Currently more than 50% of UK practices are now in corporate hands – your current practice may even be owned thus, as these buy-outs are not always made obvious. The ‘family owned’ Mars Corporation (who produce Pedigree Chum, & Whiskas and the like) are the world’s biggest vet group with over 1900 practices. They recently moved into the UK market purchasing the Linnaes veterinary group from private equity firm ‘Sovereign Capital Partners’.
Is it any surprise if you are recommended a special diet for every condition when your vet’s practice is owned by a pet-food manufacturer? However this influence can dig deeper with vet schools and vet nursing colleges worldwide having exclusive arrangements with individual pet-food manufacturers, with the teaching of nutrition being performed by employees of the pet-food companies. Many corporate practices have target figures for operations and procedures, where branches are given league-table profit figures on a weekly basis. Shareholder profits rule!
Don’t get me wrong, there are many excellent dedicated vets working in excellent corporate practices. At the end of the day there is a place for us all, and the corporates do invest and provide excellent facilities – a lesson some independent practices could learn from. However I’m not sure that many pet-owners are aware of the way things are changing, and it worries me that the vet profession might soon be owned by a handful of big businesses offering little independent client choice.
So we are very much non-corporate, with Pete and Jill Coleshaw the sole owners, with no intent to ever change.
Examples of corporate–owned vet practices and associated businesses: Southern Counties Veterinary Specialists, Pets at Home, Vets4Pets, Companion Care, CVS, the ironically-named Independent Vet Care (IVC) along with several long-established Salisbury practices.