vet shortage


There is a shortage of vets

I’m struggling.

Every visit I go on, every training class I take or attend, every dog event I go to I am hearing the same thing. Pet owners can’t get an appointment with their vet. It sucks.

It sucks to call up to book your dog’s vaccination in only to be told they can’t book a routine appointment until December. It sucks to call up hoping to book a consultation on Friday afternoon when you finish early for something that isn’t life threatening, but is worrying you only to be told you will have to ring at 8.30 on the morning to see if there is space. It sucks to have to drive to a clinic 20 miles away in an Emergency because your local emergency clinic has shut down. It sucks to be the receptionist telling you this stuff too.

So what’s going on?

Brexit? Brexit carries some blame. Some of our European vets went home and it has become more expensive to employ a European vet now.

Covid? Another possible factor. Some vets from Europe and further afield went home when they realised that at any point they could be trapped in the UK, unable to get home to visit family. Long covid has also forced some vets out of the job, and still others struggle to work full time.

The job? Some older vets are retiring because they feel left behind by new drugs and new technology, some just deserve a break after 40 odd years in practice. Young vets aren’t finding the job fits their expectations; some find the routine work of a GP vet unfulfilling, others are so scared of complaints that they won’t push themselves to try new surgeries or to treat more complex medical cases. The job should be less stressful than it was when I graduated over 20 years ago… most small animal clinics have less or no out of hours and there is a huge network of referral centres for the complicated stuff. And yet… clients expect more and more and a blame culture has crept in which has us all on edge.

Big bad corporates? Full disclosure; I work for one part time and have worked for others in the past. Maybe in some the focus is on vets making money for shareholders, but that hasn’t been my experience. These companies buy practices because nobody else will. They buy them because they are a safe investment and they accept that they are high turnover, yet low profit businesses.

Money? Vets are well paid, right? Yes and no. If you have a 15minute consultation and get a bill for £100 how much do you think the vet gets? About £5. Vet practices are expensive to run so a surprisingly small percentage of your bill goes to the vet. It isn’t a badly paid job, but there are easier ways to make a living!

More pets? I don’t know if there are more pets now than a few years ago. Certainly we were warned that pet ownership was in decline and vets would need to find ways to keep clients! Covid might have changed that with people getting dogs and cats instead of going on holidays. A concern is that we might not be seeing all these new pets to advise their owners on good healthcare and this may be storing up a problem for the future.

What’s going to happen?

Sadly being a holistic vet doesn’t give me the power to see the future. We can’t whip up new vets fast, and applications to the vet schools are dropping. Paying veterinary staff more might keep some people in their jobs, but that would mean rising prices for pet owners at a time when their living costs (and the cost of running a veterinary practice!) are climbing fast. And if the job is too stressful no amount of money makes it worth staying.

How can I help my vet?

Plan ahead for routine appointments like vaccinations and medication reviews. Allow at least 2 working days when putting in a repeat prescription request. Keep up your pet’s preventative healthcare. And try to be kind, even when we can’t give you the appointment you hoped for. We are doing our best.