I have already mentioned the gradual transfer of independent veterinary practices to business ownership. A recent Sunday Times article highlighted the situation, writes Gyll Mauchline, founder of Three Counties Dog Rescue in Bourne. Since 1999, non-veterinarians have been allowed to own veterinary practices in the UK, which has triggered a buyout by private equity firms and companies.
According to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the majority of veterinary practices in the UK are now owned by six companies, three of which are privately owned.
One example is Medivet, based in Watford and partially owned by Inflexion Private Equity. It has more than 300 firms and wishes to reach 800 firms in a few years. Its social accounts designate veterinary practices as “cash-generating units”. Another is “VetPartners” which owns over 400 firms and was acquired by private equity firm BC Partners. It aims to increase its 2020 profits by more than 40% in 2021. Of the 5,585 veterinary practices in the UK, 993 are owned by IVC Evidensia, which is part of the private equity group EQT. Earlier this year, Nestlé, the company behind the Purina, Felix and Bakers pet food brands, increased its stake in IVC.
Company-owned veterinarians are often set revenue targets that can encourage price increases. There is a counter argument that with their increased purchasing power they can get their supplies cheaper than an exclusive private practice, but there must be some evidence that this is passed on to the pet owner. rather than used to increase profits.
As with the NHS, advances in medical and veterinary treatment are driving up costs on their own. Pets can now be kept alive with new treatments when in years past there would have been no alternative to euthanasia. Protection against the increased costs of owning a pet is to purchase appropriate insurance, which is recommended. But think carefully about whether your veterinarian is an independent organization and not part of a “cash-generating” business.