Hi everyone, this week I am chatting to Vicky Churcher, Intermediary Director of AIG.
Vicky is joining me to chat about her health, claiming on her insurance and how the additional services offered by Best Doctors have been phenomenal for both her and her family.
In 2018 Vicky had a major heart attack, which was a huge shock given her being a regular runner, a vegetarian for most of her life and generally someone that didn’t have any of the usual risks that lead to a heart attack.
In this episode we focus upon Vicky’s experiences of what having a heart attack felt like and how it can change your life. Vicky is now a counsellor to support people that are due to undergo major heart surgery, which I think we can all agree is an incredibly positive way to focus her energy.
The 3 key takeaways:
- The types of symptoms that someone can experience when having a heart attack.
- The importance of using value added services, like Best Doctors, to double check that every part of your medical condition has been thoroughly investigated.
- A case study arranging life insurance for a client with atrial fibrillation, a history of pulmonary embolisms and mental health.
Next time I will be chatting with Emma Thomson from British Friendly. We will be chatting about Emma’s experience being diagnosed with breast cancer and what it was like for her to claim on her insurance policies.
Kathryn: Hi everyone, today I have Vicky Churcher with me from AIG. Hi Vicky!
Vicky: Hi Kathryn!
Kathryn: We’re going to be talking about Vicky’s experiences of having a heart attack, her recovery and how the event has led to some key discoveries for her and her family. I’m also going to be talking through some case studies of arranging protection insurance when someone has a heart condition. This is the Practical Protection podcast. So Vicky, what’s the latest with you then? What’s going on?
Vicky: So, well lockdown’s been interesting. Actually it quite suits me being in lockdown because it means I don’t have to get up really early and get on a busy Tube and train and get into London.
Kathryn: I think we’re all loving that aren’t we?
Vicky: Yeah, so it’s been good. Busy as with everybody with family and the kids and, you know, the changing rules that are Covid. Obviously the recent ones came in today which is obviously Monday 14th regarding the six people. Very confusing whether that’s, you know, what you can do in terms of can my son play in his basketball team, can’t he? Obviously he’s at school but yeah, so just like everybody else I think, just sort of finding a way through the strange times that we’re living in and just, yeah, surviving.
Kathryn: Absolutely, it is just sort of all a little bit, you know, crazy at the moment. So like I put it out on social last night that we got a text message at like 9.50 last night just to say that there was a teacher in my son’s year, I don’t even know if it’s his teacher, but there’s a teacher within his year who’s been tested positive and so the entire school is locked down. It was just that kind of thing of, “Right, okay, what does that mean for us? What does that mean for –” Obviously so my son’s year is in lockdown, what does that mean for my other children? Are they allowed to go out? And apparently they are allowed to go out which doesn’t seem to make any sense to me whatsoever, you know, and yeah, it’s – I think it’s all still very, very strange times. But we’re all plodding through and getting through it so that’s the main thing. So last time that we had the podcast, we did have our little truth or lie feature. I’ll just go through that quite quickly today. So basically, I just need you to decide who was telling a truth or a lie because both myself and Alan said that we had been stung by a bee that morning.
Vicky: Oh, I think you’ve had quite a lot of bad luck recently with one thing and another so I’m going to say it was a lie, you didn’t need that.
Kathryn: Yes, no that’s very true and thank you. Yeah, I didn’t get stung by a bee, I am touching wood every single way possible, I’ve never been stung by anything so clearly now I’m going to get stung by everything in the next month. Yeah, Alan, bless him, got stung by a bee on his – he does sort of like bootcamps, obviously very socially distanced.
Kathryn: And apparently this woman behind him shrieked and he stopped to see if she was alright at which point another bee came out and got him and then someone else got it and it was just – yeah, so yeah it was poor Alan and it’s just started to actually disappear now. He seemed to have some kind of a reaction to it. So bless him, he’s had everything recently – food poisoning, now bee stings.
Vicky: Yeah, it can be quite nasty a bee sting, yeah.
Kathryn: Yeah, it wasn’t – it didn’t look very nice. Yeah, I was quite grateful it wasn’t me. So Vicky, thank you obviously so much for joining me and I think, you know, when we’re going to be chatting about things, I think a lot of people have probably heard from you and sort of like seen you speak and it’s always incredible to hear your experiences and it’s just – it would be really nice to have that chat with you and for people who haven’t heard your personal story as well, can you take us back to the beginning of, you know, everything that started in 2018 and what happened with you?
Vicky: Yeah sure, so I am fit – or was a fit and healthy person, mum of three, I ran regularly at least 5k every other day, 10k every week. I was vegetarian since I was 13, never smoked and lived quite a healthy life. So on the way to the Cover awards in May 2018, when I was on the train and I broke out in a massive sweat, the last thing I thought that was going to happen was for me to have a heart attack. So I was on the train, very sweaty, I was about to go to the Cover awards, I got off at St Pancras, I climbed up the stairs and I was all dressed up, as you are when you’re going to the Cover awards, and I looked down at my hair which is quite long and it was soaking wet and I was literally dripping with sweat. And I thought, “Well, with the best will in the world, I’m not turning up to an awards ceremony like this.”
