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I’ve had skin cancer. I wrote about it a few years ago. Quite a shocking experience, it was, as I wrote at the time and over the subsequent year or two in Skin Cancer Girl.

And it now seems it might be back. I have BUPA cover - twice over in fact, via my own employers and EaZyD’s. So, no problem, you might think especially if, like me, you have seen BUPA’s latest TV campaign featuring, Sue, a woman with recurring skin cancer. The message of the campaign is:

Sue had skin cancer and, after treatment, it came back. Luckily, BUPA were still there for her.
She had eight operations and BUPA covered everything. It was so traumatic that her son wouldn’t let her look at herself in case it upset her. Her face had to be reconstructed.
Sue is now pretty, happy and cured.
Voiceover: with no financial limits, BUPA cover is always there for you.

Yeah, right, excuse my cynicism, please. Not only might I be in Sue’s unfortunate position, I have had dealings with private health care providers (PHP) before, including BUPA, and, speaking personally, their service does not seem to be quite as forthcoming as they suggest and most end-users would wish for.

Until you contact them, there is no overt disclosure of the restrictions on consultants they will allow you to use or the limits on the amounts they will pay said consultant who is expected to bill any surplus to you direct. No reference to the list of locations they will approve. No indication of the tortuous approval procedure for every action or the time-limits they give to approval once obtained. Complete silence about exclusion from cover the moment they decide an illness or condition is classified as ‘chronic’ - to their minds, incurable and ongoing. All of which, in reality, make a mockery of the BUPA cancer promise: if the worst happens, you have the best cover on your side.

In my case, when my neurological problems first began, admittance for every relapse, every test, every crisis was subject to a lengthy approval process ensuring my continued deterioration. Even with the involvement of the HR heads in two big listed companies, the stress of complying with the demands of the PHP was beyond belief.

So, why bother when we have an NHS? Sadly, this was my only route to gain speedy access to the best consultants. My first referral to an NHS hospital yielded this as a response: we are in the process of recruiting a neurologist and will be in touch to make an appointment for you when they are appointed. We expect this to be within one to two years! I didn't have that time and was glad for my private cover but ... ‘always there for you’ is a bit of a stretch. Two years in, the PHP decided my neurological problems were chronic and withdrew cover.

For my initial skin cancer problem, I did have some of the usual approval for treatment issues and time delays but, being oblivious at the beginning to the severity of the issue, I coasted the waves of irritation and was delivered, eventually, to my treatment destination with only permanent facial scarring remaining as a reminder of the horror. And now, the cancer possibly back for the second time, BUPA (my current PHP) seem to be worse than ever.

It has taken weeks to get an approval because my former consultant who, naturally, I wanted to see again, is considered too expensive for BUPA now. Even this approval is valid for only six weeks (bear in mind that my consultant’s booking runs months ahead). This first approval is merely for him to look at me - I was reminded several times that NO TREATMENT is allowed under this approval. If I need treatment, I must go back to BUPA for another approval. I must pay for any surplus charges myself. Anyone would think they didn’t want the business ... oh, yeah, they don't!

I should also say that my consultant’s private practice is hardly on the ball either. I had to email the referral letter before they’d even consider me for an appointment and I am still unable to get a response, by phone or email, to indicate whether I will be able to see him within the six week BUPA approval period.

Meanwhile, my skin problems get worse; my GP practice shrugs its’ collective shoulders - 'there is no quicker way' - and I am left thinking, ‘no wonder the figures for death from skin cancer are rising in the UK’. My face has already been cut open once. As I worry about further mutilations and progression, it adds insult to injury to see this TV campaign with skin cancer sufferer, Sue, declaring her love for BUPA when I, with the same cancer and double cover, am left out here dangling in the chilly breezes of reality.

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