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BUPA, Britain's largest PMI provider launches controversial shake-up

All Bupa's Corporate Select customers will have to choose from a list of consultants selected by Bupa, from January 2012, the insurer has announced, in a move that represents a huge shake-up of the private medical insurance (PMI) market.

The Open Referrals process means that, instead of referring these patients directly to a consultant, GPs will have to provide them with an open referral (a referral for a procedure with no named consultant).

The member will then call Bupa to pre-authorise the diagnostic procedure or treatment they need and, provided this is covered by the policy, they will be provided with a choice of consultants at nearby hospitals. The member can then book their consultant appointment.

The change was announced in an email to intermediaries last Friday morning. The communication, from Linda Wallace, head of intermediary sales, says that the process has been developed in response to feedback from customers "expressing a desire for Bupa Health and Wellbeing to continue to develop innovative solutions to improve the overall quality of care our members can access, while at the same time leading the market by seeking opportunities to combat the rising cost of medical inflation and deliver sustainable costs."

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