Vicky: So I had my phone – so I took my phone out and I actually rang Holly Ewing who is in my team and said to her, “Holly, I’m not coming.” She asked me if I was okay ‘cos like I’ve never been off sick and I’m not sick. And I said I didn’t feel very well but I thought there was something, you know, wrong and I was actually just going to go home. So I turned back down – turned round, walked back down the stairs and literally as I got to the platform, I started feeling really, really bad, sort of the platform was swimming, I felt there was an elephant – like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. I couldn’t breathe but the doors opened right in front of me so I got on the train. It was an empty train because it was going back towards where I live in St Albans and obviously with no commuters – I got on the train – literally as I got on the train and the doors shut, I collapsed. I don’t remember too much about the actual collapse but I was by the doors. I couldn’t move my left side, I felt like I was being crushed and I didn’t know what it was but I knew it was serious and I knew really quite quickly in my head that this was, you know, this was quite life-threatening. There was, you know, I felt like I was going to die quite literally.
I had my phone in my hand still because obviously I’d just been speaking to Holly. Luckily, because I don’t think I could have fished it out of my bag otherwise. So there I am all dressed up but lying on the train just by the doors. I couldn’t see anybody around me. It was an empty train so I had my phone and I texted – kind of texted my husband. I thought I’d texted him, “Something seriously wrong, I’m on the train back to St Albans, please get me off the train.” When I read it back later, it didn’t really read like that but he got the gist and it was a 20 – 19, 20 minute journey back to St Albans and I remember going – it was lucky I was on the fast train not the all-stopper and I remember seeing a few stations as I was going and I was in and out of consciousness and I saw Radlett which is the station before St Albans and I just felt like – I just felt like I couldn’t hang on so I actually picked up my phone and started looking at pictures of my kids and thinking, “God, I’ve got to hang on. I don’t know what this is, I really don’t know what this is.” I thought I was having a massive asthma attack and I’d just – my lungs had collapsed or something. I didn’t understand.
Anyway, I remember just seeing the St Albans sign and then the next thing I remember is I was in hospital and I was being told that I had just had a massive heart attack to which I replied, “I can’t have had a massive heart attack, I’m a vegetarian and I don’t smoke. How can I have had a heart attack?” And unfortunately I’d had several heart attacks and they put me on – I was on – basically on a life support machine for a while but conscious. So I stayed at Stevenage Hospital which is where I was – the Lister, for four or five days just while they tried to stabilise me. I couldn’t get up. I wasn’t allowed to move basically. I had to stay still, they were – I could feel there was something very wrong and then four days after I’d been at Stevenage, in the middle of the night I suffered a further heart attack and they took me by blue light down to the Royal Brompton Hospital where I underwent an emergency triple heart bypass in the middle of the night. So my husband just made it – he didn’t make it in time to see me before I went to theatre but he was there while I was having the operation and before I went in they told me that I was critical and they were going to do obviously everything they could.
So they took – so they very quickly told me that they were going to take the arteries out of my both of my legs and use that to create a bypass. So when I woke up, I mean I didn’t mind – I realised that they were going to cut my chest open and open me up and I was going to have a horrendous scar but one thing I’ve always liked is wearing short skirts or shorts and I just thought, “Oh my God, not my legs. I can cope with my chest but not my legs.” So apparently the first thing I did when I woke up is say, “Which leg did you go – did you do both legs? What happened?” But actually the surgeon at the time realised that I was younger than their average triple heart bypass patient, also female so they actually did it with a plastic surgeon and there’s hardly any scars on my leg now. So they took the artery from my left leg. The benefit of having long legs is you only need one artery taken not two.
Kathryn: Ah that’s good.
Vicky: And they created a bypass. So that was that and then I was in hospital for two weeks at the Brompton recovering. I was in a ward with six other lovely ladies that were all – who were in their 70s or 80s who’d all gone through the same thing as me and how they were coping was amazing because you couldn’t even sit up, you know, breaking a sternum bone which you have to do to get to the heart was, you know, was probably the worst thing. So because my sternum was so thick because I was young, unfortunately it also broke three ribs and my collarbone so rather than just recover from a heart operation, you know, it was actually the broken bones that created the most problems for me because just pushing yourself – you can’t even just push yourself up in bed or you can’t get out of bed. It was amazing how much you use your arms just to, you know, get out of bed.
