As regular readers of my blog will know, I have long been concerned by the issues of overcharging and poor communication by vets. Too many practices, in my opinion, seem to prioritise profits over patients and a culture of turnover-related bonuses for vets leads to ever increasing bills. And it’s not just the bills themselves that are cause for concern, it’s also the way in which potential charges are explained to owners. I recently had an email from an owner whose cat had suffered a broken leg and whose subsequent treatment at her local emergency vets really illustrated how poorly some clients are treated by their vets.
The issue in this case wasn’t so much the astronomical bill (£1100) as the complete lack of transparency over the costs of the treatment and a seeming indifference to the circumstances of the owners for whom such a bill was clearly unaffordable. According to the owner, the vet had flatly refused to provide an estimate before the surgery to repair the leg claiming that it ‘wasn’t possible’. So the poor owner was faced not only with the trauma of their little cat suffering a serious injury, but also the stress of not having any idea what the treatment would cost followed by a very unpleasant shock when the bill finally appeared.
Obviously I’ve only heard the owner’s side of things in this case and there may be other issues involved that I’m not aware of, but even so, it’s hard not to be shocked by this apparently callous and money-orientated approach. It’s also in direct contravention of the professional guidance provided by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons which states that all vets are obliged to provide estimates on request before any surgical procedure.
Cases like this continue to amaze me, even though I’ve heard so many stories like this, and it’s hard not tot feel a sense of shame at being part of a profession that includes members who are prepared to treat clients in this way. I hope that things are changing and that the Royal College will be tough on cases like this as without firm enforcement of the rules, the behaviour of the small minority of vets who treat their clients as licenses to print money will never change.