Cash plans can help ease pressure on NHS - Sovereign Healthcare boss

Date: 26th Julu 2018.'Picture James Hardisty.'Russ Piper, Chief Executive Officer at Sovereign Health Care Limited, Royal Standard House, Manningham Lane, Bradford.
Date: 26th Julu 2018.'Picture James Hardisty.'Russ Piper, Chief Executive Officer at Sovereign Health Care Limited, Royal Standard House, Manningham Lane, Bradford.
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Healthcare cash plans are helping ease the burden on the NHS, the boss of Sovereign Healthcare has claimed.

Russ Piper, chief executive of the Bradford-based firm, said that having the ability to use cash plans means that patients can free up some of the pressures that the National Health Service is currently facing.

Mr Piper made the claim as Sovereign, now in its 145th year, reported its highest ever premium income of £10.8m, while equalling the record £7.2m it paid out in claims during the previous financial year.

During the financial year ended December 31, 2017, Sovereign also recorded a pre-tax surplus of £4.3m with premium income up £150,000 year-on-year.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Piper said: “As a concept what the product does is to take cash flow and affordability out of everyday healthcare decision making.

“But the beauty with the product is that not everyone claims at the same time.

“It is like when you buy a car for the first time. You see the car you can afford and the one that you actually want. The cash plan helps in circumstances like that. It means people can be more proactive in looking after their health in terms of getting their teeth checked out or eye tests, eye tests do more than just test your eyesight.”

He added: “In the 1980s if you bought private healthcare you got tax relief on it, you don’t anymore.

“People argue that it is a two-speed system. If you can afford private medical insurance and that helps you stay healthy but others can’t afford.

“The other argument is you remove people from the NHS queue and that other people have more chance. I guess like most things it is about balance. With the cash plan we say this can help you stay healthy and if you stay healthy you don’t need to go to the doctor as much.”

The company is one of the UK’s longest established providers of health care cash plans to individuals and businesses, with nearly 75,000 customers, most of whom are based in the West Yorkshire area.

The firm which employs 42 people, operates on a not-for-profit model and does not have any shareholders.

“We aim to positively touch people’s lives,” Mr Piper said.

“There’s big examples and small examples. We give a minimum of £500,000 to health and well-being good causes.”

Among the good causes Sovereign has been involved in include funding work on the Marie Curie Hospice and a new scanner at Bradford Royal Infirmary.

The funds donated equate to 4.5 per cent of its annual premium income, which brings its total donations over the last decade to £5.8m.

However, for Mr Piper the support goes beyond donations.

“Where we support the NHS, rather than charitable grants, is to say to people some of the treatment you get on the NHS you have to make a contribution.

“If you go to an NHS dentist you still have to pay.

“You may need physiotherapy, you can wait so many weeks for NHS treatment or pay it yourself.

“By giving people the choice it allows people to stay healthy and have their conditions not deteriorate so they don’t become a bigger burden.

“One of the challenges for us going forward is how do we better align ourselves as a supporter.”

The company remains in strong financial shape.

“We are in a very fortunate position in that we are significantly over capitalised,” said Mr Piper. “We have £60m plus in reserve and that is invested. It means we can keep them relevant to the individuals that buy it.”