SPVS Board Response to the CMA Review
Pete Orpin, Chair of SPVS Board took part in a Big 6 Debate at the London vet Show focusing on the Competition and Markets Authority Review of veterinary services. The four key areas the CMA review are focusing on are pricing of services, prescriptions and medicine supply, out of hours provision and the transparency of practice ownership.
The wide ranging review has been brought about amid concerns that pet owners may not be getting a good deal or receiving the information they need to make good choices. The CMA identified that the number of independent practices has reduced from 89% to 45% in the last 10 years, and they perceive that market consolidation may be distorting the market and reducing competition. The review is focused entirely on the small animal sector.
The Big 6 debate focused on positive steps the profession could make now as “sunlight remedies” to minimise any imposition of further regulations on the profession.
Fee increases are a feature of the last 5 years. Consult lengths, complexity of investigation and overall costs have increased significantly during this period. These changes were driven by the COVID pandemic, inflation and rising client expectations. The panel discussed the importance of transparency on pricing and the need for improved explanation of fees.
The joint BVA/ BSAVA/ SPVS/BVNA/VMG paper submitted to the CMA provides great insights into the 4 key areas. In this initial enquiry the CMA need to understand the industry and the data they have been given. With this in mind, Vicki Farbon, Board member of SPVS provided contextualised content on salaries and fee increases to BVA to help strengthen the joint report highlighting why the trends have occurred.
We cannot predict the likelihood as to whether this review progresses to a full-blown investigation, but the odds are that we may enter some challenges in the months and years ahead. Ryan Davis SPVS president recently said “I wholly believe in the veterinary profession and the value we bring to the animals under our care. I am confident whatever the outcomes of the CMA investigation we will innovate and continue in the same professional manner”
Clearly there will be a continued role for SPVS helping practices through this period of change. SPVS will continue to encourage collaboration and dialogue between members to ensure the best possible outcomes can be attained. The CMA are looking for a fair and open market, and don’t forget how important our profession is to the pet owning public, the majority of whom value the work we do. Practices that focus on client needs, maintaining their trust, and continuing to provide a valued service for their clients have nothing to fear.
Some top tips from the discussion were:
• Greater Transparency. Ensure the whole practice team understands the true costs of the business and the importance of a fair fee structure that balances the needs of the practice and the client. If the practice team does not understand this relationship, they can’t explain it confidently to the clients.
• Building Teams. Continuing to develop a sustainable, well managed, efficient, happy and productive veterinary practice.
• Managing Expectations. Consult lengths have doubled in 10 years (Moore Scarrott) which will have reduced the number of clients seen by 50%.
• Delegation and Triaging. Utilising technology and empowering the team to simplify and deliver a valued service rather than leaving all the responsibility with the veterinary team.
• Improving Vison, Leadership, and insights. Read the BVA joint paper and act now to prepare for the future.
BVA president and past SPVS president Anna Judson summed this up nicely- “We want to see healthy competition, consumer choice and thriving veterinary businesses.”.
The SPVS Congress 2024, in Birmingham, January 25-27th, is focusing on working smarter through utilising improved leadership and tech to deliver efficient working. The themes, practical workshops and networking has never been more important so make sure you join us for cutting edge thinking and debate.