The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary practices in the UK and regulates veterinary surgeons in accordance with the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. An individual in the UK can only practise as a veterinary surgeon if they are RCVS registered. Further to this, since 1 April 2009 practice premises must be registered with the RCVS to allow veterinary surgeons to supply medicines from their premises.
Despite the limitations on who can practise veterinary medicine in the UK, there are fewer restrictions on who can own a veterinary practice. There are no requirements that the owner of a practice must be a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse.
How to register your veterinary practice
The practice premises can be registered by the owner of the practice or a member of staff; it does not need to be a registered veterinary surgeon. Therefore, someone who is not a vet can register the premises and they then become the point of contact in relation to the registration of the premises. If your business has several practices at different locations, you will need to consider which premises meet the definition below and therefore require registration. In some circumstances you may need to register multiple premises.
There are many factors which indicate that a premises fulfils the definition and therefore requires registering; these include, but are not limited to:
- Veterinary surgeons provide veterinary services from the location
- The premises is advertised or promoted as a veterinary practice
- A premises which is open to the public to bring their animals for treatment or a base from which veterinary services are provided to more than one client
- A place where medicines are delivered wholesale on the authority of at least one veterinary surgeon
Premises generally do not need to be re-registered if the practice changes ownership. If it is simply the owner or the practice name which changes, and the staff and operational running remains the same, then the owner must simply advise the RCVS of the changes. New registration is required if the staff, management and/or the operational running of the business changes.
The registration of premises must be renewed each year on 1 April. There is a cost of £34 per veterinary practice premises. No VAT is payable on the renewal fee. The RCVS will send out an issue for payment up to four weeks before the renewal date, and if the premises are part of a group then the invoice is sent to the head office or main premises.
Planning to sell your business
If you are planning on selling your veterinary business it is important to consider what is needed before beginning the process.
In order to assist with the transaction and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible it is worth spending time getting your business in order. For example, checking you have copies of registration paperwork, insurance policies, employment contracts and property documents. This list is not exhaustive but obtaining copies of all documents related to your business as early as possible will assist in the process.
As part of the transaction, the buyer will carry out due diligence of your business and therefore being able to easily locate the documentation requested will avoid delaying the transaction. This process can be time consuming as often there will be a large amount of documentation to disclose. If there is anything which you think your solicitor will need to know then tell them at the beginning so that they are fully informed on any issues.