When one of Britain’s major insurers created a “pet health postcode lottery”, Vets4Choice turned to PHA for support

The phrase David versus Goliath is often over-used, but when one of the UK’s biggest insurers made a fundamental change to its policies for pets, the resulting battle really was a true case of the saying. The change implemented outlined to pet owners with policies that if they took their sick animals to a vet which wasn’t on their preferred list, they would have to pay a £200 excess.

Implemented by FTSE listed-insurer RSA, the scheme meant that dog and cat owners may have to drive hundreds of miles to a listed-vet, and would have to change their regular vet if they did not want to end up being hit by the “vet tax”. It was a change that had gone largely unnoticed – except to those who ended up with a bigger bill than they would have expected.

A group of highly skilled veterinary surgeons were also very concerned over the scheme and had tried to galvanise their fellow professionals in a bid to stop it gathering momentum. However, once this failed to halt the juggernaut, they turned to PHA for some support.

We set up a campaign group, utilizing our PR know-how as well as Public Affairs, to raise awareness of the RSA vet tax and its implications. We advised that it would need to focus on consumers, rather than vet surgeons, to have any chance of making the RSA listen to the argument.

Our approach was to highlight the story in the national media, then roll out a wider media campaign on the issue. At the same time, we launched a petition, set up social channels, and enlisted the help of various dog and cat-loving MPs, who were alarmed at the RSA move, via the tabling of an Early Day Motion in Parliament.

A number of MPs also supported our social media campaign – #petsbeforeprofits – by posting pictures of themselves on their Twitter pages holding the campaign slogan and posing with their pet. Case studies of real people who were told they had to pay £200 for taking their beloved pet to the “wrong vet” also started to emerge and we ensured their stories were heard on national radio.

Once we had momentum, PHA wrote directly to CEO of RSA, Stephen Hester, and activated a meeting with him and the vet surgeons. Companies who could adopt the RSA policy such as John Lewis, Tescobank and M&S were also made aware of the strength of feeling against the changes.

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