The UK’s largest health insurance provider Bupa is to withdraw GPs’ ability to refer more than a million patients privately to a named consultant, in a controversial move that comes just weeks after the Government announced that GPs would be able to help patients choose a consultant for all NHS referrals from next April.
In a shake-up of Bupa’s Corporate Select policy – which covers 40% of the insurer’s three million customers – to take effect in January, GPs will be asked to provide insured patients seeking private treatment with an open referral for a named procedure. Patients will then have to call Bupa to get the treatment pre-authorised and choose from a list of ‘Bupa-recognised’ consultants.
Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said: ‘This would strike GPs as an unusual move at a time when DH has just signalled that NHS patients should be able to choose a named consultant, something which GPC has been calling for years.’
But Dr Natalie-Jane McDonald, managing director of Bupa, said: ‘We are not trying to supplant the role of GPs. We are helping patients make an informed choice.’