The British Veterinary Association (BVA), CVS Group, IVC Evidensia and vetPartners, have added their voice to growing calls for the government to grant the industry business rates relief, as COVID-19 restrictions threaten the viability of practices nationwide.
Whilst retailers, pet shops and a range of other businesses are eligible for rates relief, veterinary practices are specifically excluded. Vets are currently obliged by law to continue administering urgent and emergency care, while current government guidelines prevent practices from providing their full range of services.
These measures are having a markedly negative effect on the sector, as weekly practice turnover has plummeted by more than 75% for nearly a quarter of vets, with two-thirds of practices seeing turnover slashed by 50% or more.
The BVA, the UK’s largest membership body for the veterinary profession and represents over 18,000 vets across the UK, has heard direct reports from hundreds of members who now fear for their future. The group has written a letter to the Treasury and devolved government departments to question why the veterinary profession has so far been overlooked for financial support.
Daniella Dos Santos, BVA President, said: “The Government has repeatedly given thanks to vets for continuing to maintain animal health and welfare and public health and support the food supply chain in these challenging times. But that makes it all the more disappointing that the profession’s pleas for financial support so far seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
“Veterinary practices are rightly remaining open to provide 24/7 essential care and fulfilling their duty to maintain animal health and welfare, but many are struggling to stay afloat as they grapple with dramatic reductions in turnover and scaling back their rotas to keep colleagues and clients safe.
Stuart Caton, group chief commercial officer & vice president at IVC Evidensia said the government is ‘not doing enough’ to support the veterinary sector despite its vital function within the UK’s agricultural, food and export industries.
Caton said: “Without business rates relief, some practices, which already operate on thin margins, will not survive, and the knock-on effects will be far-reaching.
“The closure of vet practices not only has serious implications for the welfare of the over 50 million pets in Britain, but risks further impacting on public health and disrupting supply chains, at a time of immense pressure and national emergency.”