Since rules were relaxed in 1999 to allow non-vets to own vet practices in the UK, the veterinary world has changed immensely. As more and more UK vet practices are bought up by large companies, independent vets are increasingly rare; over half of all practices are owned by just six companies.
Famously, the Skeldale Veterinary Centre – the practice at the heart of James Harriot’s beloved books – was bought up by Medivet, prompting TV vet Julian Norton to leave the practice and set up an independent one.
Norton told The Times, “I’m a believer in independent practice and I wanted to carry on the Herriot tradition in an independent way.”
He added, “I’ve spent every day of my life as a vet getting up in the morning with a smile on my face looking forward to going to work. I just had a feeling that if there were financial targets put on me or other staff it would change all that and it wasn’t for me.”
Norton’s colleague and co-star, on the other hand, said, “Since Medivet came on board as co-owners of the Skeldale practice with Tim and I, we’ve been very happy with how things are running and how well the team have settled in with our new partner.
“We considered a number of offers from several buyers but chose Medivet because of their ethos around quality and care, which is very consistent with our own culture.”
At Dogs Today we have heard many grievances against company-owned vet practices, including increases in prices, difficulties obtaining a referral to any vets outside the group, and a distinct feeling that – despite the vets and vet nurses working at the best of their abilities – the parent company will always put profit over animal welfare.
However, we have also heard from owners who found the service improved after a company takeover, with newer equipment and the possibility to receive routine treatment for a monthly fee and quick referrals to out-of-hours practices owner by the same firm. Prices have gone up but, they argue, that has been the case for most thing in recent years.
What do you think – is the increase of company-owned vet practices bad news for pets, or not?
Let us know what you think here, on this Facebook post, or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Great Debate” in the subject line.