So that’s what happened and so it was a very traumatic time. It was very hard to be in hospital for someone who, you know, is busy, busy, busy and then I had to literally stay there. So I was in between completely bored, completely frustrated and in quite a lot of pain. So – but I went home sooner than most patients because I was younger and that’s really when the recovery started when I came home. And it was actually when I got home that I realised that, you know, I’d had this heart attack and I thought, “Oh I’ve got critical illness cover. I should really do something about that.” So that’s when I started picking up the phone to all the facilities – all the things that could help me so –
Vicky: I had BUPA private medical insurance as well but because my operation was an emergency, you know, obviously I was in the best hands with the NHS, I didn’t need to use it but BUPA have, you know, for every night you’re in hospital you get an amount of money. So I’d been in quite a long time so that was quite a nice amount of money. I effected my critical illness policy and obviously picked up the phone to Best Doctors which was part of my policy as well. So that’s what happened.
Kathryn: I was going to say, I mean it’s just – and I know that that’s just in a sense one set of events that happened and I know there’s been events, you know, and things that have been happening since as well but I think, you know, coming back to that – I mean, it just an incredible amount of things, you know, and I think, you know, probably when we think of someone having a heart attack, we don’t necessarily think about all that extra bit about the breaking of the sternum, the potential broken bones and things like that as part of the recovery which are obviously, you know, not pleasant things but potentially essential things to get to the heart and be able to get that. But, you know, that whole thing of, you know, that retelling of the story about yourself on the train, you know, for me that feels quite emotional as well because obviously I have panic attacks and things and I’m thinking, “Oh Lord, what on earth would I have felt like if I’d been in that situation?” So, you know, yeah, I think it takes an incredible amount of strength to have faced all that and to talk about it in such a – well obviously I can look at you and sort of I’ve seen you speak before in a sense quite a chirpy way actually the way you’re able to speak about it.
Vicky: I have spoken about it a few times and it was a couple of years ago and actually, you know, what happened afterwards was when I went into the cardiac rehab unit, I met – so I was with seven other people, all men, all in their 60s and just talking about it actually with them – who’d all been through the same – and some more traumatic experiences in more strange places, it was like, “Where’s the strangest place you’ve had a heart attack?” So, you know, I can talk about it now and I actually became and I still am a counsellor for particularly women and mums who are in the same situation and are about to have an emergency heart bypass to explain to them what to expect because until you’ve been through it – the trauma nurses are fantastic but they cannot tell you what it’s going to feel like and what to prepare for.
So I was very fortunate that actually before I had my bypass, Darren Spriggs who was the managing director at AIG Life and then managing director at Pacific Life Re, who is also a good friend, he’d gone through it literally three or four months before me. He’d had a quadruple heart bypass and he took the time and effort to explain to me – I was in tears, it was about two o’clock in the morning but he did a fantastic job explaining to me what to expect and without him actually it would have been so much more traumatic and I wanted to do that for other people and have done that about five or six times now. I’ve had a few middle of the night calls to say will I speak with somebody.
Kathryn: I was going to say, I mean that’s such a powerful way to channel what’s happened into something that’s obviously so incredibly positive for other people. I mean one of the things I was wondering as well is that I know the recovery’s taken, you know, even longer than, you know, obviously the few weeks and everything that you were in hospital but in regards to the recovery, I mean, what kind of stood out as maybe helpful for you or maybe things that you thought that maybe helpful but actually was quite unhelpful in some ways? Is there anything that really stood out as good or bad for you in your recovery?
Vicky: So the thing that was really – and I actually replied to a Tweet last week from a guy who was about to have heart surgery and he said, “Any tips?” And I said, you know, “Don’t, you know, make sure you do the cardiac rehab.” That was actually the best thing in terms of what was on offer because – not necessarily physically – they do go through physical, you know, how to sort of recover, but more emotionally and mentally, speaking to other people who had literally just been through it with you at the same time. So that was the most helpful thing practically. Obviously, Best Doctors which I’ll explain in a second was the most valuable thing to me and my family as it turns out. The thing that was unhelpful I guess – I think probably having to go physically to the GP surgery to do all the checks all the time.
Vicky: And interestingly enough, I think one positive thing that’s come out of Covid, if there is something is, you know, virtual GP now is far more acceptable and there is nothing that I did physically that could not have been done virtually. So I think now that will be a far more acceptable way of, you know, helping people post-op and again it wasn’t my heart, it was my broken bones. Just physically getting in and out of a car –
Vicky: Was hard, so yeah.
Kathryn: Okay, that’s really, really helpful to know and as you say, you know, I think the virtual GP thing especially helped so much by Your Smart Health at AIG is absolutely soaring at the moment.
Kathryn: So obviously you’ve mentioned it a little bit now and also I know we’ve chatted before about it, but I know that you were able to claim on your critical illness policy following the heart attack. So what did that mean to you and your family to be able to have that? And I know it’s not just the money, it’s also the Best Doctors. What’s that meant for you all?
