Great independent local vets practices are an important part of any community, but now there are fewer and fewer. A decade ago, nine out of ten vets practices were independent. Now 6 large corporates own more than half of all Vets practices in the UK. Over this period fees and prices have increased dramatically ahead of inflation. Opening hours have reduced and many customers feel that standards of service have reduced.
Over the two years of the pandemic, the number of pets has increased by 3.2 million. Many vets have closed their books to new clients leaving some pets without access to a vet. There is clearly a huge demand for vet services in the area driven by both the increase in the pet population and disaffection with the current choice of service.
Many highly talented vets, veterinary nurses and support staff have also become disillusioned with the profit and target driven culture within the large corporates. Our team have come from corporates where many felt under-appreciated, overworked and underpaid; constantly chasing ever increasing financial targets, sometimes at the expense of service – often these targets were achieved by putting up prices. In the past 4 years prices have risen by round 25%. Vet burnout is real and the possibility of partnership, once a possible route for career progression has gone in a corporate vets practice
This creates an opportunity for new independent vets practices to establish with the best talent beating a path to their door so they could work for an independent practice. I think the key attraction has been the opportunity for the staff to create a brand new practice from scratch and put their own stamp on it.
At The Sands, we don’t have corporate financial targets. Our objective is to grow our customer base by offering affordable prices (Our consultation fee £43 compares to £50 at other vets in the area which recently increased fees by 11%) and wonderful service (including Saturday opening). We have a brand new facility with plenty of easy access parking and in a great location. We aim to be the best value and highest service vets practice in the area.
The Building of a new vets
We saw Apex House, the former Cheshire Brick and Slate site in Tarvin Sands early in 2021. At 4,000 sqft it was far too big for our needs and was in a really run-down state. However the location was superb being right on the A54 and with a large car park.
To make the numbers work we needed to find a tenant for the first floor. Sandstone Vets, a large animal vets, were looking for new property to expand into with lots of car parking. Apex house first floor was perfect. We completed the purchase in 2021 and we started work on refurbishment. You can see the progress on the images.
We are delighted with what we’ve created. The practice has everything we need to offer a fantastic to our patients and their families:
Introducing our new team:
Dan Bell is a fantastic young orthopaedic Veterinary surgeon so we are able to undertake complex surgery without the need for patients to be sent to referral hospitals,
Many local families will be delighted that Fiona Wall is back in practice in the area. She joined us in June. She’s been working away from the local area due to an employment restriction she had whilst working at the Firs in Kelsall. This has now passed so we are delighted to welcome Fi to The Sands at last.
Emma our other vet is highly experienced and a former partner in CVets on the Wirral.
Nurses – Robyn and Lisa are both highly experienced. Robyn was also at the Firs so knows many of the local clients well and Lisa brings orthopaedic experience having worked at Chestergates hospital.
Reception – The face of the practice so vitally important to get right! Huge experience here. Deb, Mike and Faye have come from the Firs and Alice is recently arrived from Vets 4 pets in Chester, but lives in Kelsall so this was a great move for her and us and Ceri has helped us set up as she had a lot of IT experience from previous roles.
Whats the plan going forward?
We want to become a fixture in the community and be around forever. We want our clients to know and trust our staff. Reputation is everything. We want to be the first vets that people think of.
We are offering a mobile CT scanner service on a monthly basis to our clients and other practices in the area. CT scans can identify issues at an early stage and can give us time to deal with them.
More services will be offered going forward, for instance one of Fiona’s specialisms is pet acupuncture which is growing in popularity.
We have scope to increase the size of the practice a little but we don’t intend to become big or to open other branches. Being small, local, focused and brilliant is the key. The moment you move beyond this, your service becomes less personal, costs go up and service is always negatively impacted.
We were excited to be the main sponsor of the Ashton Dog Show which is in aid of the primary school. Emma was judge for the day and Fiona manned our stall where she offered free nail clips, dental check and health advice. This is precisely the type of local community support we want to be involved with. It’s great for our clients (existing and prospective), great for our team and helps us build that trusted reputation.
We have got off to a fabulous start. We’ve been open only 4 months and we are well ahead of our expectations for client registrations. Fiona’s arrival is sure to give us a boost. Our service levels are very high and our prices are more affordable compared others in the area which is really important given the cost of living pressures So far so good!