Union leaders who have repeatedly attacked Tony Blair’s plans to part privatise the National Health Service (NHS) have been criticised for offering a cash plan scheme to their members.
According to recent reports in the national press Unison, the giant public sector union whose leadership has stated that it is against private investment in the NHS, promotes a scheme run by Medicash.
Even though Medicash’s benefit structure had been specifically altered to restrict hospital cash benefit to overnight stays in NHS hospitals the fact that other healthcare needs covered can be bought from the private sector was considered hypocritical.
The accusation is reported to have come from “A senior source in a moderate union, which supports Mr Blair’s demand for NHS modernisation”.
The cash plan industry, which makes substantial donations to the NHS, has traditionally used the fact that its products do not run contrary to NHS interests as a major selling point.
Bill Gaywood, chief executive of Medicash, said: “The arrangement with Unison has been tailored to suit its specification and there is no question that they or we wanted anything that would be in competition with the NHS. Our emphasis and theirs [Unison’s] is on supporting the health service as far as possible and to suggest that we are promoting the private sector ahead of it is just not correct.”
Nevertheless it may be time for cash plan providers to start subjecting their marketing strategies to a little rethinking. Those who overplay the “no ethical barriers” card when in competition with private medical insurers could soon find themselves “flogging a dead horse”, according to industry experts.
Dr Tim Evans, executive director of public affairs at the Independent Healthcare Association, says: “I think the independent health sector now complements the NHS, whether it be directly via donations in the case of cash plan providers or privately via the concordat. In a world of partnerships we’ve moved a long way from public versus private.”