Bupa Insurance CEO Alex Perry said the insurer is not seeing “widespread challenges” with securing consultants and anaesthetists to conduct procedures due to the fees it is paying.
However, Aviva Health procurement and outsourcing director Adrian Nye admitted the firm was seeing some groups of practitioners choosing not to work with insurers.
The responses came to two questions directly addressed to Bupa posed by the audience at the LaingBuisson Private Acute Healthcare conference.
The first asked: “Many private anaesthetists are now rejecting Bupa cases due to the current fees. Is that a trend which Bupa acknowledges and how is Bupa addressing this?”
The second added: “A growing number of our established consultants are choosing not to renew their registration with Bupa due to the decreasing consultant fees. What is your view?”
Responding, Bupa’s Perry (pictured) denied there was any significant problem with the situation, although it had recruited more people to work in specific mental health areas.
“We monitor consultant usage and the number of consultants we have gotten on network very intensively. Where we see challenges we will act,” he said.
“We’ve certainly done so recently on things like child and adolescent mental health where we saw there was a shortage of consultants and we proactively went out to recruit more consultants to the sector.
“But at the moment we don’t see a wide widespread challenge in this area.”
‘Real pressure on PMI business’
However, Aviva’s Nye said admitted there were significant pressures with some doctors not doing PMI work and the insurer was considering its response to ensure it had enough capacity to serve patients.
“Certainly, we’ve seen that kind of fight for the consultants and the anaesthetists, the fight with the relative attractiveness of self-pay work versus PMI work, for example,” Nye said.
“Also that ethical draw from the NHS and wanting to do the right thing in supporting it, which I think is putting real pressure on how attractive PMI business is.
“We are seeing that some groups, some in regional groups are essentially upping sticks and choosing to not work within insurers. So not talking about commercially sensitive things, but obviously we’re reviewing our response to that.
“We need to make sure it’s attractive and that we have the right capacity there to support the customer outcomes that we’re trying to pursue.”
Nye added this pressure was also being seen with therapists and those working in the mental health area following the post-pandemic surge in demand.
“Again, we’re looking at how attractive that is and also those therapists who are wanting to do or able to do face-to-face where we’re getting new demands coming through, and they’re expected to be paid more for that,” he continued.
“So, yes, it’s something we’re actively monitoring, but I can’t talk about our commercial response.”
Later in the day the Independent Doctors Federation criticised insurers for putting a “chokehold on the market” by paying less for some procedures than in 1999 and driving experienced doctors out of the market.