Vicky: Yeah, so I’ll be honest, because I thought like everybody else it’s never going to happen to me, I did understand the importance of critical illness cover but I didn’t have much critical illness cover. I didn’t have enough so I took out critical illness cover when I first started working at BUPA and I was sort of 29 years old so – and I hadn’t reviewed it because I didn’t feel I needed to because I was fit and healthy which was a big mistake and I really should have reviewed it and that’s one of the benefits of having an adviser rather than doing it yourself because an adviser obviously will make you review it. So I got a critical illness payment and the policy – my policy was with Aviva. I called them and told them what had happened. I also told them who I was because I thought that was fair and the payment was made within about six, seven days, absolutely no problems whatsoever.
So they were fantastic and I used the money actually – we’d just moved home so I used the money for some of the – interestingly enough, I used it for our driveway which sounds quite strange but the driveway we had and the path was jagged stones, it’s a very old house and I struggled to walk on it just literally from that so the driveway was done really quickly and it made a difference, I could actually walk without fear of tripping over. Sounds daft now because – but I was like an 80-year old trying to walk along the path.
Kathryn: I completely get it, I completely get it, yeah.
Vicky: So that was good, so that was what I used the critical illness payment for but the best thing of course was Smart Health which was Best Doctors which is part of Smart Health. So I rang Best Doctors and I explained obviously I’ve had a heart attack, I’m a vegetarian, I don’t smoke, I’m really healthy, why have I had this heart attack? So I didn’t really join the dots up with my brother who had had a heart attack in his sleep and died at the age of 48 so I was 49 when I had my heart attack and he was 48. He unfortunately died. He was quite overweight and did have a little bit of heart problems, not heart problems but, you know, high blood pressure etcetera. So when he died at 48, we did think it was strange because it wasn’t that bad but we – everyone put it down to the fact that, yeah okay, that’s why he died.
So it wasn’t until I had mine that Best Doctors started joining up the dots and said, “Well, you know, it seems strange your brother died at 48 of a heart attack. You’ve had a heart attack at 49. Let’s look into it a bit further.” So what happens is at the hospital, they’re fantastic, they patch you up, they make you better and they keep an eye on you but what they never do is try and work out why you’ve had a heart attack because their job is to patch you up. And if I had another heart attack, I’d go back, they’d patch me up again but what they wouldn’t do is say, you know, “Why is this happening and what can we do to prevent it?” So Best Doctors did a fantastic job of asking for different types of blood tests and one of those was something called lipoprotein A which was something that they discovered in the US was causing quite a lot of heart attacks and it turns out that my lipoprotein A was hugely accelerated, something like 20, 30 times the safe limits and then they concluded that actually this is hereditary so what they normally find is that, you know, it runs in families which makes sense for my brother.
So it was at that point that my children, completely healthy – Amy, Maya and Freddie – Maya was 17 at the time, Freddie was 13 and Amy was 19. They were healthy but we got them tested and Freddie was fine, his lipoprotein was normal. Amy’s was sort of double what it should be but Maya, my middle daughter, she – hers was really accelerated as well and they concluded that had she – if we didn’t do any intervention for her, then her heart attack age would probably be about 30 so sooner than mine and it wouldn’t have mattered what her diet was although if she had been overweight for instance, it would have accelerated it further.
Kathryn: Of course.
Vicky: So she’s off to university actually on Thursday but she’s on medication, some of the same medication as me and the idea there is to prevent her having a heart attack. She’s absolutely fine, she takes the medication and we’re waiting now for further scientific evidence to, you know, to be more specific but at the moment the medication she’s taking should help her. I’m on a couple of drugs trials because I’m young and healthy – well, I’m not young and healthy, I wish I was. I’m younger than the average and healthier than the average so I’m on two drugs trials and one of them is really, really a big one and is proving to be really effective for me so they’ll probably put her on a drugs trial now as well and it looks at this point – it’s quite early days but it looks like this could be the breakthrough that the world is waiting for, for this disease, yeah.
Kathryn: That’s absolutely fantastic. I know, I think as well from what you’ve said previously as well, it also – it kind of even spread out even further into the family members as well that you were able to – this has kind of triggered a massive kind of snowball effect within the family of being able to say, “Right, this is happening, this is happening.” It’s just – I think it’s kind of that thing of, you know, you just – it’s – you just never know how much it could help, you know, the family and obviously having those Best Doctors there, you know, without that there, this wouldn’t have been found.
Vicky: Absolutely. So yeah, so while I was off and bored, I did a little bit of family tree hunting, like you do, and there’s an absolute no-brainer trend throughout the family of at least one or two family members dying of heart problems at the age of between – well between the age of 40 and 50, all the way back literally until the 18th century where they didn’t record it as heart attacks but, you know, it was heart problems or died suddenly. So it’s been in our family the whole time so that was quite interesting and fascinating and what’s powerful is, when my children have children, you know, they’ll know to test them.
