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Vets Slam Leading Player In Pet Insurance Market Over Reduced Choice

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Thousands of families with insurance cover for pets through Tesco and MoreThan are facing reduced freedom of choice following controversial policy changes which and could leave sick animals at risk, a group of the country’s leading veterinary specialists have warned.

Vets for Choice, a group of 11 leading Veterinary Specialist Referral Centres in the UK, says Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA) – which underwrites the policies of Tesco and MoreThan – is putting profits before the care of beloved pets with the new measures.

RSA has created a nationwide ‘preferred referral network’ – currently limited to 29 vet practices. Owners with Tesco/MoreThan policies who chose to take their sick or injured pets to a referral centre not on the list can face a penalty of £200.

Vets for Choice say that it must be the absolute right of pet owners, in conjunction with their first opinion vet, to select the referral centre that is most appropriate for each individual case. The decision will be based on a number of considerations, the most important of which are level of expertise and availability of specialist facilities. Geographical location is also an important factor and, in some cases, it is not appropriate for pets to travel long distances to a referral centre.

The preferred referral network does not have good overall coverage across the UK. In the south west of England, for example, there is just one approved centre and, just two in the whole of Scotland,

Vets for Choice said: “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.”

Vets for Choice has now called on Tesco to ditch the new RSA policy and revert to its previous format. MoreThan is a brand of the RSA group.

Vets for Choice spokesman Professor Dick White said: “RSA has adopted the same mentality to caring for much-loved pets as it has getting a car fixed.

“But as animal lovers across Britain will testify, the two do not compare.

“Choice should not to be confined to a list of practices provided by an insurance company – particularly as some of the practices on the RSA list do not even employ Specialists.”

“We are urging Tesco to go back to its original policy.”

It is reported RSA commands around a 30 per cent market share of the UK pet insurance market, in which premiums across the industry have been predicted to reach £1.1bn by 2018.

As well as making the changes to policy, the RSA has also amended payment systems for those practices outside of its list, meaning that Tesco and MoreThan customers who use a referral centre not on the RSA list may have to pay for treatment up front and then claim it back from the insurer.

John Lewis and M&S policies are also underwritten by RSA but it is understood they have not taken up the changes to policy.

The group has launched a petition calling on Tesco to amend its pet insurance policy to its original format and give full choice back to Pet Owners and their vets. The petition can be found at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/petsbeforeprofits

More information on the group’s campaign can be found at www.vetsforchoice.co.uk