What’s on the minds of the European Veterinary profession?

Visiting the General Assembly of the Federation of Veterinarians in Europe, Rome 8-9th of November 2018.

I just returned from two days of meetings with European Veterinarians in Rome. The opportunity to present our International Business School for Veterinarians and the Veterinary MBA brought me there. It was an interesting opportunity to talk with veterinarians from various EU countries but also Russia, Turkey, USA and Canada sent their veterinary representatives.

In meetings like these you realize how political a lot of issues regarding our profession are. There are new organizations that want to join and of course there was a lot of debate about Brexit and how that would influence the veterinary profession. It becomes very obvious how uncomfortable the British delegations are with the upcoming separation and how this will influence the availability of veterinarians at all levels. In the UK about 90% of the veterinarians working in the food industry, are from outside the UK. Even though the British government is trying to reassure these vets that nothing will change for them, most are thinking about leaving the UK. This is also true for the large contingent of non-UK veterinarians in all different kind of practices throughout the UK. There is already a shortage of veterinarians in the UK as it is, but with an exodus of non-UK vets and increased boarder inspections this promises to become worse.

For the EU countries, after the Brexit, the UK is seen as a “third country”, meaning that border inspections from and to the UK will be intensified. In the Netherlands alone, the government is looking for 140 veterinarians to be employed by the Food and Safety authorization and border control as a response to Brexit. These vets are not available, and both UK and Europe governments are looking for ways to educate lay people to do some of this work under the umbrella of a veterinarian.

Another consequence of the Brexit is the movement of the European Medicine Agency from London to Amsterdam. This will result in a temporary delay of registration procedures, and the mutual recognized registrations, where the first registration is in the UK, will not be acknowledged in the EU. There is a lot of uncertainty, so it is good to have these kind of pan European organizations to confront the politically responsible people with these huge gaps and dangers. Pharmaceutical companies have become so global in their research, registration, production and distribution that it is almost impossible to predict the consequences of the Brexit for the availability of veterinary medicinal products both in Europe as well as in the UK.

Also buzzing around in Rome was the “corporates” word. What is happening to our profession as a result of these big companies buying veterinary practices in North America and Europe? Companies like MARS are paying up to 20 times EBITDA for small animal practices, and so the veterinary practices risk becoming toys for investors resulting in a mixed feeling amongst the veterinary practitioners and practice owners. I must say that there were a lot of people at the meeting including board or committee members of an FVE related organization that had sold to a corporate group. They in general were positive on the result of these buy outs, but of course they were biased. Therefore, it was helpful that at the meeting of the European Union of Veterinary Practitioners some data was presented on how big the influence of the corporate practices is in various countries.

In the UK close to 60% of the Small Animal practices while in the Netherlands 20 – 25 % of Small Animal practices are currently owned by corporates. Staff costs are going up 10 – 13% in the Netherlands in these corporate practices.

In Sweden 60 % of the practices are owned by corporates, while Finland has a rate 50% and Norway 40%. Denmark has a lower percentage compared to the other Scandinavian countries. The percentage of total veterinary turnover in these countries by corporates is 60 – 70%?

Results of a survey amongst veterinarians from the Scandinavian countries working in corporate practices were presented:

Positive feedback from veterinarians working in corporate:

  • A sense of safety from working in large stable firms
  • Good education system
  • Vets communicate across clinics easier
  • Easier to refer patients within the chains
  • The practicing is no longer a “vocation” as it was years ago. It’s a job!

Positive for the clinics:

  • Less administration
  • Better buying conditions for medical supplies
  • Professional and broader marketing
  • Easier to invest in equipment

Challenges from vets:

  • Less or restricted time per patient
  • Less freedom to choose medication and prescriptions
  • Pressure to perform extra tests and exams
  • Driven by economic results
  • Loyalty within the chain results in challenges when referring to specialists in competitor corporate practices.

Whatever happens to our profession it is important to understand the dynamics and therefore we are very happy the FVE is conducting a huge demographics project called VETSURVEY 2018. We would like to challenge all of our European colleagues to take 10 minutes to fill in this survey and contribute to a better understanding of our profession. The previous edition gathered the answers of over 13,000 veterinarians from 24 countries. Although it revealed a number of interesting findings, to carry on deepening the knowledge of the veterinary profession in Europe, please keep in mind your cooperation is very important. This survey will help not only you and your future as a veterinary professional but also the next generations’.

Please us this link: http://www.fve.org/vetsurvey-2018/

 

Joop Loomans

 

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