For all those outside the U.K., BUPA is a private healthcare company that offers an alternative to the free National Health Service. It has an enviable reputation built on many years of offering people an alternative to the NHS but it means that the patient will have to pay for the services offered by the organisation. They provide payment plans and insurance that many individuals subscribe to in order to have an alternative treatment regime. Many companies also offer BUPA Health Insurance to their employees as an incentive that helps them recruit the very best staff.
BUPA stands for British United Provident Association and it started offering an alternative to NHS treatment in the 1940s. It now operates in 195 countries, has over 10 million members (as well as 23.2 million patients served by Health Dialog) and owns AXA Australia Healthcare. It is a major provider of private health care – the biggest in Europe.
One of the services that it offers, not only to its members, but also to members of the public is Health Assesments. These Health Assesments are a sort of in depth medical examination – an annual diagnostic service if you like. The idea is that, using state of the art screening techniques, the patient can benefit from early diagnosis of a whole range of diseases or other medical problems. There are five different Health Assessment packages available. Starting from £339 you can undergo a BUPA Essential Health Assessment that takes an hour, 30 minutes of which is spent with a doctor. The Essential Health Assessment consists of 31 tests including a Physical Examination and Consultation, Breast Check, Blood Pressure, Lung function and Biochemistry profile. It also includes a Full Blood Count that includes a test for anaemia.
The product range also includes a BUPA Female Health Assessment at £299 that concentrates on early detection of gynaeacological conditions and breast cancer. For £499 (or £578 with mammograph) the company offers the BUPA Complete Health Assessmenta chest x-ray, thyroid function test and a vision test. But the daddy of all of the assessments offered is the BUPA Advanced Health Assessment that takes up to two and a half hours with one of the hours spent with the doctor. It costs £649 or £728 with a mammograph (for those over 40). Up to 43 separate tests being conducted including heart efficiency during exercise, a detailed lung function test and a fitness score.
All of the assessments offer a full blood count which, you might think, would include a vitamin B12 blood test.
It doesn’t. The only assessment plan that offers a Vitamin B12 test is the BUPA Mature Health Assessment that has been “especially created for those over the age of 65”.
Unfortunately we are back to the old-fashioned belief by the medical fraternity that vitamin B12 deficiency is an old people’s problem despite the fact that the most common age for the members of the society to receive a diagnosis is between 35 and 45. It seems ludicrous that, if a full blood count is taken in all of the assessment plans, the B12 test is only carried out on those on the Mature Health Plan. Why do they not routinely test for B12 deficiency as well? It would cost only a few pennies more.
I have written to the Dr. in charge of BUPA Wellness to point out that routinely checking for Vitamin B12 deficiency as part of the FBC would be a worthwhile exercise.
He would be well advised to read BUPA’s information leaflet on Pernicious Anaemia. I can send him a copy if he wants. After all, I did write it.