The British Medical Association (BMA) has been accused of compromising its own values by offering private medical insurance to its staff.
The doctors’ union staunchly opposes the opening up of NHS services to private sector-style competition and tendering. However, it offers senior staff private medical insurance as part of their remuneration package and recently added an option for all staff to buy the private cover in exchange for part of their salary.
Critics have said the scheme flies in the face of the BMA’s vocal support for a free, public healthcare system.
Dr Kambiz Boomla, former chair of City and East London Local Medical Committee, told Pulse magazine that the scheme was “quite wrong”.
“What kind of message does it send out to anybody observing what’s happening to the NHS at the moment?” he asked. “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.”
Dr Andrew Dearden, the BMA’s treasurer, said that the organisation “vigorously fights to defend the values of the NHS” but “does not however oppose all private medicine”.
“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 a staff member's individual choice,” he said.