GPs in talks on selling health insurance

FAMILY doctors will soon be selling patients private health insurance if talks

between GP fund-holders and Bupa, Britain's biggest private health insurer, succeed.

Alan Ainsworth, marketing director of Bupa, said yesterday that talks were underway with a number of leading fund-holders on the possibility of Bupa creating a special insurance package for them to offer to patients.

The policy could include cover for specific treatments, or even for the top 20 treatments where there are waiting lists locally, he said. Equally, NHS trusts might soon offer insurance agreed with private health insurers guaranteeing quicker treatment locally to policyholders.

Mr Ainsworth told a conference in London on private and public health care finance that pressure on NHS spending combined with the pressures created by the Government's NHS changes was likely to see charges levied 'for what previously were regarded as free services'.

GP fund-holders, who take fixed budgets with which to provide health care for their patients, have an incentive to encourage patients to take out private cover as it makes their budget go further.

Mr Ainsworth would not say with which fund-holders talks had been held, but said 'a continuing dialogue' was underway. He also predicts a dramatic expansion in private cover for dental treatment.