I’m sure that you will have seen much in the trade and national press about RSA’s recently launched 'Preferred Veterinary Referral Network'.

Last year we worked closely with RSA during their benchmarking exercise and we were pleased to see that our prices compared very favourably with our competitors. We hoped that we would be able to work with them to ensure that charges continue to be reasonable and transparent.

Unfortunately, as discussions progressed, it became clear that RSA’s focus was purely on trying to reduce costs rather than to consider what is in the best interest of the pet and their owner. RSA’s focus was increasingly on the “average cost per case”, not individual costs. This crude measure penalises those centres that are able to provide more intensive care, such as ours.

We therefore chose to step away from RSA’s plans and joined with a number of other referral centres that have similar concerns. Together we founded 'Vets for Choice' and have campaigned to encourage RSA to modify their new rules especially given the limited geographical coverage of their network and the number of RCVS Specialists within it.

In May we met with Stephen Hestor, the CEO of RSA, and we did make a little progress. He confirmed that –

where there is a clear clinical need, RSA will not levy the additional £200.

(They have already agreed that the £200 charge does not apply to emergencies.)

Vets for Choice is campaigning for RSA to include this important provision in their policy documents and in their instructions to their claims handlers so that there can be no ambiguity.

We are also very pleased to see that John Lewis customers are not affected by the additional fee.

In addition, we continue to hear a steady stream of examples of how RSA backs down when owners demand to go to the referral centre of their choice without being charged the additional £200.

We believe that the first opinion vet is the best person to advise the owner on the most appropriate course of action for their pet and will continue to say so, loud and clear.

Published: 27-07-2016

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