If you have pet insurance with More Than, John Lewis, Argos or Tesco (three of these companies are on our list of the best pet insurers for dogs) you may have heard about a ‘preferred referral network’ of vets.
That is because RSA, the underwriter of the above pet insurance providers, has created a network of vets to “help to deliver affordable pet insurance for RSA pet insurance customers”.
The idea is that RSA can make sure these vets offer high-quality care, increase the treatments available and encourage vets to bill RSA directly rather than customers.
However, it has proved controversial because RSA has also introduced a £200 penalty for customers who have a non-urgent referral with a vet outside its network.
Obviously, some people are not happy with the charge and a group of vets has even launched a campaign against it.
It’s important to note that the vet network is only for referral treatments so you can still use your own vet for check-ups and basic procedures. And if your pet needs emergency treatment, RSA will not charge £200 if you use a vet outside its network.
No penalty with John Lewis
But John Lewis believes customers should not have to pay the penalty at all and has said:
"The RSA Referral Vet Network has been established to give customers access to a trusted network of vets that provide a high standard of service and value for money. However, we do understand that in some cases where the primary vet recommends a referral practice and circumstances dictate that our nearest Network partner is not suitable, we will allow our customers to make a choice without being penalised.
“If the treatment in question is covered under the policy, there will be no additional fee charged whether or not they choose to use a Network practice."
So if you have a John Lewis pet insurance policy you can take your pet to any vet and you won’t have any extra costs.
More Than, Tesco Bank and Argos customers do have to be careful not to breach the new vet referral rules.
RSA says customers are still able to choose their preferred vet, of course, that choice could incur the penalty charge. In July it signed up another 24 vets to its network, bringing the total to 52. It says 78% of its customers should live within 60 minutes or a 60-mile drive of one of these vets.
Map of providers
RSA aims to add more vets to the network on an invitation basis. However, the campaign group Vets For Choice says that the coverage is still not good enough.
On its website, Vets For Choice says: “Just as in the medical profession GP vets will explain the options for referral and recommend the Specialist or referral centre that he/she considers to be the most appropriate for the case. This recommendation must be based on clinical considerations and not on financial ones. Pet Owners should then be free to make their choice.”
If you’re a More Than, Tesco or Argos customer and have any concerns about the network or penalties, you should contact your insurer. You should never feel afraid to get treatment for a sick pet.