But my cousins were tested and my cousins’ children and a new born baby was found to have it so we know, you know, he will need to be on medication when he’s older and stuff like that so it definitely has saved my family and Best Doctors not only did that and found that, they were absolutely fantastic in how they communicated with me, their sympathy, other advice. I spoke directly to the Mayo Clinic in Ohio and they were explaining, you know, “This is what we think you should do. Don’t try –” My doctors said, “Oh try and run again,” and they’re saying, “Definitely don’t run again, you know, walk, keep healthy, you must not run again.” So I completely ignored all that and decided to run again anyway last July and guess what, a week later I had another heart attack. So I decided that actually probably taking a specialist’s advice is better than taking my GP’s advice.
Vicky: And ‘cos my condition is different from other heart attacks where they’re trying to tell you to be fit and healthy –
Vicky: And lose weight, mine was nothing like that.
Kathryn: You were already fit and healthy and it just so happened that this –
Vicky: Was just genetic.
Kathryn: It was this genetic thing.
Kathryn: Completely different set of rules.
Vicky: And they said to me, you know, “If you accelerate your heart rate by running, you’ll have another heart attack,” and I did. So I won’t be doing that again.
Kathryn: No, please don’t. So I suppose, sort of like thinking about it, is there anything that kind of like you would say to people who are maybe, I don’t know if they’re concerned or anything about maybe some kind of family medical history or just generally if they’ve been in that same situation as you, what would be kind of your main things that you would want to say to people to kind of learn from your experiences?
Vicky: So what I would say is, there’s two things. Firstly a lot of things are genetic so join up the dots yourself. Ask, you know, the older members of your family, you know, who had what symptoms? Not necessarily died but, you know, what happened and listen to them. So try and join up the dots yourself. The second thing is tenacity. So had Best Doctors not been involved, Best Doctors did all the genetic testing, it would have been extremely hard for the NHS – like I said, the NHS are there to patch you up and make you better. What they’re not there necessarily to do is the investigation and for them to do all the genetic testing is quite hard and costly –
Vicky: So they tend not to do it. So I – the genetic test that – they did do it in the end but what Best Doctors did is gave – there’s a really good case study – history to say – a good reason to do it.
Vicky: And Best Doctors presented it in such a way that, you know, they said, “Look, if you don’t test them, more people will have heart attacks, more people will need to be treated, you’ll be spending more money on bypasses or whatever. Actually this is a cost-effective thing.” So they made a bit of a business case.
Vicky: So I would say, genetically, you know, if you have access to Smart Health or Best Doctors, they can help you do this business case that will help with, you know, putting your case across really to the NHS to help do the genetic testing but you have to be tenacious and you have to be quite organised. At one point, I had a massive file and, you know, everything had to go into that file because we had to, you know, you have to really make an effort. So you can’t just sit back and think, “Oh well the doctors – you know, I’ll tell my GP and it will all be fine.” You actually have to work at it yourself to actually get to the answers.
Kathryn: I think that’s absolutely, you know, I think that’s fair to say and I think there’s, you know, it’s very clear for me as well, you saying as well it’s not a criticism of the NHS at all, it’s just that it is so short on resources –
Kathryn: And they’ve got absolutely, you know, they have to obviously do a lot of the – I tend to think of more of the reactive kind of activities rather than the sort of like preventative in a sense whereas these things that we can get like Best Doctors and other support services, they’re there to hopefully help us with the preventative side of things.
Vicky: 100% and also if you have got private medical insurance, then use it if you are feeling like heavy-chested, out of breath, something strange happening, then use that so that you aren’t putting a strain on the NHS. So when I had my second heart attack, I obviously knew exactly what it was and I literally was having a heart attack and rang my consultant and got the first cardiologist appointment I could and I went in and they said – they took one look at me and was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s have a quick look, put you on the ECG,” and they went, “Oh my God, you’re having a heart attack!” “Yeah, I know.” And so they had me in that night and I had some more stents put in but – so I tried not to put more strain on the NHS. After all, it was my own fault the second time.
Kathryn: Wow, well the GP did tell you to run.
Kathryn: So I was going to say imagine the next time you saw them –
Vicky: Listen to the specialists, they know what they’re talking about.
Kathryn: Absolutely. Well I think, sort of moving on to the next bit, I think it’s only fair to be clear at the moment due to corona virus that there are some options to get insurance when you have a heart condition are not being as easily available. It’s not every heart condition but just some circumstances and being able to get the insurance really comes down to a lot of factors like the type of heart condition, when the diagnosis was made, the medications, the treatments and how it’s really affecting that person’s ability to live and work. Things like being a smoker, having sort of like a respiratory condition, high BMI, diabetes, can all add up to making getting the insurances slightly more trickier. Not saying it’s impossible, just maybe a little bit trickier. So for people outside of the insurance world that could be listening, the reason that’s become a bit trickier is that understandably insurers are trying to sort of respond to a risk that they don’t have a lot of data on. Insurers tend to work off – their data is usually decades old with like analyses of things that have happened and patterns they can see and with corona virus we’ve got about six months’ worth of data. So it’s actually – I know it may seem frustrating, sometimes as someone who’s applying for insurances potentially as an adviser when you’re trying to put things forward, but I think, you know, sometimes you do have to bear in mind that underwriters are – they are working very much on unknown and this is a business of risk and it’s very hard for them to sort of put that all into kind of a determination of what terms could be in a sense. We’re all working with this unknown.
