VETS Now, the out of hours emergency pet care and surgical specialist, has revealed plans to expand its network of veterinary hospitals around the UK, as it targets lifting turnover to nearly £50 million in its current financial year.

The Dunfermline-based company, led by former Black & Lizars chief executive Mark Ross, secured planning permission to expand its hospital on Glasgow’s North Street last month.

The £1.5 million project, which is due for completion later this year, will add two further levels to the building, including a dedicated accident and emergency floor, an intensive care unit (ICU) and more operating theatre space.

It will take the total investment made by the company in the hospital to £5m, with the expansion likely to mean the addition of a further ten to 20 “highly skilled veterinary positions” in the long term. Around 90 staff are already employed at the Glasgow hospital, where Mr Ross said the company said it has outgrown its current facilities because of demand. It opened in 2009.

“It’s reaching capacity now, which is a tribute to the success of the team there,” Mr Ross said. “We felt it was time to take it to the next stage. It is a state of the art facility, but we want to raise clinical standards even further.”

While the expansion in Glasgow takes place, the company is looking to add to its hospital network, having pinpointed Birmingham and London as its next destinations. Vets Now currently has hospitals in Manchester and Swindon, as well as in Glasgow. All provide “round the clock emergency care” and surgery services.

Mr Ross said: “We have plans for further 24-7 pet emergency hospitals and are looking at areas such as Birmingham and London just now.

“But they are pretty large investments and you have to take your time. You are typically looking at between £4m and £5m for a facility to give it the state of the art equipment like CT scanners, MRI scanners, all the X-ray equipment. It is a big investment.”

Asked why the company had homed in on Birmingham and London, Mr Ross said it is being guided by the demand for its services by its veterinary partners in these cities. However, he noted that it can take one to two years for such projects to go through the planning process, given the complexities involved.

Vets Now was founded by 16 years ago by vet Richard Dixon, who saw in a gap in the market for providing a service which would ease the pressure on family vets who had a duty to provide round the clock care. Mr Dixon is now the executive chairman.

As well as its hospitals, company has 56 pet out of hours clinics around the UK, which work in partnership with more than 1,000 veterinary practices. Five of the clinics are in Scotland.

“It’s gone from strength to strength in a fairly short period of time,” Mr Ross said, revealing that the company was looking to open a further three clinics, in Ashford, Wrexham and Peterborough, this year. “The best way to think about it is the high street vet is the GP, essentially, and we are the accident emergency service for pet owners,” he said. “And we’re also the orthopaedic consultants; we do the complex surgery.”

The latest accounts for Vets Now show it turned over £41.4m in the year ended March 31, up from £36.8m. That came as profits before tax dipped to £2.4m from £4.1m, which Mr Ross said reflected investment in new clinic openings, hospital restructuring and expansion.

Highlighting the underlying strength of the business, he said Vets Now is growing revenue by 12 per cent on a like for like basis; the growth rate is 20 per cent when new clinics are taken into account.

The company is on track to turn over nearly £50m this year. “The profitability will be higher in this year’s results,” Mr Ross said. “One of the advantages of being a private company is we can really look to the long term.”