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RCVS response to RSA Group's pet insurance proposals

4 June 2015

Several members of the profession have made us aware of RSA Insurance Group’s recent correspondence to veterinary practices about changes they are making to their pet insurance policy conditions; specifically, encouraging their customers, in non-emergency cases, to contact their insurer first to agree which of their network of ‘preferred specialist or referral practices’ they should go to and, if this does not occur, that the customer could then suffer a financial impact over and above any policy excess.

In our view, it remains for the veterinary surgeon to decide, following discussion and agreement with their client, if referral is necessary and where the most appropriate referral practice would be. This decision typically would also take into account the likely referral costs, and whether the client’s existing insurance policy might wholly or partially cover those costs.

Under our Code of Professional Conduct, veterinary surgeons must keep within their own area of competence and refer cases responsibly. They should be satisfied that the referral veterinary surgeon is competent to carry out the treatment or investigations concerned.

Furthermore, veterinary surgeons must not describe a referral veterinary surgeon as a specialist, or as an advanced practitioner, unless they are accredited as such and are listed on the respective RCVS list.

Whilst pet insurers may maintain a list of preferred veterinary service providers, depending on the terms of their policies, they should not take on the professional responsibility of the veterinary surgeon who has the animal under his/her care. Veterinary surgeons remain the most qualified people to decide what is in the best health and welfare interests of their patients.

The additional press statement issued by RSA today about their policy decision has done little to assuage our concerns. Whilst RSA were unable to answer our attempt to contact them today, we will continue to seek an opportunity to discuss this matter with them at the earliest opportunity.

Note (10 June 2015)

We contacted RSA Insurance Group last Friday (5 June) to arrange a meeting early this week to discuss the issues we outlined in the above statement. RSA was unable to meet this week or next, so a provisional date was agreed yesterday for later in the month. We'll provide an update on this meeting in due course.

Note (16 July 2015)

We held a meeting with representatives of RSA Insurance Group today to hear more about their proposed changes to their pet insurance policies, and to discuss the issues we raised about these proposals in the above statement.

RSA agreed to consider these issues further, and said they would let us know by 22 July 2015 when they expect to be able to respond in detail.

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