PPP Healthcare blocks top hernia treatment

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PPP Healthcare, the UK's second largest private medical insurer, is barring policy holders from receiving treatment at the world's leading hernia centre.

PPP Healthcare, the UK's second largest private medical insurer, is barring policy holders from receiving treatment at the world's leading hernia centre.

The British Hernia Centre (BHC), which has treated everyone from Premiership footballers to royalty, is the latest specialist centre to be dropped from PPP's recognised network of hospitals. In the past two years PPP, which is owned by French insurer AXA, has also de-listed The Heart Hospital and St John's & St Elizabeth's, both in London.

PPP policy holders needing a hernia operation - the most common surgery in the world - will now be sent to one of the general-purpose private hospitals in PPP's network.

"Hospitals were invited to tender to be part of this [network]," says Ben Faulkner, spokesman for PPP. "If they didn't make it on to the list of hospitals it is because they didn't offer any services above and beyond what other hospitals offered."

Yet the BHC, mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records for the record number of hernia operations it has performed, offers the latest technology and medical advances.

Dudley Rogg, director of the BHC, believes the decision was made on the basis of cost. "Because we can't offer cut-price deals, PPP is giving [hernia operations] to those institutions who can," he says.

"PPP told me it is doing deals with a smaller number of hospitals, and in return for them performing all operations on its patients at a reduced price, PPP won't use other hospitals," says Mr Rogg. "It's a very short-term fix which will cost them business."

The BHC has had numerous approaches from PPP policy holders prepared to pay £895 for their operations - before switching to other insurers when their policy comes up for renewal.

The Office of Fair Trading investigated private medical insurers last year after complaints from private hospitals and consultants. While John Bridgeman, director general of fair trading, cleared the sector of major competition problems, PPP and Bupa were asked to "take immediate remedial action to clarify policy holders' rights concerning treatment".

Bupa, which offers clients a choice of network and non-network policies, does recognise the British Hernia Centre and The Heart Hospital.

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