Corporate vets vs independent, which is better?

Twenty years ago, the rules were changed to allow non veterinary surgeons to own veterinary practices under amended laws and, as a trend, this has ‘taken-off’ with vigour. In a world where corporate-owned veterinary centres continue to rise on a steady upward trajectory, the natural question thrown to the forefront is: Corporate vs independent, which is better? Perhaps the answer to this lays in some part, in what the individual pet owner seeks as veterinary care for their pet. It is important to note that vets everywhere, working in a range of business set-ups, almost invariably want the best for their patients. However, there are some differences between the business models of independent and corporate practices that it might be worth noting when choosing a vet practice to care for your pet.

How independent practices work

Independent practices such as our own, are sometimes viewed as the ‘traditional’ type. This is in many ways a label that we welcome due to our general ethos, so long as it isn’t mistaken for ‘old-fashioned’. We pride ourselves on staying at the forefront of the profession in terms of facilities, equipment and treatment protocols, and here we explain how being independent helps us to do so.
The vast majority of independent practices are owned by vets (just as our practice is); some veterinary nurses have also bought into veterinary businesses, something to be celebrated since they bring to the table their very own valuable viewpoints. The beauty of having decisions makers who are veterinary trained and working at ground level, is that they experience the very same frustrations as the rest of the team when trying to provide gold standard veterinary care using less than ideal equipment, and medications etc. For this reason, practice owners and partners tend to be advocates for updates and improvements. Further, the ‘chain of command’ is very short, and with fewer people to persuade, change can be a simpler and faster process.

The corporate way

Comparatively, corporate-owned companies (some of whom own hundreds of practices) have a more complicated web of (commonly non-veterinary) directors and shareholders. This can mean economies of scale and of standardisation – however, it can also mean that the change-making process can be much longer. In addition, it is common for corporate vets to be required to work within predetermined, company-wide parameters, which may establish “gold standard practice” but might also sometimes frustrate change and improvement at ground level. An example of this can be seen in systems of supply ordering. Many corporates restrict ordering of materials to specific suppliers, for example, with whom they have arranged deals, and while this may save the practice money, they may or may not stock exactly what a practice seeks. Practices like our own have the freedom to order from anywhere suppling the most appropriate equipment for the job.

Getting to know your vet

Some say that continuity of care (that is a pet and client seeing the same vet consistently) can be better at independent practices. This is hard to measure, and it is true to say that vets
move job roles within both types of businesses. What we can say is that here at Chalkland, our practice partners Selina and Phillipa work on-rota, seeing pets in consult as well as for procedures. As VERY permanent members of our team, it is highly likely that their regular pet clientele get to see them each time they visit. We also strive to create a strong sense of employee fulfilment amongst our vets, nurses and of course our support staff; as a result, we have great retention rates within our team meaning that clients and pets see familiar faces when they visit. Continuity of care is not only great for pets, but it also serves as great satisfaction for our team who get to know their client/pet base, build great working
relationships, and see interesting cases through to the end.

A local service

Our independence from corporates also allows us to tailor our care to the surrounding demographic of patients. Veterinary care has never been a one-size-fits-all thing, even across regions and counties, pets face different health challenges (for example fluctuating prevalence of lungworm, and adder bite poisoning amongst others). We are delighted to be able to respond to the specific challenges by adapting our protocols rapidly and as needed by our clients.
In conclusion, pets are individuals and have their own specific set of needs; as an independently owned practice we have huge scope to be able to respond to those needs in the best possible way. We can choose which medications, laboratories, out of hours emergency service, in-house lab equipment, and wholesalers we use, and much, much more, and we do so based upon what is best for our clients and patients. This is not only because Selina and Phillipa strive to provide the best in veterinary care, but also because they listen to ideas from both team members and clients alike and, importantly, have the
autonomy to implement change.

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