Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Medicine and the Media

Private insurers coming to a television screen near you

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 17 November 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c6572
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner
  1. 1Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

What does the current spate of advertising for private medical insurance in the UK say about how the market is changing, and what is the future for the sector? Margaret McCartney reports

AXA is advertising for your custom and in so doing has put you on a treadmill. “Do you struggle to get the medical treatment you need? At AXAPPP healthcare, we offer an affordable six week option”—a way off the treadmill and straight to the hospital door. “Private medical insurance that complements the NHS,” AXA says. “One of the many ways we help you get treatment when you need it” (

Many other health insurance companies are out looking for business too. BUPA wants its current customers to feel the “value of having private health insurance and reassurance this can bring to our customers” ( To prove it the company has a series of cartoons consisting of animated blobs with various things wrong with them. For example, Geoff is a blob with a sore elbow, who if suitably insured can find himself in a “clean comfy” hospital for four sessions of physiotherapy before he feels better.

Speed of access to private insurance in current advertising is …

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