BUPA Insurance has recently written to all its physiotherapy providers in the independent sector asking for detailed returns of information both personal and professional in what is called a quality exercise. Thereafter it is BUPA’s intention to set up a preferred provider network based on price. No doubt many physiotherapy groups will be excluded.

This exercise is identical to the failed BUPA attempt to enforce a network on ophthalmologists. The physiotherapists have been vocal in their response (see http://www.thephysiosvoice.co.uk) and have raised all the arguments that were employed in ophthalmology. Physiotherapists are concerned about a reduction in patient choice and because treatments may be limited and clinical care compromised.

BUPA argue that there is a variation in the price of physiotherapy services but fail to admit that there is a variation in price for all private medical services which depends on local factors, overheads, seniority and so forth.

FIPO supports the physiotherapists and regards this as another example of an insurer intruding into clinical care matters under the guise of quality but in fact for financial reasons. Our main concern is, however, over the loss of patient choice and the possible reduction in the standards of care. There are also well established links between consultants and physiotherapists which may be broken. A further question for BUPA to answer is whether or not they have a conflict of interest in that they run their own physiotherapy services under BUPA Wellness.