Nearly half of UK veterinary practices report Covid-19 linked fall in turnover

Almost half of UK vets have seen between a quarter and half of their turnover slashed due to Covid-19 restrictions, according to an industry survey.

It’s an improvement, however, on the first report by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on veterinary businesses which saw most practices report at least a 50% drop in sales.

The survey ran between May 1 and 5 and was sent to the 3,139 UK veterinary practices for which the RCVS holds an email address.

In total, it gathered 251 responses (a response rate of 8%) compared to the 532 responses to the initial survey conducted between April 3 and 7 (a response rate of 17%).

Key changes identified in the report included:

  • Fewer practices being affected by veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses having to self-isolate with suspected Covid or Covid-like symptoms. In the April survey, some 30% of respondent practices were affected by this compared to 20% in the May survey.
  • A majority of respondent practices (69%) were seeing a reduced caseload, including some routine work, whilst 26% had limited their caseload to emergencies only.
  • In the April survey, the overwhelming majority of respondent practices (97%) had limited their caseloads to emergency or urgent cases only.

There has been an improvement in practice turnover with the most frequent response from respondents (46%) being that there had been a 25-50% drop in turnover, while just 6% of practices reported a more than 75% reduction in turnover.

In the April survey, 42% of respondents reported a 51-75% fall in turnover, while 24% of respondents reported a fall in turnover of more than 75%.

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS chief executive, said: “This latest survey has identified some positive trends in terms of a slight uptick in business, including turnover, and fewer incidences of staff having to take time off with Covid or Covid-like symptoms.

“I am glad to see that the framework we published in April has, so far as we can see, provided veterinary professionals with greater guidance and reassurance regarding the fact that if it is feasible to do something safely under social distancing guidelines, then they can go ahead, if they choose to.

“We left plenty of scope for veterinary professionals to use their clinical judgement as to what services actually offer, depending on their facilities, level of staffing, availability of protective equipment, local disease pressures and so on.

However, it is also clear that we are, by no means, out of the woods and that veterinary businesses are still struggling financially, with some of them reporting a very acute impact of the coronavirus and the associated restrictions on their businesses.

“We will continue to monitor the situation via these regular surveys, with the next one planned for early June. I would urge as many practices as possible to continue to complete them, so that we can build up a stronger evidence-base on how veterinary businesses have been affected.

“This information is not only vital for our own policy decisions but also allows us to present a stronger case to the Government and other public bodies where we wish to influence the decisions they make that will impact the veterinary professions and businesses.”