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Vet faces disciplinary charge over £11,000 bill

A VET faces disciplinary charges by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons after a pet insurance company disputed a bill for close on £11,000, charged for treating an elderly dog that later died.

John Bailey, 50, stands accused of bringing the veterinary profession into disrepute for allegedly over-charging for his professional services.

Client Sheila Brinkworth from Belper, Derbyshire brought her cocker spaniel Daisy to Mr Bailey’s practice in nearby Ripley for treatment for many conditions over several years, including leukaemia. Mr Bailey saved Daisy by removing her spleen and then part of her liver and then treated her for high blood pressure. Daisy eventually died in January 2002, after a course of chemotherapy but Miss Brinkworth defended Mr Bailey robustly, saying that he had helped Daisy to enjoy several more years of life than would otherwise have been denied to her.

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“She was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was almost nine and she lived until 14 because of John,” said Miss Brinkworth. “He did everything he could for her and even went on courses to find out how he could help her.

“He even recommended a hydrotherapy pool where I could take her swimming to ease her back problems.

“When he died he sent me a letter to say how sorry he was. He said he missed her too because he saw her so often.”

The total cost of Daisy’s treatment over five years topped £11,000, and Miss Brinkworth claimed a large proportion of this from her insurers, Pet Protect. The company disputed the bill and most of the charges and then complained to the RCVS. Mr Bailey now stands accused on two misconduct charges brought by Pet Protect: that his fees to seven clients were so high they were liable to bring the profession into disrepute, and that he refused to reveal additional costs, billed to the same seven clients for laboratory services, to their insurers.

Alison Foster, QC, representing the RCVS said: “The overall charge is extremely high in comparison with other practices. Prices are so high as to question the conduct of the practitioner.”

Mr Bailey defended his charges, saying he was a ‘sophisticated hi-tech referral practitioner’ who had never pretended to be cheap.

“I make no apologies for my prices,” he said, “If can’t afford or don’t like them, they can walk away, and some did.

“Please don’t think that I hoodwink customers. I give them straight answers and excellent services.”

Mr Bailey told the disciplinary hearing that he charged a standard consultation fee of £17.50 for a 20-minute consultation, when he would assess the pet and inform the owner of the most appropriate treatment. If they had difficulties meeting the costs, he would look at alternative options or suggest they seek a second opinion.

“I consider myself an excellent vet,” he added. “I am particularly proud of my equipment and services. I have never pretended to be cheap.”

Miss Brinkworth added more support to Mr Bailey. “I think the amount of money represented excellent value and I’m just sad the whole thing didn’t blow up when Daisy was alive, because anyone who actually saw how happy she was would have realised what a great vet John is.

“If people want proper care for their pets, they have to expect to pay for it.”

The hearing was adjourned until a date to be fixed in July.