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Major deficiencies in how the State ensures access to veterinary services

The State is responsible for ensuring that there are veterinary services throughout Sweden. The Swedish National Audit Office's (Swedish NAO) audit reveals major deficiencies in governance of these activities, and that the Swedish Board of Agriculture does not ensure competition on similar terms.

Woman in blue overalls looking at a calf in a barn environment

Photo: Anna Johnsson

The veterinary market in Sweden is mainly private, but for a long time the State has assumed responsibility for ensuring that all animals in human care have access to veterinary healthcare.

The Swedish NAO has audited the Board of Agriculture's work of ensuring access to veterinary services and that the District Veterinarians, who are part of the Board of Agriculture, conduct their activities so that competition is maintained on similar terms in the veterinary market.

The audit (which did not include how the veterinary operations were run in practice) shows, among other things, that:

  • the Board of Agriculture does not ensure that there is a well-functioning, effective organisation for care of animals throughout the country, around the clock, and that the Board is passive in its implementation of this task
  • the Board of Agriculture does not ensure that the District Veterinarians’ activities are conducted in accordance with the restrictions decided on by the Government with regard to the type of care that may be conducted and where
  • the Board of Agriculture does not always separate its ordering and executing roles in relation to the District Veterinarians
  • based on the Board of Agriculture’s reporting, it is not possible to assess whether the central government compensation for veterinary services is used to finance the competitive part of the District Veterinarians’ activities.

“Overall, this entails a risk that there is not round the clock access to veterinary care throughout the country. But since the Board of Agriculture does not actively monitor this, we do not know what the situation is at present or how it is expected to develop in the long term,” says Auditor General Helena Lindberg.

“From a competition point of view, it is important that the District Veterinarians and private veterinarians are treated equally and that the use of the central government appropriation is reported transparently,” says Fredrik Engström, project leader for the audit.

The audit also shows that the Government has not monitored whether the activities are conducted as decided by the Riksdag in 2009.

Recommendations in brief

The Swedish NAO’s recommendations to the Government include the following:

  • monitor the outcome of the Riksdag’s intentions regarding the changes to veterinary services.

The recommendations to the Board of Agriculture include the following:

  • improve the work of ensuring access to veterinary services, for example, by obtaining information on how it works in different parts of the country. This work should have a long-term perspective, and include access to trained staff.
  • change the reporting so that it is possible to ensure that the central government appropriation is not used to finance the part of the District Veterinarians’ operations that is conducted in competition.
  • ensure that the District Veterinarians are only established where private alternatives are inadequate.

See the report for full recommendations.

Press contact: Olle Castelius, phone: +46 8-5171 40 04.

Presskontakt: , telefon: 08-5171 42 06.

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Updated: 06 April 2021

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