Bupa is 'taking the Mickey' angry patients tell inquiry

Insurer comes under attack for its premium costs and lack of care during probe into private health

Bupa patients have launched a series of astonishing attacks on the medical insurer during a Competition Commission probe into the £5bn private healthcare industry.

The investigation is looking into whether the apparantly overwhelming dominance of just five private-sector hospital operators – General Healthcare Group, Nuffield Health Hospitals, Ramsay Health Care UK, Spire Healthcare and HCA – distorts competition.

Bupa has supported the inquiry, as it believes the cost of private healthcare has been soaring because of a lack of competition, meaning its customers are tempted to switch to the NHS. However, this has not stopped Bupa itself from being the target of withering criticisms from policyholders who have submitted evidence to the investigation.

The hard-hitting attacks received by the commission included: "Bupa is busy moving the goalposts to avoid honouring their terms"; that the company's practices effectively deny "an option of choice of medical consultant"; and that "Bupa now has a policy of only using surgeons who will operate at the least cost to themselves".

One Bupa customer claimed that the firm, which employs 52,000 people around the world, refused to pay the full fee for a preferred, accredited consultant or surgeon for a hip replacement. The critic alleged: "On investigation I find that Bupa although increasing my subscription year on year have found it necessary to reduce the fee paid to consultants which was set in 1993. This therefore requires me to make up the difference adding at least 5 per cent to my subscription."

Another policyholder complained about the lack of assistance given to them following a foot operation. The complaint read: "I am… pleased to say that the infection has gone and my foot is healing really well. However, I am really annoyed and upset with Bupa and would like to formally complain about their attitude to my operation and aftercare treatment."

The commission launched its investigation last year and these are just the latest complaints against Bupa in the evidence from customers. Another policyholder last July wrote: "This year, without any explanation, my monthly premium has jumped 20 per cent from £185 to £225.31. How can this be anything other than 'taking the Mickey'."

In Bupa's annual results presentation for 2012, in which it announced £8.4bn of worldwide revenue, its chief executive Stuart Fletcher admitted that changes the company was making to tackle claims inflation and fees in the UK were "not always popular". However, he insisted that they were necessary so that British customers could get affordable, high-quality private healthcare.

On the inquiry, Mr Fletcher said: "There are no easy solutions, but a lack of competition between hospitals and information on quality of care is pushing up the cost of insurance premiums, which continue to rise at unsustainable levels putting the future of the private healthcare sector at risk."

Bupa told The Independent on Sunday that a recent survey, it commissioned, found that 87 per cent of its members expected the company to pursue value for money on their behalf.

Dr Damian Marmion, the managing director of Bupa Health Funding, said: "There is a low level of complaints about health insurance, compared to other types of insurance. In the second half of 2012, less than 0.2 per cent of Bupa's 2.3 million customers complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

"We are working hard to tackle hospital and consultant costs and we are calling on the Competition Commission to drive changes in the provision of private healthcare to deliver better value for our health insurance customers."

Bupa was not the only insurer criticised in the evidence to the Commission. An Aviva customer was angry about premium increases and a Pru Health policyholder complained that the costs of a routine prostate operation were allegedly not properly outlined to him.

The inquiry, which is chaired by former National Power finance director Roger Witcomb, is due to publish its initial findings in June.

Suggested Topics
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
news

Sport
footballScores and Twitter updates from tonight’s games, featuring Bayern Munich vs Manchester City and Chelsea vs Schalke
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Extras
10 best table lamps
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week