So I think it’s important that, you know, we can say that there are still some options within the standard insurance market for a lot of people but it may sometimes be that a specialist insurer is needed and that doesn’t necessarily mean silly prices. So I do have a case study today about somebody who had a – well a couple who had a couple of medical conditions and just the different things we were able to look at for them. So the main thing was that this was a couple in their early 60s and they’d taken out a capital and repayment mortgage of £100,000 over 19 years. There was a very, very clear need for some life insurance for them to have out. Obviously we went through the different things with them in regards to their medical history. There was a few things for – and this is for both of them – for one of the lives they had had some atrial fibrillation that had been diagnosed about six years before speaking to us and it had been treated with what’s known as ablation therapy on four different occasions. The last time they’d received that treatment had been about two years before they’d seen – just under two years before they’d seen us but there’s obviously – all follow-up tests had shown that everything was clear and, you know, sometimes there were still some symptoms of tiredness but generally, you know, everything was all completely fine and dandy now.
There had also been some episodes – well two episodes of what’s known as a pulmonary embolism and they’d first happened probably about 18 years or so before they’d spoken to us and then again about six years prior to speaking to us which is what sort of triggered the whole diagnosis of the atrial fibrillation. Obviously they were on different medications just to make sure that they’re all sort of settled down and that was fine. There was some kind of associated distress at the time but generally that wasn’t going to be a massive concern, there was no – in regards to the mental health side of things, there was nothing that – the symptoms that would maybe cause insurers to think that there was maybe any kind of additional risks and there was a few other physical conditions but nothing that would sort of cause any concern for the life insurance application side of things.
For the other person that we were also going to be covering by the policy, they’d had depression and anxiety for around 10 years and it was something where the symptoms were still kind of, I think, ongoing but not sort of anything that was sort of actively affecting them in many ways. It’s very, very hard when it comes to things like depression and anxiety because, you know, if you say to someone who’s had depression or been anxious, you say to them, “When were you last anxious or depressed?” it’s quite hard because it’s kind of like, where is that definition between what is an anxious and depressed feeling because of the condition or just that feeling because that’s just every day to day life? And what we’re all experiencing, especially when we’re in the middle of corona virus as well and things are in a very, very unusual situation for many, many people. For this person as well, there was also the added consideration that there had been some – a couple of close family members that had had cancer.
So obviously we did all of our research and everything and we were able to get them the £100,000 worth of decreasing life insurance over 19 years for a monthly premium of just under £120 per month. Now obviously some people may be thinking, you know, obviously that seems like quite a high premium in sort of like the grand scheme of things, £120 per month but, you know, obviously what needs to be borne in mind with this is that we do have people there that do have sort of like family medical history, there is the heart complication and also they are in their early 60s as well which does mean that the pricing is probably higher than probably what a lot of people see when they’re advising clients. So I think that’s a really good one to sort of put out there as well and I think it’s that thing as well is that even though that premium is quite high, ultimately they have that mortgage there and, you know, even though the premium is high, that doesn’t mean that the mortgage suddenly disappears, you know, they really do need life insurance and it was obviously a very positive thing that our team were able to arrange that for them.
So obviously just giving a case study there, so Vicky, is there anything extra that you’d like to talk about at the moment? I know obviously you work at AIG, I know that I’ve said quite a few times how much I love Smart Health. I believe it’s just had its first-year anniversary. Is there anything that you want to say about that service and how it’s going at the moment?
Vicky: Yeah. As you say, it’s had its first anniversary 28th August last year, I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone although it’s been a very full year. Who knew on 28th August about Covid and obviously then the absolute benefit of having a remote GP service? So the take-up for our GP service was, you know, astronomical as you would expect. What we didn’t really expect really though was the take-up – the extra take-up on things like the nutrition advice, fitness advice and also the mental health service. But the interesting thing I think is from talking about heart attacks etcetera, etcetera, from the data we have, a number of symptoms are in the top reasons to speak to a GP, these are chest pain, anxiety and depression. They’re the top three things that the GPs have been contacted about and cardiology makes up about four percent of the onward referrals to a specialist. So whether that’s, you know, via the NHS or private medical insurance and where customers have sought a second opinion, eight percent of those cases are actually for cardiology, so for cardiac problems but the majority – sorry, and the majority of people seeking a second medical opinion are between 40 and 49 which is really interesting; 46% of people are between 40 and 49. What that tells us is by the age of 40 really, that’s when all these services become extremely valuable. Now, the average age of someone – I don’t know what it is, Kathryn, with Cura, but I think the average age of someone taking out a life insurance policy, certainly with AIG, is 42.
