So why are veterinary fees expensive?

We are all so lucky in our country to have our NHS, but of course there is no NHS for pets. Providing good veterinary care is expensive, and the cost of the treatments we deliver to your pets reflects the commercial reality.  If anyone has received medical treatment on a private basis  they will know that many medical procedures, however routine, are expensive. Selina has recently received some medical treatment for a back condition, and two consultations and a spinal block injection (not involving any general anaesthesia or sedation) was £3500. The NHS model of being ‘free at the point of consumption’ has inured us to the real costs of medical treatment.

The veterinary business model is just that: it is a business. In order to pay our staff, maintain our premises, pay for insurances, utility bills and purchase the necessary equipment and medicines,  we must collect an amount each year at least equal to that total. If we fail to at least break even, the business will fail. 

Our professional time is chargeable

Veterinary surgeons, like lawyers, charge for their professional time. Aside from medicines we sell our expertise, which are charged on a time-incurred basis.

In order to qualify, vets need to undergo a five-year period of study after which they can typically expect a salary of between £30,000 and £40,000. Veterinary Nurses can expect to be paid between £17-22,000. Although these sums are above the national average, given the duration of qualification and the long hours worked they do not equate to the sort of sums associated with other similarly qualified professionals. The overwhelming majority of vets join the profession because they want to help animals. We don’t go into this profession for the money!

Apart from staff salaries, there are numerous costs associated with maintaining a modern veterinary practice We have to maintain the fabric of the buildings as well as ensure that our equipment and staff training are kept fully up to date. Veterinary equipment is not just confined to the things visible to the client, we have to make a significant investment in surgical equipment and imaging machines, many of which cost tens of thousands of pounds, requires maintenance and has a life expectancy. Without an NHS-style arrangement, the cost of this sort of investment will ultimately be borne by the client like in any other type of business.  For example, the K laser machine we use is £22,000, our ultrasound machine £18,000, keyhole equipment £25,000. Running a safe surgical theatre is expensive and involves multiple staff and anaesthetic and monitoring equipment, but we won’t cut corners to keep costs down. Our priority is to keep your pets safe.

The mark up on medicine in reality is relatively small.

A veterinary practice has two sources of income. The income from invoicing for professional time (consultation fees and surgical time) and the income from selling medicines. Clients ask about the cost of medication and the fact that there are online pharmacies that sell drugs much more cheaply than can be purchased from us. The reality is that online pharmacies could sell medicine to the public cheaper than we are  able to purchase them wholesale. The buying power of a global pharmacy will dwarf that of our practice.

Although we make some mark up on medicines, please be assured that your pets will ONLY be prescribed medicines which are in the best clinical interests of the animal. We are ethical people, your pets welfare comes first and we stand by our strap line of being ‘Care you can trust’

Why is there a charge for a written prescription:

Veterinary practices have a ‘medical determination fee’ which is an administration fee that reflects the cost of initial evaluation and ongoing review of medicines, complying with pharmaceutical legislation and registration fees, review of any adverse reactions and communications with pharmaceutical companies and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

It is not always appropriate to dispense the same medicine adinfinitum. In deciding whether to write a repeat prescription, the vet must examine the underlying condition and decide whether the current treatment remains appropriate. Many medicines may have side effects arising from long-term use and the vet will need to consider these in the context of the animal’s treatment. In addition, the VMD imposes certain protocols which require us to physically see an animal after a certain period of time before we can continue with long-term prescriptions. These considerations rely on the vet’s professional judgement, and we have to be accountable for this – it is not simply a question of signing a piece of paper.

So how can pet owners budget for veterinary fees

Pet insurance policies are a useful way of protecting you from those unexpected bills. Vets work independently from insurance companies and are not allowed to give advice on specific policies. As vets and nurses, we all have our own pets insured, despite the obvious benefits of working in the industry. We know from experience that our pets need health insurance so they can access the care they need, when they need it.

Keep your pets healthy

We all understand the importance or exercise and a healthy diet, the same applies to our pets. Remember our nurses run free weight clinics for our healthplan members. Our Elite Club provides your pets with the preventative healthcare they need, to help keep them well.

Trust your instinct

You know your pets. Picking up on subtle behaviour, appetite or drinking changes is important. We all put off going to the dentist, doctor, and of course the vet as we generally fear the worse. The reality is that tackling things early often leads to a better outcome, and the majority of the conditions we treat are full treatable. The earlier we identify a problem the better the outcome. We offer senior screening for patients as they enter those ‘golden years’ and this can be invaluable for picking up issues nice and early.

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