CMA Review – our position

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There has been a lot of press coverage of the review of the Veterinary ‘market’ by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). They have highlighted multiple concerns including:

  • Consumers may not be given enough information to enable them to choose the best veterinary practice or the right treatment for their needs.
  • Concentrated local markets, in part driven by sector consolidation, may be leading to weak competition in some areas.
  • Large corporate groups may have incentives to act in ways which reduce choice and weaken competition.
  • Pet owners might be overpaying for medicines or prescriptions.
  • The regulatory framework is outdated and may no longer be fit for purpose.

We wanted to address each of these concerns so that our clients know where we stand.

1. Our prices for the most common things we are asked about are on our website. We are very happy to tell you the price for anything else. Just ask!

2. We try to keep people informed of costs of treatment. Not everyone wants us to constantly mention cost, but again, if you want to know, just ask!

3. We are a single INDEPENDENT practice. That’s not ‘we have independent in the name of our corporate group, but really we are part of a chain’. It’s not ‘we have a bit of independence but we’re owned by a bunch of shareholders who barely know how to spell the word ‘vet’ but are good with the word ‘money’. What it means is that the practice was started by Stephanie and Steven – a married couple (one vet and one non vet) – over 15 years ago and is still owned by exactly the same couple, both of whom now look slightly (ahem) older. The only groups we are part of are the Federation of Independent Veterinary Practices – who try and represent practices like us on committees and things – and our buying group – who help us get cheaper prices on drugs etc than we could negotiate for ourselves.

4. We don’t have a set of protocols which say that every sick animal has to follow a certain path involving the most expensive diagnostics and treatments. We don’t hide behind ‘gold standard’ as a way to guilt our clients into spending more than they need to. We will ALWAYS discuss your options with you, and try to give you choices which suit your preference and budget. If that means throwing the book at a problem then fine. If you prefer a less full on approach then that is perfectly OK also. We don’t have ties to any particular referral centre, so if referral is warranted, you can choose where suits you best. We do use particular providers for out of hours care, lab services and crematorium. We have selected those suppliers to try and get the best service. But if any client wants to use someone different then fine with us.

5. We charge for our time. Veterinary/veterinary nursing expertise is what our staff trained to acquire, and it is why you are coming to us. We also have toys like lab machines and xray and ultrasound scanners. We charge for using those toys because they cost us quite a lot of money to buy, and it requires a fair bit of expertise to use them effectively. We believe that our pricing for these things is fair. And we set them out on our bills as clearly as we can so that everything is as transparent as we can make it. That includes charging for prescriptions. Not because we want to punish you for using them. But because it takes our vets time to issue each one.

6. We also supply medicines and other products like food. We charge for those medicines because it costs us to buy them, and it helps us pay to keep the lights on and to heat the place. So it is true that we would prefer you to buy from us rather than someone else. HOWEVER – we absolutely recognise that everyone wants to get the best price for the goods they are buying in the most convenient way. We use Amazon for our own shopping just like you do. We can’t compete on price with the internet suppliers. Their buying power and costs are just on a different scale to ours. And we don’t want to. So almost anything we supply can be found cheaper on the internet. We are absolutely open about that and we are more than happy to provide prescriptions for any medicines which we would otherwise supply ourselves. PLEASE JUST ASK!

7. We are heavily regulated by the RCVS. Because we are owned by a individuals (one a vet) rather than a non veterinary corporate entity, all the RCVS regs apply to us directly. And we are Practice Standards Scheme accredited. We don’t have to be because it isn’t mandatory, but we wanted to show people that we are doing things the right way.