One of the country’s largest pet insurance companies has apologised to the veterinary community, and to its own customers, over the confusion it caused in a letter sent to veterinary practices across the north west and midlands.
The letter, sent to practice managers by the RSA group, which underwrites more than a million UK pet insurance policies through high street brands such as More Than, Tesco Bank, M&S, John Lewis, Argos and Homebase, announced an important change to customer policies, stating pet owners must contact RSA before any referral appointment could be made.
It stated: “We will then agree which of our preferred specialist or referral practices our customer should go to dependant on the individual circumstance relating to the claim. If our customer does not get in touch with us or we have not agreed to the visit then this could result in our customer suffering a financial impact. This amount will be in addition to the policy excess.”
Vets across the country took to social media, alleging the move would effectively rob them of their ability to make their own independent referrals in the best interest of the pet.
However, after experiencing the strength of feeling from the veterinary community, executives at RSA issued an apology for sending out the wrong message.
Bill Paton, RSA UK and Western Europe claims director, said: “Rising claims costs over recent years are threatening the sustainability of affordable pet insurance provision. To ensure we can continue to offer value for money insurance cover and our customers receive the best level of care for their pets, we are looking to create a network of preferred referral veterinary surgeons across the UK.
“We are engaging with veterinary practices in two regions; the midlands and the north west, to explore their appetite for working with us and to identify how we could best create a nationwide referral network, similar to existing healthcare models. We are seeking to protect our customers and the veterinary industry in the medium to long term by controlling costs and helping to minimise the scale of premium increases.”
Mr Paton explained the network in the two regions is a pilot, and no changes have been made to customer policies.
“A number of our policies already state a customer should contact us before receiving referral treatment. Customer claims will continue to be honoured as long as the customer is adequately covered by their existing policy. We apologise for any confusion our communication has caused for our customers and the veterinary community.
“Our overriding objective is to create sustainable and affordable pet insurance products that provide customers with choice and access to the right treatment for their pets.”