The PDSA have recently announced their intention to close their free Pet Practice Service Scheme of veterinary care for pet owners on a low income, which currently assists over 30,000 pet owners across the UK with the support of free and highly subsidised emergency and preventative veterinary care for their pets at private veterinary clinics.
The current scheme, known as the Pet Practice Service Scheme, will be wound up over the course of the next twelve months, which means that both pet owners who are currently eligible for free treatments delivered by private practices funded by the charity will be affected, alongside of potential future pet owners on low incomes too.
This will understandably have a significant impact upon pet owners who currently rely upon the scheme to ensure that they are able to provide for all of their pet’s needs – but some subsidised support will still be available to eligible pet owners, in the form of the charity’s newly launched PDSA Pet Care Scheme instead.
In this article, we will look at what the announcement means for pet owners who currently rely on the PDSA’s Pet Practice Service Scheme for some or all of their pet’s healthcare, and how the new scheme will help to continue to provide support for low-income owners.
The current/former system – the Pet Practice Service Scheme – which is being phased out over the course of the next twelve months was available to pet owners on low incomes, and who are able to prove their eligibility to join the scheme as a result of benefits or subsidies that they receive.
The scheme provided a range of essential preventative health care services for pet owners, delivered by private clinics nationwide and funded by the PDSA, including annual check-ups and vaccinations, as well as spay and neuter surgeries, and emergency care for pets that become sick or injured.
Whilst treatment offered by the PDSA to eligible pet owners is provided free of charge, owners have always been encouraged to make a donation of however much they could afford towards the cost of treatment, and not all of the veterinary care a pet may need for every situation or condition are automatically covered.
The Pet Practice Service Scheme was delivered at private partner practices across the UK, in areas that fall outside of the catchment area for the PDSA’s own veterinary clinics.
Understandably, many of the 30,000-plus pet owners who have relied upon the free care scheme to ensure that they are able to keep their pets fit and well will be very concerned about what this means for themselves and their pets in the future, and how they will be able to afford to pay for veterinary treatment.
However, the PDSA will continue to operate their own clinical practices and provide services to low-income pet owners, although additional restrictions have also been brought in for the PDSA’s own in-house clinical services offered under the remit of the PDSA Pet Hospital Service.
This will see the withdrawal of the Pet Treatment Fund (a discretionary fund that may be used to pay for expensive clinical treatments) and a reduction inf the number of pets that any one eligible owner may register from three to one.
The charity has instead rolled out a new scheme to replace the existing system that will provide an alternative option for pet owners who are eligible to join it, which still represents heavily subsidised professional veterinary care for essential preventative services and in some cases, the ongoing cost of care for accidents and illnesses too. This is known as PDSA Pet Care.
As the Pet Practice Service is being phased out, existing service users and other pet owners who fulfil the eligibility requirements are instead being asked to join the new PDSA Pet Care Scheme instead, which represents highly subsidised veterinary care in place of the previous free service.
PDSA Pet Care Scheme members will pay £4.50 a month over the course of their membership of the scheme, which will allow them to get an annual health check and vaccinations/boosters, one veterinary consult per year, and a discount of 20% on certain eligible treatments offered by private partner clinics.
Scheme members will also receive discounted policy rates if they choose to take out PDSA pet insurance too.
The PDSA – the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals – was founded with the aim of ensuring that all pets would be able to receive essential veterinary care when they need it, regardless of their owner’s ability to pay the going market rates. However, the PDSA is, at the end of the day, a charity and not a business, and they receive no government funding to help to support the care that they provide.
The PDSA’s Richard Hooker, director of veterinary services, says that the Pet Practice Service Scheme is no longer financially sustainable for the charity, which led to the ultimate decision to phase the scheme out and replace it with a more sustainable subsidised low-cost model to ensure that the charity can continue to operate in perpetuity.
All existing members of the current PDSA scheme have been advised of the changes and what they will mean, which for many owners, will have significant implications for their pets that have ongoing and potentially costly health conditions to care for.
However, the PDSA has also announced that existing service users who own pets with chronic or long-term health conditions that are currently receiving PDSA treatments free of charge will still continue to receive a little extra help in the form of the PDSA’s new Chronic Voucher Scheme, which will subsidise the cost of ongoing essential treatments and care to the value of £25 per month.
You can find out more about the new PDSA Pet Care Scheme and eligibility requirements for the scheme here.