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Pet insurance companies to restrict choice of referral specialists?

9 June 2015  

Please see RSA Vet Referrals Update – No Changes to Policy Conditions which is an updated article incorporating the statement the RSA Group made to The Pet Insurance Guide this morning. 

Updated: 7 June 2015

RSA Pet InsurancePet owners and some veterinary surgeons have expressed concern at the recent move by RSA Group pet insurance companies which appear to place restrictions on which referral practices they can use. 


The RSA Group wrote to vets in the Midlands and North West last month telling them that as from 25th May 2015, if they needed to refer any pet insured by More Than, John Lewis, Tesco, Argos, Homebase or M&S, the following new procedures needed to be followed.

These require pet owners to contact their pet insurance company, before the referral is made, so that they can “agree” which of their “preferred specialist or referral practices the customer should go”.

Furthermore they go on to say that if the pet owner does follow this procedure then they may suffer a “financial impact”. 

This does not apply to emergency referrals which are defined as situations that if not resolved immediately will lead to a loss of life or cause a serious threat to the present or ongoing health of the pet. 

RSA Group Press Release

Yesterday (4 June) RSA issued a press release to clarify the situation in which Keith Maxwell,  Head of Pet Claims, explains that the RSA Group have decided to create a network of preferred veterinary surgeons across the UK.  

The network has currently only been launched in the Midlands and the North West but they have plans to “do something similar” across the rest of the country in the next few months. 

Keith Maxwell goes on to give two reasons for this decision saying 

They have plans to work with about 30 different practices across the UK.  The press release gives further information about how these will be selected.

RCVS Response

However the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons responded that this RSA press release has done little to ease their concerns.  

They believe that “whilst pet insurers may maintain a list of preferred veterinary service providers, depending upon the terms of their policies, they should not take on the professional responsibility of the veterinary surgeon who has the animal under their care.   Veterinary surgeons remain the most qualified people to decide what is in the best health and welfare interests of their patient”. 

Policy Terms

It is concerning that RSA believe that they can simply impose new conditions on existing policyholders.   As far as we are aware there is no provision in the current policy documents which allows RSA to implement these procedures.  We have asked the RSA Group to clarify this situation. 

My Opinion

Sally HaywardWhereas I can see that this may help to reduce costs and thus keep premiums low,  I am concerned that it will restrict the ability of vets to send pets to the referral centre which they believe most able to provide the best care. 

If you have an opinion please do comment below! 

Further Information

RSA Group Press Release

RCVS Press Release


Policy Reviews


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Your Thoughts Please

What do you think of the RSA Group’s plans to restrict referrals to their own network of preferred practices?

Is this a good idea to reduce the cost of pet insurance?

Or are you concerned that your pet may not be able to go to the referral practice which best meets their needs?

Please do comment below to let us know what you think! 


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  1. Very worried about this.
    I insure both our dogs with Marks and Spencer – at over £120 a month for both. If my VET recommends another vet – then at that cost I expect to be able to see them. After all, the maximum payout per condition per year is just £7000 – unlike human medical insurance which is unlimited and costs roughly the same!! Wrong – totally
    An afterthought – I assume that Noel Fitzpatrick aka the supervet won’t be on their preferred list as he’s expensive – because he’s brilliant ?

  2. I am with More Than insurance,i would not be happy with this introduction. I think the vet should know which is the best place for my dog to be refered too. Then insurance companies know insurance not the best places to treat our pets.
    What if the one they want us to use is miles away, are they prepared to pay for transport to get our pets there if needed?
    If s system as been working for years why change it now?

  3. I will not use any Pet insurance company that does not give my vet freedom of choice of the best treatment suitable to my dogs needs. Lose trade all of you that are rail-roading pet owners!!!

  4. I am currently with Tescos I do not like this idea. I go to THE VETS which is a great place and affordable low cost vets who know my dogs have all their medical history on hand if we have to start taking them to places they and ourselves as pet owners I would not trust with our pets I know of larger vets I could mention who I would not have my dogs treated at we should as clients be able to have a day as to where we take our animals.

    1. There are no plans at present that we have heard of that will restrict your choice of vet. The proposals above only affect the choice of specialists should your pet need to be referred by your vet.

  5. The specialist practise may not always be the most convenient to travel to for the client and animal, have they thought of this? Surely it is customers choice, I will avoid any insurance company with this rule.

  6. i have pet insurance with More Than.
    My concern would be that the approved referral practices would restrict elements of care to keep costs low!
    Also would be interested to know how far a claimant might be expected to travel to such a practice – not a nice thought with a poorly pet!

  7. I live in Cornwall. Any good specialist referral my vet would have to make will always be out of this County and would involve travelling quite a distance.
    It will be interesting to see who John Lewis choose to recommend.I will
    then decide whether to stay insured with them or not.

  8. 1) are insurance underwriters qualified to make an informed decision on the best referral centre for a particualr case/animal/client or will their decision be based entirely on cost?
    2) what will happen with emergency referrals where a patient needs immediate admission to a referral facility, perhaps outside of normal office hours?

  9. I’m with more than, but not for much longer if they impose these changes. It is mine and my vets decision which specialists to use

  10. There is more to this than meets the eye. It is about controlling a free market and nothing to do with controlling veterinary costs. The current list of approved referral practices includes some of the most expensive in the UK. How can that be in the interests of keeping costs down, unelss there is an arrangement between the insurance company and the approved practice? The RCVS also requires there to be no difference in cost charged for an uninsured animal compared to an insured animal. Will an RSA-approved referral practice have a two-tiered pricing system depending on who the pet is insured with?

  11. I have rung them today to complain about this and suggested that not every owner has the confidence or know how to be able to deal with other vets either as what they’re suggesting is ignore what your vet says this is what we say thus introducing doubt into the equation as well.
    I want to work with my vet not a stranger who doesn’t know my pets and their needs – how can a client specify what is needed as they’re expecting us to translate what our vet has told us to another vet or even someone who isn’t a vet. I am vet savvy and found myself speaking to someone tying to explain this system who was less vet savvy than I was. They did suggest you can appeal any decisions they may make but surely this is restricting my choice which is why I have insurance in the 1st place.
    They said its because some clients have complained that when it comes to a referral they don’t have enough left to undertake the referral – mmm – could that be because of some vets’ reluctance to refer in 1st place because they want the fees themselves (my vet refers earlier rather than later so we have a good relationship + I have adequate insurance to deal with it and the referral vet practice will ensure I have the options there so relationship is ongoing). Sorry to go on but this so annoys me

  12. I have just fallen foul of this procedure. I have no issue going to a preferred choice of vets. However, I have been told that my nearest place for a CT scan for my dog is 40 miles away. So a round trip of 80 miles.

    I don’t think that is a reasonable request. It may have to be more than one visit too.

    The Policy wording states about a preferred list, however nothing about expecting you to travel with a sick animal 40 miles each way on who knows how many occasions! Not happy.

  13. Also guessing that Insurance Companies charge the Vets in their scheme for the privilege of sending them their insured parties/clients