Scottish Daily Mail

Pet insurers to charge us £200 for using ‘wrong’ vet

MoreThan and Tesco deals limit families to 28 approved centres

- By Sean Poulter Consumer Affairs Editor

INSURANCE firms have been accused of denying family pets access to the best medical treatment – in order to cut costs.

Royal Sun Alliance, under - writer for MoreThan and Tesco, has limited which vet practices can be used for specialist treatment – to just 28 in the UK.

It plans to extend this to other policies offered by the like of John Lewis and Marks & Spencer.

This means customers who use non-approved vets for specialist care face penalties of up to £200.

Critics say much-loved pets are being treated like cars in a crash where insurance firms seek out the cheapest garage for repairs.

But RSA said the move aims to protect families against spiralling vet charges and insurance premi - ums, which are rising at about 12 per cent a year . It said vets can charge between £500 and £1,500 for the same MRI scan and repairing a dog’s cruciate ligament can cost £2,500. Advances in technology and drugs mean insurers are now paying out a record £1.8 million a day – or £657 million a year.

RSA bosses say the only way to make sure pet premiums, typically £250-£300 a year, are affordable is to control the treatment fees.

But vets not on its approved list have accused the firm of putting profits before animal welfare. They claim that not all vets on the list have the expertise and equipment for complex cases.

The changes came into effect in January and their impact is now being felt. Under the new rules, families can take their pet to their own local vet for an initial diagnosis where they may be referred to a specialist for further care. The RSA policies offered by MoreThan and T esco state that this care should be at one of j ust 28 approved specialist centres.

Critics say there are just two in Scotland and only one for the entire south west of England – meaning long journeys. While they can choose another expert, it could mean a £200 penalty . But Vets for Choice, a group of 11 leading V eterinary Specialist Referral Centres in the UK, is opposing the move.

It argues that pet owners must have the right, based on their family vet’s opinion, to choose the best specialist­s.

The group’s spokesman P rofessor Dick White said: ‘RSA has adopted the same mentality to caring for much-loved pets as getting a car fixed.’

RSA is thought to command a 30 per cent share of the UK pet insurance market – where annual pre - miums are set to reach £1.1 billion by 2018. Vet Hannah Wynne Richards, of Penybryn Veterinary Centre, Swansea, said: ‘The relation - ship between pet owner and first-opinion vet is based on trust. RSA changes trample over that.’

But the RSA’s director of claims Bill P aton denied that the 28 approved vet practices offered inferior care. He said if nothing is done to control fees, annual pre - miums will rise by more than 50 per cent in the next five years.

The firm vowed to waive or reduce the £200 fee if its vets can - not offer care and aims to boost the number of approved centres to 40-50 by 2017. Tesco said customers can still choose their own dayto-day vet and the change relates to just non-emergency referrals.

‘Same mentality as

fixing cars’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom