Bupa has provoked the ire of the British Medical Association by limiting the choice and independence of its private medical healthcare customers.
The BMA is opposed to Bupa setting up an ophthalmology network for patients needing eye care, which means that its PMI customers would only be able to use the ophthalmologists who are members of the network.
BMA chairman of the private practice committee Derek Machin says networks like these threaten to “allow insurers to control a process which should involve choice and independence for both the profession and patients”.
In a letter to all consultant ophthalmologists and anaesthetists, the BMA says: “The proposals would deny patients choice, subvert the GP to consultant referral process by directing patients to another consultant and seriously undermine consultant professionalism. We are therefore opposed to the establishment of such a network.”
Ophthalmic group committee chairman Rhod Daniel says in a letter to all consultant ophthalmologists: “Our advice remains that managed networks will fundamentally compromise patient choice in the short term and quality of care for patients in the medium to long term.”
Bupa Insurance deputy medical director Paula Franklin says: “It is, of course, in our interests to give our members choice. But we also have to look at the value for money. We have to be careful and consistent as to how we spend our members’ money but while retaining choice at the same time.”