Kathryn: Oh wow.
Vicky: So those services really are valuable to those people who are taking out insurance but – obviously younger as well and older but that’s an average. So –
Kathryn: That’s older than I thought it would be I have to say, you know –
Vicky: Oh is it?
Kathryn: Yeah, yeah because obviously for us, people come to us because they have a risk and a risk doesn’t differentiate by age. I mean obviously there are certain things that tend to be higher, you know, obviously as you say, when people start to get into their 40s, maybe more things start to get diagnosed at that point? But yeah, we – yeah, I wouldn’t say that that would be our average age. I think that we probably speak to younger people in many times but no, that’s – I find that really interesting.
Vicky: Yeah, so I think from an advice point of view, we’ve got the whole mix so we do whole of life –
Kathryn: Of course.
Vicky: The ideal gains and our care cover with whole of life which is our whole life policy, it pays out 25% if you need care cover.
Vicky: And so, you know, our average is probably a little bit higher than a, you know, than a distributor if you like. So yeah, so Smart Health has been absolutely fantastic. We’ve had, you know, lots of people – lots of emotional thank you’s for the service so interesting times and I think we won’t go backwards now, you know, there’s more we can do and we’re continually looking at how we can improve or build on the service and ensure that as many people have got access to it as possible and of course the added benefit of that is it takes the strain off the NHS so the NHS – so if we do have a second wave, which is looking unfortunately likely at the moment, then again, if all the GPs and everybody get called back to the hospitals and the Nightingale Hospitals then there is a solution. People – customers do have an option if they still need to see a GP for them, the children or whatever it happens to be. So if people haven’t already got an insurance policy, even if it’s just for that reason, they need to get one, they need to have, you know, a back-up plan I think. So I think that’s fantastic and also things like with the Smart Health, a lot of the – a lot of elderly people particularly or sick people didn’t want to and still don’t want to go to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions so we offer a free delivery service so that they don’t have to – if they’re self-isolating, you know, they don’t actually have to leave their home.
Kathryn: That’s brilliant.
Vicky: So I think it’s more – services like that that are invaluable at times like this. Never has there been, you know, a more important time to talk about value-added services and have them and I think, you know, if advisers are struggling with trying to explain the reasons to have protection then, you know, normally we pull up case studies and I know you had one earlier, but there’s 100 of them on the TV every single day, you know, we hear about this all the time. There’s 45,000 case studies in the UK alone, you know, really it is time that everybody did understand not only the benefits of a life insurance policy or a critical illness policy, income protection, but also the value-added services that they can use throughout the life of the policy not just at the end when there’s a claim.
Kathryn: Absolutely, I mean I think, you know, I’ve said this before as well that, you know, at Cura we have our group insurances through AIG and all of my team, you know, when we started we were sort of like saying this is obviously the cover and this is the Smart Health that comes with it and everything and they were all just – in many ways the team were just flabbergasted in a sense. “What, this is all coming with the –?” You know, basically they’re like, “What? So I’m going to get all this? Fantastic” I think multiple members of our team have been using it and I know we as ourselves as a family of five and four of us have used it in a sense since lockdown, you know, just because it is so, so helpful and especially I think as well as – I’m not saying, you know, specifically in a situation but, you know, as a parent with young children, you just don’t know what’s going on, obviously they are children, they get called here, there and everywhere and so especially with all the symptoms of corona virus and stuff, just having them to-hand is absolutely fantastic.
And I think, as well from an advice point of view, you know, obviously when you speak to people as an adviser a lot of the time, I think it’s always one of those things and it gets sort of like drilled into you I think when – obviously we’re directly authorised now but we used to be part of a financial network and it’s kind of drilled into you in some ways, you know, “Always go for the cheapest policy. Make sure you offer the cheapest one. It must be the cheapest one.” And there’s sort of like an example which really stands out for me especially since now we’re directly authorised and we’re not necessarily held to those things is that obviously, you know, if you can, you want to get as cheap a price as possible but it is more than that. So I’ve been speaking to somebody and it wasn’t that long ago and we had the option of a cheaper policy or a policy with AIG and I just said to them, “Okay, you know, we can go for that one. I will present that to you because it’s the cheaper one – the cheapest one that we have but I would like you to consider this one because for 30p more a month, so £3.60 a year, you, your partner and your children will all have access to this,” and the person didn’t even think in a sense, they just said, “I want that one.” You know –
Vicky: It’s a no brainer, isn’t it?
Kathryn: It’s an absolute no – and for me it was just like £3.60 a month –
Vicky: Not even the price of a cappuccino.
