28th & 29th April 2022

Fota Island Resort, Cork, Ireland

Here’s why practice ownership is in the news…


by Kathryn Cuddy MVB CertAVP(VD) MRCVS

The topic of practice ownership has recently hit the headlines. You may have seen it in on your social media feed, or on the Veterinary Ireland press release, or in publications such as the Farmers Journal, www.agriland.ie, and www.thatsfarming.com.

So what has happened? The Veterinary Council of Ireland have made changes to the Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons (see Issue 10, 14/12/17), specifically to Chapter Four, entitled “The Veterinary Practitioner and the General Public”. Four paragraphs have been removed from the Code, and one new paragraph has been inserted. The full texts of these paragraphs is written below.

The new paragraph appears to leave much less room for ambiguity and confusion, clearly stating that there is no prohibition on who owns a veterinary practice (including corporates), as long as the certificate of suitability is held by a registered person, and that the practice of veterinary medicine is carried out by a registered person.

This is at odds, however, with their previous position that “any veterinary practice established in commercial premises must be wholly owned by a veterinary practitioner or group of veterinary practitioners”.

We will undoubtedly be hearing a lot about this issue in the weeks and months to come. As veterinary professionals, we should inform ourselves as much as possible in order to come to our own opinion on this matter. I suggest you read The Competition Authority’s report on Competition in Professional Services (Veterinary Practitioners) – it is from 2008, but most of the issues are still as relevant today.

 

OLD PARAGRAPHS REMOVED

Ownership of Veterinary Premises

The veterinary premises may be owned by the proprietors of the commercial premises who may also provide heating, lighting, cleaning, for rental or other charge.

Veterinary Practice in Commercial Premises

Any veterinary practice established in commercial premises must be wholly owned by a veterinary practitioner or group of veterinary practitioners who must be fully responsible for the conduct and practice and for the ethical and legal obligations falling upon its veterinary practitioners. Where registered veterinary practitioners practise in or from a premises that forms part of an enterprise that includes activities other than the practice of veterinary medicine, they are bound by this Code and they must not allow themselves to be restricted by contract or otherwise from fulfilling their obligations and from acting in full accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Veterinary Council’s Code of Professional Conduct and in compliance with the VPA 2005.

Lay Ownership and Control of Veterinary Practices

The attention of veterinary practitioners is directed to section 54(2) of the Veterinary Practice Act 2005 which prohibits the practice of veterinary surgery or medicine by corporate bodies. A body corporate may employ or engage a registered veterinary practitioner to practice veterinary medicine. Veterinary practitioners so employed or engaged are bound by this Code and they must not allow themselves to be restricted by contract or otherwise from fulfilling their obligations and from acting in full accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Veterinary Council’s Code of Professional Conduct and in compliance with the VPA 2005.

Change of Ownership on Death

Where a veterinary practitioner dies the spouse and/or dependants shall be allowed a reasonable time to dispose of the veterinary practice and may employ a registered veterinary practitioner to provide a service for clients of the practice during that period. The Veterinary Council is always prepared to give advice as to what may be “a reasonable time” in the circumstances of any particular case and to advise on the ethical propriety of any arrangements which the executors or personal representatives may propose to make.

 

NEW PARAGRAPH INSERTED

Ownership of a Veterinary Practice

There is no prohibition on a non-registered person, non-registered persons or a body corporate owning a veterinary business, including a veterinary practice, providing the practice of veterinary medicine, as defined by section 53 of the Veterinary Practice Act 2005, as amended is carried out at all times by a registered person. The certificate of suitability for a veterinary premises can only be held in the name of a registered person.

Click here to read The Veterinary Practice Act 2005.

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