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BMA begins offering private medical insurance to all staff

The BMA has recently begun offering private medical insurance to all its staff as part of a salary exchange scheme, which the body claims does not contradict the association’s support for a publicly funded NHS.

The association says it has introduced a policy by which employees can exchange part of their salary for private medical cover.

A BMA spokesperson said the policy does not result in any costs to the BMA and is an staff member’s individual choice.

They also clarified that the BMA chair Dr Mark Porter, the BMA Council and the GPC are not provided with private health insurance.

The news comes after Pulse first reported in April that the BMA admitted it offers private medical insurance to a small number of ‘very senior staff’ in order to attract suitably experienced employees.

Pulse also revealed that the GMC spent £255,000 on private medical insurance for almost two thirds of its staff this year, after a review of the policy concluded it was needed to attract and retain quality staff.

BMA treasurer Dr Andrew Dearden, a GP in Cardiff, said that the policy was not in opposition to their warnings over opening up the NHS to private companies.

He said: ‘The BMA only offers private medical insurance as part of our remuneration packages to a very small number of the BMA’s most senior staff members.

‘The option to purchase private medical insurance has recently been added to the salary exchange scheme where employees can, if they wish, exchange part of their salary at their own expense for private medical cover. This does not result in any costs to the BMA and is an staff member’s individual choice.

‘No director of the BMA has private health care provided to them by the BMA.’

He added: ‘The BMA vigorously fights to defend the values of the NHS, including the principle that all patients should have access to free, high quality healthcare. This is a central cornerstone of our health system that rightly is source of pride for the public and clinicians.

‘The BMA does not however oppose all private medicine which has been a small part of the UK health sector for decades. What we do oppose is the potential damage that could be done by opening up NHS services, which all members of our society rely on, to greater competitive tendering as this raises a multitude of pitfalls that could fragment patient care and undermine the care delivered to patients.

‘It is this ill-thought-out policy that has ramifications for all parts of the NHS that doctors and patients should be concerned about.’

Dr Kambiz Boomla, former chair of City and East London LMC, called the policy ‘absolutely nuts’.

He said: ‘It’s quite wrong. What kind of message does it send out to anybody observing what’s happening to the NHS at the moment?’

‘The BMA should be fighting to defend the NHS and fighting privatisation. Offering private medical insurance is counter-productive to the BMA’s stance on the NHS.’

Readers' comments (8)

  • "The BMA should be fighting to defend the NHS and fighting privatisation."

    Why? The BMA should achieve the best terms possible for its members. The NHS may not necessarily be the best way of achieving this.

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  • When is everyone going to wake up to the massive financial crisis in the NHS stimulated by politicians increasing demand, restructuring, greater public expectations, ageing population and the advance of science. Anyone taking out private health insurance or paying for private care is a hero who enables someone in great need, to be treated more rapidly in the NHS.

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  • I'm not sure BMA members would approve of this though

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  • This is like the general hiring private guards to defend them. In such conditions you can imagine what security the public can expect.

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  • As a staff member I can confirm that this offer is at no cost to the BMA and it is not a "core benefit". As it is being implemented on a fully voluntary scheme, the rates are based on individual policies and not a company policy. Further investigation by some staff have revealed the individual policy rates being quoted as part of the salary sacrifice scheme are higher than if the person went direct to the PMI.
    As there is absolutely no financial benefit to the staff member it is therefore left to the ideological standpoint of the individual.
    I for one will not be taking up the PMI or dental offers as I personally believe they are the start of the creation of a two tier health service, and it is undermining the NHS.

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  • I'm sure the BMA's decision will well please members of their Private Practice Committee :).

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  • I fail to see the problem with this. Many NHS doctors are members of the BMA, as are many private doctors. Many (most) private doctors are also NHS doctors choosing to spend what is essentially their spare time working privately.

    When can we stop pretending that NHS care is the best? It's acceptable for most things, the best for a few things (eg urgent medical/surgical emergencies) and totally rubbish for many things (routine 2 month wait for a derm or rheum appt locally). Yes it does well with the limited funding but it is becoming unsustainable (largely due to public selfishness) so we should not chastise the BMA for offering a perk that many many large employers offer.

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  • Especially as it's not a perk the way the BMA have implemented it for its staff. I believe the industry standard figure for take up of this non subsidised PMI is less than 5% of employees

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