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Covid-19 crisis forces CVS to cut services

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By Adele Waters

CVS has shut half its small animal practices and furloughed affected staff in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The company said the move to close practices – around one-third of the company’s overall capacity in its small animal division – was necessary following a ‘significant reduction in both small animal billable visits and revenue’ during the government lockdown.

Announcing half-yearly financial results last week, chairman Richard Connell said: ‘We are taking a number of actions to maintain cash during this period of increased uncertainty. These include furloughing of a number of under-utilised employees, practice closures in order to reduce variable costs and to protect employees, and the cessation of discretionary spend.’

He said all clients would continue to be able to access practices for urgent and emergency care within a 40-minute drive. Clients with non-urgent or non-emergency cases would be offered teleconsultations and charged at normal rates. In addition, all of the group’s referral hospitals, laboratories and crematoria will remain open to provide essential patient care and for clinical waste collection.

‘These are unprecedented times and the board is working tirelessly to ensure that our business continuity planning is comprehensive.’

This week CVS Group PLC confirmed the decision to furlough staff but it could not give a figure for the number affected.

Ben Jacklin, CVS chief operating officer, said the company was working hard to minimise the impact on all staff and the intention was to use the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme to safeguard the workforce and get people back to work as soon as possible.

‘We are a people business, and this has never been more important than during this crisis. Our priorities over the last week have been to ensure that we are maximising our contribution to public health and the safety of our colleagues, protecting animal welfare, minimising the financial impact on our colleagues, and ultimately doing everything we can to ensure the job security of all our colleagues in the short, medium and long term.’

The British Veterinary Nursing Association urged furloughed staff not to view the situation negatively.

Without the option of furlough, many employers would have to make employees redundant

‘This is a significant lifeline to both employees and employers,’ said a spokesperson. ‘Without the option of being placed on furlough, many employers would have to make a large proportion of their employees redundant, causing significant disruption and distress to all involved.’

The government’s job retention scheme brought businesses financial relief and increased the likelihood of employees having a job to go back to once it is safe to do so, the spokesperson said.

In February, before the Covid-19 controls were introduced, the value of CVS’ shares had risen to an all-year high at 1250 p, recovering from a significant decline in value at 401 p in January the year before. Interim accounts for the year ending June 2020 show profit had increased due to an upturn in revenue, with strong sales growth – up by 15 per cent overall to £224.5 million – following a period of recovery last year.

On issuing the interim report, the share price stood at 752.25 p but as Vet Record went to press, it had risen to 825 p. ●

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