Competition in the Veterinary Profession

The study

The veterinary profession has changed considerably in recent years and this study made a number of recommendations to ensure that competition among vets delivered benefits for consumers.

Read our Veterinary Study or the Executive Summary.

Recommendations and outcomes

Our study on the veterinary profession made five recommendations designed to ensure that regulations protect the health of animals and the general public, and at the same time deliver value for money to consumers.

Some of the study’s recommendations have been implemented. Vets are now allowed to advertise and compete for new business. As a result of these changes you can make a more informed choice when choosing a vet and you can shop around to get better value for money.

However, there are still a number of live issues discussed in our study.

In 2008, our study concluded that providing for corporate ownership of veterinary practices would have many benefits for both vets and consumers by improving access to capital and non-veterinarian business skills. The Veterinary Council of Ireland (the VCI) conducted a consultation on the impact of corporate ownership on the regulation of veterinary practice in 2018. As part of that consultation process the VCI received advice from Grant Thornton stating that there was a lack of legal clarity in the Veterinary Practitioners Act 2005 and that there was no expressed legislative role for the VCI in relation to ownership of practices. In 2019, the VCI amended its Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Practitioners to indicate that it has no role or remit in relation to the ownership of veterinary practices under current legislation. A number of incorporated veterinary practices are now established in Ireland.

Since then, the CCPC has continued to advocate its views on this issue. In 2021, the CCPC made a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation the Veterinary Practice (Amendment) Bill 2021 where we noted proposed restrictions on incorporation would significantly impede competition between veterinary practices. The CCPC also appeared in front of the Joint Oireachtas Committee in October 2021 to highlight our concerns in relation to competition and consumer outcomes in this area.

One of the issues highlighted in the study was that Ireland had only one third-level training institution for vets in Ireland, and Ireland relies on foreign-trained vets to meet demand. According to VCI statistics for the period 2001-2021 the upward trend in the proportion of foreign-trained vets among new veterinary practitioners has continued. The statistics also reflect a strong increase of Irish students who have trained abroad in the same period, indicating that the training infrastructure in Ireland does not facilitate sufficient qualified graduates to satisfy the demand for veterinary services.

In 2022, the Higher Education Authority sought Expressions of Interest from higher education institutions interested in building capacity in Dentistry, Pharmacy, Medicine, Nursing, and Veterinary. The CCPC wrote to the HEA expressing support for efforts to diversify the routes for veterinary training in Ireland.

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