Traveltek

Published on Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Major travel insurer under investigation following customer deaths



The firm behind Boots and Ski Club travel insurance products faces an investigation over claims customers died after being refused emergency flights home.

Two doctors working for Travel Insurance Facilities, one of the UK's largest travel insurance providers, are being investigated for alleged medical negligence and fraud by the General Medical Council, according to The Times.

The firm is under a separate investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) over claims policy holders were misled, said the paper.

It claimed a dossier has been sent to the FCA alleging fraud by Travel Insurance Facilities, saying there was a pattern of practice to delay, avoid or minimise payouts.

In one case, a customer who broke her neck in a riding accident in Spain said that she was denied a medical flight home, forcing her to travel back over land. In total the medical council is examining at least five cases involving two doctors at the insurer, according to the Times.

Travel Insurance Facilities strongly denies the allegations, which it says are 'extremely damaging and not in the public interest'. It says it is taking legal action against The Times.

The publication quoted a whistle-blower, who previously worked as a claims handler at the company, saying: "I remember patients needing life-saving or life-changing operations and [the doctor] just wouldn't pick up the phone for weeks.

"Patients were left without contact and I was the one stuck in the middle. It was horrendous.

"Patients would say, and I agree, practice was to frustrate the patient's family so much that they would either give up or pay for the treatment themselves."

Allegations against the firm also include making patients pay up front for care.

Travel Insurance Facilities has a dozen insurance products, including Alpha, Insurancewith, GetGoing Travel Insurance, HolidaySafe, HolidayRisk, Boots Travel Insurance and Ski Club Travel Insurance.

In a statement, the company said: "When people fall ill abroad, naturally their first instinct is to want to come home. However, this may not be best for them in medical terms to achieve the most optimal recovery.

"Our focus is on the best clinical outcome for patients based on expert medical advice, clinical fact, aviation medicine and our extensive experience of transporting unwell holidaymakers across the globe. We advise on the safest course of action in the specific circumstances of every case.

"Tifgroup is dedicated and passionate about changing the industry for the better. Any suggestion to the contrary is not only defamatory to our business but ultimately damaging and dangerous to British holidaymakers.

"Tifgroup considers itself to be one of the few organisations in the travel insurance market which is really dedicated to and working towards protecting customers from actual harm as a result of ill advice, poor clinical management and unscrupulous practices of private medical facilities.."

The company went on to say that it is 'dedicated to protecting customers from unscrupulous and unethical practices by overseas private clinics'.

"Tifgroup places the wellbeing of its customers at the heart of every decision that it makes.

Travel Insurance Facilities is understood to be co-operating with the General Medical Council. The statement added: "Tifgroup fully supports the GMC's work and will always cooperate with them, as we have nothing to hide in the way our doctors advise us on the use of air ambulance repatriation, being that of ensuring a position of optimal clinical outcome. It should be noted that our doctors have no treatment role and are only there in the capacity of medical aviation specialist to advise us on the suitability of timing, method and approach of repatriation.

"Tifgroup's advice to its customers is given solely on the basis of clinical risk assessment and medical advice. tifgroup's advice on matters such as which hospitals are most appropriate for patients, what transport to use and whether patients should be repatriated is based on the expert opinion of its very experienced doctors and nurses, and when appropriate independent specialists working within the NHS sector."

It pointed out that the complaints represented 'only a tiny proportion of claimants'.

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