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Private healthcare sector hands over services and resources to NHS to help fight coronavirus pandemic

As Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland said this week, ‘life should not feel normal right now.’ And for the vast majority of us across the UK, this is certainly the case. Schools are closed, non-essential businesses and services have shut and now we are entering our first few days of unprecedented lockdown, in a nationwide attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Last weekend, the healthcare sector announced a historic agreement between the NHS and the UK private hospital sector which will see the handover of private medical facilities and resources to the NHS to help tackle the health crisis. It means the NHS will have access to an additional 8,000 hospital beds, nearly 1,200 ventilators and nearly 20,000 fully qualified staff along with hospital premises and operating theatres.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases and those needing urgent medical treatment are widely expected to accelerate over the next few weeks, hence the need for additional support.
But the impacts on clients and their employees who would otherwise use private medical facilities will be significant, not least because the majority of private hospitals have been requisitioned for NHS use and will be closed to PMI members. Some private healthcare providers, like HCA Healthcare, have postponed any non-urgent treatment and many private urgent healthcare clinics have also closed.

However, while it may be tempting for members to consider cancelling their PMI, it’s important to remember that private medical insurance and health cash plans provide much more than just hospital treatment.

Digital GP services and employee assistance programmes are still available, while digital and telephone-based mental health support will be particularly invaluable in providing essential emotional support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a news briefing released earlier this week, Stuart Scullion, executive chairman of the Association of Medical Insurers and Intermediaries (AMII) called on insurers to be “adaptable and flexible” to maintain “vital cover”, particularly PMI and health cash plans.

“Unemployment, reduced hours and financial worries mean there is a key role for our members to play in support of clients,” he said, pointing to the number of options insurers who are currently considering support for those who have contracted covid-19, including enhanced NHS cash benefits and payment holidays.

Of particular importance, Scullion said, is for members to protect their underwriting status. “PMI is not like a TV subscription service that you can cancel and recommence when you are ready,” he explained. “Consumers need to protect their underwriting status and cover to ensure they do not find themselves with a new Moratorium or exclusions applied. Intermediaries have a responsibility to convey this message clearly.”

IHC would like to reassure all clients that we are still open and can provide advice and support to clients whose business circumstances have changed.

Paul Roberts, senior consultant said: “If you are thinking of changing your policy, continue to talk to us. IHC has good connections with insurers and will negotiate terms for you as a priority. Our insurers have all confirmed they have essential workers and will continue to pay claims and support their customers.”

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