSK, says: “It is the brainchild of several people within GSK who came together and said: ‘Are we doing enough for our employees, no matter what level they are, no matter what age they are and no matter where they work? Are we doing enough to give them services to prevent disease and live healthier lives, and are we giving them the opportunity to get early detection of disease?’

“What we found is that we’re not, so we went to the World Health Organisation and looked at 40 preventative services, most of which centre around vaccination and clean drinking water, with others around cancer screening.”

GSK now screens staff for four types of cancer: skin, breast, cervical and colon, as well as for cardiac disease and diabetes.

The organisation is also working with insurers and healthcare providers around the globe to train them in management of preventative disease and chronic disease for all staff.

Wighton says workplace adjustments for older workers are made as and when required across the business. “We look at individual cases, so if we need to adjust a workplace or an environment or parking, or whatever it may be, we’ve done so,” he says.

But he adds: “I think we’re new at this. I think many employers are new at it. Most employees used to work in an [organisation] and retired at a certain age, usually in their 50s, but today it’s much different.”

Wighton says GSK’s healthcare programme is part of its efforts to retain the experience of its older staff and the energy they can bring to the business.

“We are a scientific and medical organisation and it takes years to develop our vaccines and medicines,” he says. “Those employees that have been involved in [these projects] from a very early age stick with a project for 10 to 15 years, so we’re absolutely going to have an ageing workforce and we’re going to have to make these adaptions, starting with preventative services and disease management. Those are the things that are going to make a difference right now and going forward.”

GSK hopes to finish implementing the Partnership for Prevention programme by 2017.