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Willows Group expands with the acquisition of North Downs Specialist Referrals

Sovereign Capital, the UK private equity Buy & Build specialist, today announces that Willows Veterinary Centre and Referral Service, one of the leading specialist veterinary centres for small animals in the UK, has acquired North Downs Specialist Referrals (NDSR) to expand the Group and further develop its service offering.


NDSR, based in Bletchingley, Surrey, is the largest private referral practice based in the South East. The combined group will have a team of over 200 staff including 56 specialists and highly experienced veterinary surgeons, offering a breadth of specialist services which include orthopaedics, ophthalmology; neurology; soft tissue surgery; internal medicine and oncology as well as first opinion veterinary services. Both Willows, based in Solihull, West Midlands, and NDSR operate from purpose built, state-of-the-art hospitals.

NDSR was founded by Myra Forster-van Hijfte and Terry Emmerson in 1999. They have since overseen its development into a renowned multi-disciplinary referral practice with around 70 staff. Within the Group, Terry will become the NDSR Clinical Director as well as maintaining his surgical case load. Myra will be taking up the new post of Group Referral Director to explore future development opportunities for the Group.

Both Willows and North Downs are high-quality, well invested businesses that are enjoying strong growth. This acquisition, just 9 months after our original investment in Willows, both develops the Group’s service offering and is the first step in expanding its geographic reach. We look forward to building upon their successes, further expanding the Group and investing in its first class service offering.

Neil Cox, Partner, Sovereign Capital

I’ve watched North Downs’ successful growth over the years and I’m thrilled that Willows and NDSR are coming together. We share an ethos and commitment to excellence and continued improvement which is highly visible in both practices. I have always held NDSR in the highest regard and have had the good fortune to work with a number of their clinicians in the past. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to build on these two outstanding businesses.

Lynne Hill, CEO, Willows Group

We are delighted to have this opportunity to cement an exciting future for NDSR in what is a rapidly evolving veterinary market. There will be significantly enhanced opportunities going forward for us to develop and grow, enabling NDSR to stay at the forefront of veterinary referrals whilst keeping the provision of the highest levels of patient and client care at the heart of our offering.

Myra Forster-van Hijfte, joint founder, NDSR



Julie Sieger, +44 (0)20 7340 8800 or email: