Dr David West is the Founder and Medical Director of Veincentre, the UK’s first nationwide, doctor-led business which focuses solely on the safe and effective removal of varicose veins—a condition affecting one in three adults around the world.
The company was founded in 2003 by Dr West and his wife Deborah, who runs the day-to-day administration.
Originally based in their family home in Ashley, Shropshire, Veincentre now operates a network of clinics across the UK, including Stoke on Trent (its HQ), London, Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, and Oxford.
Dr West told us about the condition, the revolutionary procedure they offer, and the future of varicose vein treatment.
What inspired the foundation of Veincentre given its specific area of work?
We spotted a gap in the market for a business offering the latest treatment at affordable prices, using pioneering techniques that avoid having to ‘strip’ veins, which can lead to lengthy recovery times. As a result, our patients can even have their veins treated in their lunch-hour.
It was a big risk for me to leave my job as a consultant interventional radiologist in the NHS, including resistance from NHS colleagues, which made (and still makes) establishing a medical business so challenging in UK.
However, the risk has paid off. Latest accounts show that last year turnover reached £4 million—a rise of 18% on the previous year—and patient numbers have risen by 25% over the same period.
I believe the success and fast growth of the business can also be attributed to a happy and committed workforce, and ensuring patients receive a high-quality, efficient service. The majority of the company profits are pumped straight back into the business and are funding ambitious plans for further growth.
What are varicose veins and what are the benefits of removing them?
Varicose veins are swollen, enlarged, bulging blue veins most commonly found on the legs and ankles. They are caused by failure of the small valves in the veins that normally ensure blood flows in one direction from the heart to the feet. They can be hereditary and affect anyone, although experts believe that women, older people and those who are overweight or pregnant are more likely to develop varicose veins.
Patients often seek treatment for cosmetic reasons, but many also look for relief because varicose veins can cause the legs to feel itchy, painful and heavy. In more serious cases, they can also lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or develop leg ulcers which can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
Following treatment, patients usually find these problems—which they perhaps didn’t attribute to their varicose veins—disappear.
More than 15 million adults across the UK will at some stage suffer from varicose veins, but, apart from critical cases, the NHS does not remove them, meaning the majority of patients opt for private procedures. However, these treatments can often be very expensive with no cap on what patients are charged by some private clinics. If left untreated they can cause a host of painful medical problems and permanent skin damage.
What is the technology used to perform these procedures? What room do you see for improvements in the future?
Traditional varicose vein surgery consists of ‘stripping’ the vein out of the body using a hooked needle, which is not only painful, but also requires general anaesthetic and has a higher chance of complications and a high recurrence rate.
Instead, I and my colleagues at Veincentre focus on non-surgical, minimal invasive treatment of varicose veins, such as ‘Laser Endovenous Therapy’ (EVLA).
This varicose vein laser treatment works by finding the source of the affected vein and killing off the cause – meaning that the treatment is more likely to be effective and long-lasting. The techniques used leave no scars and, in most cases, recovery is quick and most patients find that they can go back to leading a normal life within 24 hours.
A new Veincentre headquarters opened in Stoke-on-Trent last year boasting two state-of-the-art outpatient operating theatres and the very latest in diagnostic and laser treatment equipment.
Over the last decade, I and my team of 15 specialist consultants have completed more than 30,000 procedures and Veincentre has been Private Healthcare UK Patient’s Choice winner for the last 5 years. According to a report published by Private Healthcare UK, Veincentre was named as the most competitively priced clinic in the UK for varicose vein removal treatment in 2017.