Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Couldn't find a vet that accepts benefit claimants"

Occasionally when you read newspaper accounts of RSPCA prosecutions you'll see that the defendant states that they did seek veterinary help for their animal but couldn't find a vet who would accept people who are on benefits.

People who call our branch helpline sometimes say this and it can occasionally be very difficult to persuade them that they must go to the private vet if their pet is suffering and they are not registered to use the out of hours emergency service attached to our clinic.

Of course the idea that vets are operating some kind of selection process and refusing to add anyone who's not in employment to their client list is nonsense, but I don't think owners who say this are simply making up a story to excuse themselves.

The original conversation with the private vet's reception probably goes something like this:

Animal Owner] My dog's not himself.

Receptionist] Oh dear! Do you want to bring him in today?

Animal Owner] How much will it cost?

Receptionist] £30 for a consultation plus the cost of treatment.

Animal Owner] I'm on benefits; what would I have to pay?

Receptionist] We're a business; we can't give a reduction to people on benefits.

Animal Owner] (puts phone down)

From the point of view of the animal's owner; they would go to a vet if only there was a vet who accepted claimants (by which they mean charging reduced rates). 

From the point of view of the vet surgery; they are not failing in their obligation to provide pain relief even if the owner cannot pay because that's not what they've said. They haven't refused to see the animal; they have simply said there won't be a reduction in price.


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  2. I used to really struggle when it came to vet bills when I was on benefits. But luckily I had no other dependants so I could cut my own food bill etc to pay for their treatment. It must be harder if you have children to find things for too.

    I think it would be a great idea if vets had some sort of voucher scheme, you know, like book tokens! Relatives could give you a Vet Token for Christmas and birthdays. I thought this years ago, and nowadays I think it would be even more helpful, because even if you have your pet insured, the excess they deduct is getting ridiculous- in the case of my last cat, premium was over £20 a month and excess was £120 per condition per year, PLUS 20% of the rest of the bill.

    I think there really are some vets who will just charge whatever they want, especially in areas where there is no competition.

    One day in the waiting room of my vet's, some people were at the counter to pay. The receptionist told them the amount (their dog had just received treatment) and they just said, "We're on benefits." and they were aghast that this didn't entitle them to a reduction. I'm afraid *some* benefit recipients seem to have an expectation that they are entitled to reduced bills where they are not. The phone call in this article is an example.

    1. I think some kind of gift voucher scheme would be an excellent idea and might also help with the other infuriating scenario whereby a relative gives someone a fairly expensive puppy and the recipient can't pay for spaying or vaccination.

      The insurance excess is another of my pet hates - I get so cross when someone has been responsible and insured their pet but the insurance company hasn't properly explained they may still need to find £100+ out of their own savings. Sometimes the ones who are really struggling would have been better off putting the cash in a savings account and using that for the bills.

  3. We had a staffie cross who suffered a spine stroke and lost his use of his back legs. We took him straight to our vet who said that he needed specialist attention. On their recommendation we took him to the specialist near Newmarket who did a quick x-ray. We then called back only to be told that to give him a little hope he could be operated on, but he might walk not run and might suffer incontinence. This would not be right for him and we said no. This was heart breaking, but the bill of £4500 plus wasn't the reason and the vet asked if we wanted time to pay, IE £4500 over 6 months and when we said that our little chap loved his running and playing that to put him through such an operation would be cruel. Hearing this the vet did not have time to talk and then our lovely little chap was no more.
    Vets are in business to make money first and to save lives and suffering are 2nd.
    I am on benefits and have no local pdsa or rspca clinic but we do find the funds to look after our dog. Vets have become greedy and take advantage of insurance cover pay outs.