Kathryn: I know, you just couldn’t – and I have to say, that is countless times that’s happened to me, I’ve said, you know, I always say to people, “I will give you the cheapest option because I know that’s what you’d like to have as a comparison but there is more to these things than just what’s going on price.” But some people ultimately need to go for the cheapest option and, you know, some people do actively choose the cheapest option but I have to say for me that, with any kind of these services, you know, whenever I’ve got like an option where I’ve got that, you know, I’ve given them that – presented that option of like, “This one has in a sense has no value-adds and this one does,” and I think as well because let’s face it, life insurance is in many ways ridiculously cheap. It is so, so cheap and I kind of always think that, you know, insurers can’t really compete on being the lowest priced any more. In many ways the competition is kind of the value-adds and I think, you know, it just – it really stands out if an insurer has these things.
Vicky: Absolutely and I think you’re right in what you say. I mean, if you can present it to someone and say, “For the cost of a cappuccino, do you want all this service?” Really, it is a no-brainer, it’s so important and I think the other thing just to mention on Smart Health is the next generation, our kids, my kids, they’re early 20s and your kids Kathryn when they grow up, they won’t want to drive into the GP surgery, make an appointment, go in, wait, be kept waiting, they want something now, you know, it’s –
Vicky: So an example is my daughter came round, my eldest one said, “Ooh I think I’ve been bitten by a spider,” and she showed it to me and I said, “Well I don’t know, you’ll need to go to the GP,” and she said, “Ugh, I can’t be bothered doing that.” I said, “Well, you know, use the GP, you know, we’ve got AIG obviously, Smart Health.” Within I think it was 25 minutes she was showing on her phone this spider bite and the doctor said, “That’s shingles.”
Kathryn: Oh wow.
Vicky: So quite quickly she got a diagnosis. Now she could have gone and spread that shingles to everybody and anybody who she was – ‘cos she felt okay and one of her friends is pregnant and that would have been horrific.
Kathryn: Oh wow.
Vicky: So because she couldn’t be bothered to go, because she didn’t –
Vicky: You know, it was ‘just a spider bite’, so I think it’s really important that we understand that Smart Health is for the next generation, it’s exactly how they want to, you know, see a GP or they want to, you know, talk about their nutrition or their health. They don’t want to go and speak to a nurse or a doctor and be kept waiting and exact – so this is for the next generation too.
Kathryn: I think that’s a really, really valid point because we are absolutely – as you say, the younger generations, it’s all about now. It’s like – for me, I kind of think of my kids with Netflix, you know, sort of they don’t have to wait every week, you know, for that next episode to come out, it’s just all on demand constantly, everything – we’re very, very spoiled really and yeah, I think you’re absolutely – you’ve got that right there. We’re so used to instant information, instant getting of anything that we want that it’s, yeah, if it takes a little bit of effort and if it’s not essential, it’s not something we really want to do, like go to a doctor for a spider bite, then we’re just going to not bother. Well obviously thank you so much. Is there anything that you would like to sort of like leave our listeners with in regards to any sort of like final thoughts?
Vicky: I think for the advisers who are listening, you know, hopefully this has explained, if you weren’t already convinced, the value of protection and particularly value-added services. For potential customers, if you haven’t got life insurance hopefully this has this explained to you why you need it. You know, you never think it’s going to happen to you but it will happen to you one day. It could happen to you, it happened to me and for other providers and obviously for my colleagues, you know, we’ll continue to do what we can in this really trying and testing time to make life as easy as possible for advisers and customers alike to get through it and help where we can. But if you have any ideas and thoughts of your own then, you know, the best ideas will come from you so let us know what we should be doing to support you. So I think that’s how I would leave it there, Kathryn.
Kathryn: I think that’s lovely, that’s really a nice way of doing it. So obviously we’re coming towards the end of it and we of course have the famous truth or lie feature. So we’ll just do a very quick one ‘cos I know we’ve obviously had a really good chat today. So for our truth or lie this week, I am going to say that – we’re going to do it on films everybody, so I’m going to say that the last film that I watched was The Avengers and Vicky, would you like to say what yours is?
Vicky: So the last film I watched actually was Spartacus.
Kathryn: Nice, Spartacus. Well thank you very much for listening everybody and thank you so much, Vicky, for joining me. It’s really, really good to hear your experiences and for people to understand what could potentially happen in those situations. I’m going to be back in two weeks chatting with Emma Thompson from British Friendly and we’re going to be talking about her experience being diagnosed with cancer and claiming on her insurance policies. If you’d like a reminder of the next episode, please do drop me a message on social media or visit the website www.practical-protection.co.uk and don’t forget that you can also – if you are part of the insurance world especially, you can claim a CPD certificate for listening to this. But thank you so much, Vicky.
Vicky: Thank you, Kathryn.