The UK’s three leading veterinary care providers, CVS Group, IVC Evidensia and vetPartners, which own nearly 40% of all practices, have added their voice to growing calls for the government to grant the industry business rates relief, as coronavirus restrictions threaten the viability of practices nationwide.
During the coronavirus crisis, vets are obliged by law to continue administering urgent and emergency care, while current government guidelines prevent practices from providing their full range of services.
These measures are having a profoundly negative effect on the sector, evidenced by a recent member survey undertaken by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). The results reveal that weekly practice turnover has plummeted by more than 75% for nearly a quarter of vets, with two-thirds of practices seeing turnover slashed by 50% or more.
While retailers, pet shops and a range of other businesses are eligible for rates relief, veterinary practices are specifically excluded. This is despite the crucial role the vet industry performs in ensuring the health and wellbeing of domestic, equine and farm animals, as well as supporting food safety and production, disease surveillance, and public health.
Some veterinary practices have already been forced to shut their doors, having furloughed a significant proportion of staff. However, the legal requirement to provide emergency care 24/7 prevents many practices from accessing the government’s furlough scheme.
Stuart Caton, Group Chief Commercial Officer & Vice President at IVC Evidensia said, “Put plainly, the government is not doing enough to support the veterinary sector despite its vital function within the UK’s agricultural, food and export industries. Without business rates relief, some practices, which already operate on thin margins, will not survive, and the knock-on effects will be far-reaching.
“The closure of vet practices not only has serious implications for the welfare of the over 50m pets in Britain, but risks further impacting on public health and disrupting supply chains, at a time of immense pressure and national emergency.”