Paying For Veterinary Care 

Unfortunately, there is no National Health Service for pets and as a result, you need to pay for your pet’s veterinary care.

All of our clients will confirm Oak Tree Vet Centre provides caring, conscientious modern treatment for their pets but there is no escaping that in order to be here next year and beyond, we rely on you to pay us for the service we provide. Drugs and supplies together with staff salaries account for the majority of the cost but there is also the cost of having the physical building along with the rates, electricity and heating every month and running repairs. We reinvest any surplus in our facilities so that our patients may benefit from an enhanced offering, year on year. Being a truly responsive local business, we are ready to speak to any client with a comment, suggestion for a new service  or any difficulty.

We set our fees, ourselves, to reflect the costs we face and one thing that we feel is dishonest is a crazy low headline fee that represents a loss to the practice. Supermarkets have been doing this for years and certainly not out of the kindness of their hearts. They offer cheap milk or bread to lure you in, making you think everything must be similarly cheap but once you are in, they tempt you to buy things that perhaps you don’t need and also buy other things, at higher prices than sold elsewhere.

We are just beginning to see this approach in veterinary practice. The big companies are run by big businessmen, not veterinary surgeons. They have deep pockets and are hoping, just like the supermarkets, to shut down the other local outlets with apparently “too good to be true” offers they hope to then gain a stranglehold of the area and then turn the screw. This is just like the supermarkets have done to many towns, killing off the independent traders, removing variety, accountability and choice.

Anyone who has visited Castle Douglas near Dumfries has experienced a vibrant High Street with a wide variety of independents in competition, providing a wide variety of top notch produce at good prices. Although the town could not stop a supermarket setting up, restrictions on its activities have ensured it could not kill off the town’s traders and Castle Douglas retains the tile of “The Food Town”. Compare that to many of the sad High Streets in other Scottish towns where the usual list of multiples has killed off the local shops and those town centres are now dying and depressing.

Fortunately, I do not think this will happen in veterinary practice, as a pet is a member of the family and not a tin of beans and there is little economy of scale in veterinary practice achieved though mass ownership. The wide variety of choice of independent practices keeps us vets, on our toes and keeps you, the client, in the driving seat- which is how it should be. We think you should expect a good service for a fair price and should not be coerced into fitting into a franchise model , run from head office, with restriction of choice and subjected to sophisticated selling methods.

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If you are considering taking a below cost fee, then consider what is happening at a local level. The loss leader practice “partner” or “franchisee” has property and staff overheads just like the independents but loses money on that service. In order to cover the loss, they have to make additional profitable sales to you. To actually make a profit overall, they have to sell even more services and products. If you walk out without buying anything extra, they run out money, eventually and “their” business folds. The local independent practices are damaged by the loss of the work and this hampers their ability to invest in their facilities, meaning the overall offering available to you is diminished and everyone loses.

The future of veterinary practice is very much in the hands of local pet owners and the choice they make. I hope most earnestly, they choose the true independent over the franchise, run from head office.