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Major EAP provider accused of failings

The employee assistance programme (EAP) Health Assured is under scrutiny due to allegations of mishandled calls.

In response to calling Health Assured’s helpline and reporting suicidal thoughts, one caller claimed that he was told to go on a date with his wife, the BBC has reported.

BBC File on 4 journalists also heard reports of counsellors being urged to keep call times down, to limit referrals to therapists and to keep conversations solution-focused.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is due to investigate the claims made about Health Assured. The EAP provider has refuted the allegations.

Read more: Dump flawed employee assistance programmes

Lou Campbell, programmes director for the workplace mental health provider Wellbeing Partners, told HR magazine: “As the EAP model, with its increasing focus on profits, falls well short of the promise to provide effect care and mental health support to employees, businesses are rightly looking at alternatives.

“The desire for the highest quality mental health support for employees is reflected in the exponential growth of specialist workplace counselling services, where a small team of named mental health professionals support employees with all issues presented to them and in a timely manner.”

She added: “As a qualified workplace mental health counsellor and trainer, I always advise HR professionals to use their EAP service themselves, to find out whether it meets their expectations, kind of like a 'mystery shopper'.

“Now is a good time for HRs to also invite their employees to offer anonymous feedback on their experiences with EAPs.”

Speaking to HR magazine, a spokesperson from Mental Health First Aid England, said: “EAPs play an important part in workplace wellbeing strategies. For them to be effective, they must serve the needs of workplaces and their people, so that individuals get the advice and support they need, when they need it.

“As with any provider, employers should regularly review their services to make sure that they are doing what they are contracted to do well, and that their staff are satisfied with the support.”

Bertrand Stern-Gillet, CEO at Health Assured, said that the firm has already been in touch with the BACP, and will welcome any investigation into its service.

He added: "Health Assured’s ultimate focus is on quality and client experience. The testimony we hear from clients and service users every day speaks to the clinical excellence of our service. We hold ourselves to the highest standard with people at the heart of everything we do – both in the care we provide as well as ensuring the health and wellbeing of our employees."