One of the most important things to know is that no matter who owns a veterinary practice, every premises is unique and individual. It is the team and standard of care that will ultimately be why you bond to a practice. Sometimes, however, the people you meet on your visits to the veterinary practice might not be the ones who actually own it; here is how you find out.
There are three basic models of corporate vet practice in the UK: joint ventures, consolidators and large independent groups.
Joint Venture partnerships
The classic definition of a joint venture is a business arrangement in which two or more companies combine resources on a project or service.
Participant companies typically agree to split any profits the venture creates. As a result, joint ventures are potentially advantageous for companies in need of expanded resources with minimal (or no) infusion of capital.
In the case of veterinary practice ownership, this model is most commonly seen in the joint venture partnership (JVP) route with Vets4Pets and Companion Care; the concept is that the partner or partners own the “A shares” and the Vets4Pets Group owns the “B shares”. Effectively you may have 100% of the A shares with the added bonus of head office support.
What this means for you is that you may be at a practice under the banner of ‘Vets4Pets’ but it will be independently managed by the partners (JVPs) who are directors and shareholders in that individual practice – within the boundaries set by the wider group who own the “B” shares.
Independently owned practices are essentially what they say on the tin; independent, locally owned practices who are not part of a wider or larger corporate body. They may be a larger independent group – who may have multiple branches.
They may be a member of the Federation of Independent Veterinary Practices (FIVP), a not-for-profit organisation of independently owned veterinary practices. Independent veterinary practices are typically owned and run by the veterinary surgeons, nurses and managers who work at the practice, or who have previously worked at the practice.
There are both pros and cons to this business model; the veterinary professionals involved in the practice ownership can make decisions about their business with little external conflict as they are the shareholders and do not need to involve other shareholders in wider discussion in the practice running.
A corporate vet is a practice that is operated and owned by a company. Many of these companies’ shareholders are unlikely to work directly in the clinic that you are attending; they are unlikely to be the individual vets, nurses and management working in the practice.
Examples of corporate buying groups include Independent Vet Care Limited (IVC), CVS, Medivet, VetPartners, and Linnaeus. Corporate veterinary is a diverse way of running a business and can offer some benefits and negatives in comparison to private/independent vet practice.
In 1999, rule changes allowed non-vet ownership of practices – a move that has triggered exponential growth in corporate ownership. Corporate clinics have the benefit of having all the business, HR, legal and marketing side of things managed by a Head Office. This reduces the administrative workload of the clinic by a great deal.
For me it’s more about the team than who owns it
If you want to know who owns your practice look on their website or ask them!
Most corporate veterinary practices will list their ownership affiliation on the website somewhere, but it may not be immediately obvious. If you want to know, check:
- The footer at the bottom of the home page
- The Contact addresses – especially for complaints or data protection on the Privacy page
Independent, Joint Venture Partnerships and corporate practices each have their own pros and cons. For me if I was picking a practice, it is more a matter of personal preference, aligning values, the individual team working there and their care, knowledge and compassion for you and your pet. Remember, local management style and team ethos will mean that each individual practice is likely to be slightly different, whichever business model they fall into.