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Vet bills ‘soaring due to corporate greed’

21 May 2024 4 minute read
Image by 12019 from Pixabay

Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

Veterinary care is unaffordable for many pet owners in Wales due to “ridiculous” price increases fuelled by corporate greed, a committee heard.

Caroline Allen, chief veterinary officer at RSPCA Cymru, said a survey found more than half of Welsh pet owners were worried about being able to afford vet bills.

She told the Senedd’s petitions committee it is a challenging time for the animal rescue sector due to inflation and the wider cost-of-living crisis.

Dr Allen, a practising vet for 20 years before joining the RSPCA, said 78% of pet owners reported an increase in bills and 90% were worried about feeding their pets.

She explained that when she qualified many practices were owned by vets and embedded within the community, but most have since been bought by big businesses.

‘Ridiculous’

Calling for reform of the “outdated” Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, Dr Allen said vets can be held to account under the law but corporate entities cannot.

She said the RSPCA has had to withdraw direct services for the public to focus on its core role of helping animals suffering neglect and cruelty.

Carlie Power, representing the Cats Matter charity, described price increases as ridiculous, hitting out at a “continuous greedy rise in profits”.

Giving evidence to an inquiry on the corporate takeover of the veterinary profession, Ms Power told MSs she had to pay £62 for three days’ worth of eyedrops for her cat.

She said it cost a total of £52 to have one of her cats, Dolly, neutered seven years ago but she recently took another cat, Nix, and was billed £159 – an increase of more than 200%.

‘Hideous’

Ms Power, who has five cats, warned that responsible owners cannot afford to get their pets neutered, which piles yet more pressure on shelters.

She raised a Daily Mirror article on veterinary practices in Turkey offering cut-price treatment due to rising costs in the UK. Dr Allen warned this could lead to “hideous welfare problems”.

Peredur Owen Griffiths, who has two cats, called Treacle and Marmalade, and once wanted to be a vet, asked witnesses how the profession has changed over the past 25 years.

Sue Paterson, president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, told the Plaid Cymru politician that practice structure, facilities, workforce and education are the four big changes.

She said 41% of Wales’ 351 practices are corporatised, with around 150 owned by the “big seven”, which is lower than elsewhere in the UK.

‘Huge hole’

Dr Paterson warned the Royal College cannot regulate veterinary practices, saying: “We can only regulate veterinary professionals – that is a huge hole in the regulatory process.”

Julia Mewes, who set up The Mewes Vets as an independent practice 28 years ago, raised concerns about other vets working on commission, saying she does not set financial targets.

She warned this has created anxiety, an unpleasant atmosphere and competition between colleagues, rewarding the best at selling rather than the best at caring.

Jack Sargeant, the Labour committee chair, who has a cavalier king Charles spaniel, named Coco, highlighted the Competition and Markets Authority’s concerns about the sector.

Peter Fox, the Tory MS for Monmouth, who has been a farmer for 30 years, cautioned against demonising the private sector, pointing to positive advances in treatment.

‘Barely recognisable’

The short inquiry was prompted by a 308-name petition submitted by Linda Joyce-Jones, a campaigner, who warned that corporatisation has had devastating consequences.

Dr Joyce-Jones explained that a change of law in 1999 allowed practices to be owned by not only qualified veterinary surgeons, paving the way for big business.

Describing the profession as barely recognisable now, she wrote: “In many parts of Wales, it is virtually impossible to find an independently run veterinary practice.

Dr Joyce-Jones said corporations also own laboratories, drug companies, and pet crematoriums, as well as shares in many pet food businesses.

She warned: “Such a monopoly makes the few remaining independently run practices’ presence virtually untenable.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
25 days ago

Vets and Undertakers ouch!

hdavies15
hdavies15
25 days ago

You report that – “Peter Fox, the Tory MS for Monmouth, who has been a farmer for 30 years, cautioned against demonising the private sector, pointing to positive advances in treatment.” Sorry Peter old boy this is a complaint about the corporate invasion and hijacking of vet services, nothing at all to do with an attack on the “private sector” . Most vets had previously operated as sole traders, partnerships or local limited companies which are all private sector entities earning a decent living but not gouging out big bucks for institutional shareholders and the sundry other parasites feeding off… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
25 days ago

My bills are scary. This is what selling everything off does. Bills I pay now for treatment are orders of magnitude higher compared to years ago and that is without factoring in inflation.

