A row over private medical insurance network schemes has flared up again following an Office of Fair Trading investigation that cleared BUPA and PPP Healthcare of anti-competitive behaviour.

The Heart Hospital - one of several providers to lodge complaints - responded by claiming that the OFT had 'missed the point entirely'.

The OFT criticised 'unsatisfactory' information published by BUPA and PPP Healthcare and ordered improvements. The automatic transfer of policy holders into network schemes should also cease, the OFT said.

But the central complaint, of 'major competition problems' in network schemes which include only 'approved' providers, was not upheld.

In February, Heart Hospital said it was being 'frozen out' by PPP Healthcare, which did not include the private cardiac centre in its network of recommended hospitals.

This week marketing director Fiona Hammond-Green said chair Sir Richard Needham had written to complain to director general of fair trading John Bridgeman, claiming that there was 'unfair competition' when an organisation such as PPP Healthcare was 'both insurer and provider'.

The OFT promised to 'consider very carefully any further vertical integration' the firms' businesses.

www.oft.gov.uk