Those who have a vested interest in what is happening in the world of veterinary medicine will probably be somewhat dismayed by the ongoing conversation relating to the code of conduct on who can own a veterinary practice.
According to Mark Butler, Managing Partner, HLB Sheehan Quinn and specialist adviser to the veterinary sector believes there are opinions on both sides. “I believe that everyone agrees that no matter who owns a veterinary business, the practice of veterinary medicine should only be carried out by properly registered individuals. This together with a well regulated sector is in the interest of everyone concerned”.
Interestingly the Competition Authority produced a comprehensive report on the veterinary profession as far back as 2008. They looked critically at corporate and lay ownership of veterinary practices and came to the conclusion that corporate bodies should be allowed to supply veterinary services as "consumers would benefit".
Vets having the option to incorporate can yield cost savings from more efficient practices which can be passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices and greater choice of services.
There are fears that in the case of practices being owned by individuals or corporate bodies who are not Vets that it could lead to a reduction in out of hours services in rural areas because they may be deemed not to be commercially viable.
However, the provision of 24 hour service is addressed in the Code of Conduct and it is the responsibility of every registered person in veterinary practice to ensure that the animals under their care have access to a 24 hour service. Therefore this remains the responsibility of the individual registered vet.
“Equally a case could be made that where a group of farmers are not satisfied with their current service they could come together say as a Co-Op and set up their own practice. They would then be able to employ their own veterinary practitioner(s) who would be regulated by the VCI. This could give them more control over costs and be more reflective of the service they need” continued Mark.
The uncertainty around this issue is not helpful for veterinary practitioners or indeed their clients who rely on this vital service.
“The VCI as the regulator should give clear guidance as to whether the legislation actually restricts the ultimate ownership of veterinary practices to registered vets, or if ownership can rest with an incorporated entity” concluded Mark.
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