Jeff
Jeff
25 days ago

To add to my previous comment, this is what will happen to the NHS if the Tory party continue to exist in power in the UK. Everyone will need insurance to get treatment.

hdavies15
hdavies15
25 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

on a smaller scale it’s a bit like the “pilot model” for creeping privatisation. As I said earlier vet services were already private but at a more healthy non-corporate level. Once the spivs in smart suits ( or whatever is de rigeur these days among the klepto’s) gain traction the meaning of “service” gets turned over.

Annibendod
Annibendod
25 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Already happening. Try getting a dentist.

Caroline freemen
Caroline freemen
24 days ago
Reply to  Jeff

Re the NHS, my daughter should have had eye surgery 2018, pre covid so no excuses there. They put it off so many times she lost her sight and was registered blind. I desperation at nearly 70yrs old I took a full time and a part time job working 14hrs a day so I could pay for her to see the same Dr who would have operated on her via NHS. £11:000 later and what should have been 15mins for each eye with a local anaesthetic, ended up taking over 1hr for each eye, general anaesthetic and much longer recovery.… Read more »

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
25 days ago

It’s the corporate Britain we now live in. The Tories believe some of the profits of these big organisations will trickle down to us – it won’t and never has done, it all goes to the few shareholders and their offshore accounts. If we are to build a more equal affordable society this sort of greed as to be stopped. As an independent nation we can aim to achieve this, stay in the corrupted Union and we’ll continue to get ripped off and poorer.

Sikejsudjek
Sikejsudjek
25 days ago

The bills are far too high and these mega corporations reduce competition. They need to be legislated against having a monopoly.

Annibendod
Annibendod
25 days ago

Monopoly is exactly the right word and monopolisation is exactly what 45 years of neoliberalism has delivered. And people wonder why the rich get richer, the middle classes are hollowed out and workers are left dependent on foodbanks despite working full time. Monopolisation leads to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few. Adam Smith wrote about this for goodnessakes and we’re still being ripped off by vested interests all these years later all the while being gaslit by Tory apologists calling it progress. Rho nerth i mi!

PetsR US
PetsR US
25 days ago

I have used the same vet practice for 35 years. The recent increases are so far out of scale is frightening.

To have my dogs teeth cleaned – £400 to £600 !
I had a filling and clean at my dentist 100 yards away for £90 !

Jane
Jane
24 days ago
Reply to  PetsR US

You didn’t need General anaesthetic for it though plus how many extractions did your dog have? How many visits to the dentist have you had in your lifetime compared to your dogs?
Stupid comparison.

Brian Edward Garbutt
Brian Edward Garbutt
23 days ago
Reply to  PetsR US

My estimate for cleaning remaining teeth for my 8year old dog £800 🐕 not sure what to do now ,it’s a well known vets cleveland dissapointed

Miaw
Miaw
25 days ago

First question vets now ask is ” do you have pet insurance” and they don’t see to particularly care about your animal. There are still some real vets about but few and far between.

Gary Williams
Gary Williams
23 days ago
Reply to  Miaw

It can often be the case that ‘wear and tear’ items like tooth cleaning and other maintenance is not covered by insurance

Fiona macfarlane
Fiona macfarlane
21 days ago
Reply to  Miaw

True, they know if you have insurance they can have a field day and do, rip off, they have no price lists, which I’m sure is illegal if not immoral , regular clients sre never told of price increases , out of hours are the worst. Your Told b4 you take in. You need to pay upfront £100/£150 before vet looks at your pet, if you don’t have it. Then are not treated, I’m sure this is against the rules of the RCVS, first do no harm, , vets are coached to use the most expensive treatment to maximise profits,… Read more »

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
22 days ago

The FT reported on the ever increasing private equity involvement in the sector.

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