Vet Futures, the joint initiative by the RCVS and the BVA to help the profession prepare for and shape its own future, has published a guest blog in which an academic argues that the profession needs to introduce safeguards to prevent inappropriate profit-seeking behaviour.
David Main is Professor of Animal Welfare at the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol, with research interests in welfare assessment, animal welfare education and intervention strategies to improve welfare.
In his blog (www.vetfutures.org.uk/discuss), Professor Main says he believes the vast majority of individual veterinary surgeons and practices are not motivated by money and do have animals’ best interests at heart, but that the differences between the business structure of veterinary and medical practitioners in the UK means the profession is always at risk of standing accused of excessive profiteering.
He said: “Since we still live in the age of the media scare story, it would seem prudent for the profession to embed some anti-profit seeking safeguards in our regulatory controls before, rather than after, a problem is highlighted.” One suggestion he makes is for the prohibition of turnover-based incentive schemes in favour of incentives based on health outcomes.
He believes that such safeguards, which he says could be incorporated into the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme, would be a “healthy demonstration” that the profession has animal welfare rather than profit as its main priority.
Professor Main also argues that the profession urgently needs to deliver on society’s expectation of vets as animal welfare experts: “Veterinarians could perhaps... do more at an individual level to act as animal welfare advocates. It is easy to inform clients on the technical rationale for a specific husbandry change but then walk away knowing full well the client will not action the advice. In the medical profession, advanced communication techniques are becoming more widely accepted to promote positive change within their patients. Perhaps we should be more explicit in teaching our veterinary students influencing skills.”
In response to David’s blog, this month’s Vet Futures poll asks visitors ‘Do vets always act as animal welfare advocates?’
The previous month’s poll, which was based on an article co-written by Erwin Hohn and Adi Nell from MediVet, asked to what extent vets would be willing to work collaboratively with others if it would benefit all. Of the 50 people who answered the poll, 60% said they would be completely willing to work with others, 32% a lot and 8% to some degree – no one said they would be unwilling to work with others.
PS: Whilst you're here, take a moment to see our latest job opportunities for vets.
"the vast majority of individual veterinary surgeons and practices are not motivated by money and do have animals’ best interests at heart,"- Not heard of corporate practice then?
this is perhaps more than a little unfair - the majority of the new corporates are run by JVP's who are personally invested in the business and often run them almost like independents. even then the issue is rarely the vets involved but the CEO's and investors - when there are many of them the pie becomes more fingers than filling and that has tended to push the costs up in the very large corporations. I can give you many, many examples of questionable practice - both financially and clinically - from independent practices so it's misleading to imply that an independent practice is more virtuous
We get enough grief about this so-called profiteering from members of the public (and sometimes even friends outside the profession) without Professor Main stirring it up yet again. When I can be bothered to challenge peoples' views on this, they often are shocked at the expense of equipment and the overheads involved in running a practice. (I'm just a locum, but I know what things cost!).
Yes I've seen some greedy practices, they're ones I generally don't go back to! Most boss vets are trying to do the best by their clients, their staff, and their families. Most of them aren't driving Mercs or Beemers either....
I feel the good Professor should spend time at the coal face of practice - he needs to understand that without profits to invest in premises and equipment, there would be no practice, especially no specialist referral units or dedicated OOH practices.
The guy's ideas seem to chime with the ideology of the metropolitan chattering classes.
As always, ignore the media scare stories, yesterday's scare story is today's litter tray liner, and get on with the business in hand. ' Nuff said.
If this particular academic thinks vets are profiteering perhaps more research is required on his part!
A small stint in the real world would quickly bring him to his senses!
Some of the fees one hears being charged in emergency and referral cases do sound eyewatering. But then so does the price of a new car or a house and what some people can spend on a holiday, putting on a conservatory, new kitchen or their child's education is way beyond any bill that most vets have ever produced. I don't think we need prominent members of our profession giving credence to the myth that all vets are rich and adding to the guilt that plagues so many vets already when the reality is most salaried vets are on less than £45k with few other perks.
Practices that are charging fees not reflected in the quality of their results will soon be out of business without any intervention required by the RCVS.
If the good professor wishes to help emphasize the humanity and charity aspect of the profession then closer work with the various already well established charities perhaps would be a good place to start? We used to have vast and influential animal charities such as the Blue Cross, RSPCA and others that would have funds to help every practice with their charity work - almost all gone now. Perhaps the charities could review their remits to put more emphasis on dealing with numbers rather than a few receiving top end specialist level care and perhaps the universities could put some of their skills and time into primary (preventative) and secondary (contagious disease/ minimal intervention) care rather than the constant emphasis on extreme cutting edge specialist activity when teaching students.
He obviously hasn't bothered to study SPVS data. 30 years ago VAT was 15% and for a typical veterinary practice, the non-VAT adjusted net profit was 21/22%. Now, VAT is 20% and the adjusted non-VAT profit is 17/18% i e the Governments share has increased by 33%, the veterinary surgeon's share has decreased by just under 20%.
Where does his income come from? Has he, or any of his close family ever attempted to run a business, any business, not necessarily veterinary?
I don't understand the point of this article. Presumably he's saying we should charge a fair price for our services and not be excessive. Considering the number of corners most vets I know cut in pricing up for clients so their bill is lower than it should be and considering most vets are not profiteering because most vets are salaried and not invested in the boss's net profit (nor are they particularly influenced nor motivated by the boss stamping their feet demanding higher annual turnover), the argument seems a little unnecessary. Of course there are the ropey bosses out to make a quick buck - I'm sure we all know one or two - but how do you address that? Caps on treatment? How do you define caps? Banded treatment a la NHS dentistry? what about the specialist centre that charges triple the rate for their opinion? it's all terribly vague.
And all universities have increased their tuition fees to maximum levels, pot, kettle........black??
Publishing Editor: Arlo Guthrie
Clinical Editor: Alasdair Hotston Moore MA VetMB CertSAC CertVR CertSAS FRCVS
Facebook | Linkedin | Instagram | Twitter
Learn more about advertising on VetSurgeon.org
VetSurgeon Jobs is the place to advertise and find permanent and locum jobs for veterinary surgeons in England | Scotland | Wales | Ireland and Worldwide. Follow VS Jobs on Facebook | Linkedin | Twitter
Veterinary Anaesthesia | Veterinary Cardiology | Veterinary Dentistry | Veterinary Dermatology | Diagnostic Imaging | Veterinary ECC | Equine Medicine & Surgery | Farm Animal Medicine & Surgery | Veterinary Medicine | Veterinary Neurology Veterinary Oncology | Veterinary Ophthalmology | Veterinary Orthopaedics | Pathology/Cytology | Veterinary Surgery