As a cost control measure RSA recently launched a Preferred Referral Network, agreeing fixed treatment costs with ‘preferred’ referral practices.
In order to incentivise the use of these preferred providers, they have introduced financial penalties for customers of Argos, Homebase, John Lewis, Marks & Spencers, More Than and Tesco who choose referral practices not on the list. We and very many of our professional colleagues, think this is contrary to the interests of vets, their clients and their patients.
Our greatest concern is the impact of this system on clinical decision making in cases of serious injury or illness. Primary care vets should be in a position to advise their clients on the most appropriate referral centre in individual cases, regardless of financial considerations. The Preferred Referral Network changes this by introducing the possibility of penalty charges if the referral practice recommended by their vet is not on the list.
We believe strongly that vets in first opinion practice should base their choice solely on clinical considerations. Therefore, in alignment with other referral centres, if any clients referred to us are subsequently subjected to this unfair penalty, we will reimburse them the equivalent amount. This strategy has been introduced to demonstrate our absolute objection to any insurance companies which seek to restrict clinical choice.