Vet practices managing triple whammy of Brexit, Covid and pet boom

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is asking people to think long and hard before taking on a new pet as veterinary practices across the country struggle with staff shortages and high demand for services.

Many practices are reporting being overwhelmed by new registrations and, in order to look after their existing patients, some practices are having to close their books to new clients.

The BVA has been warning of potential veterinary shortages associated with the ending of freedom of movement when the UK left the EU.

Information from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) – the veterinary regulator – confirms that registrations of vets from overseas has dropped dramatically. Between January and May 2021 the UK welcomed just 155 vets from the EU. This compares to 533 in the same period in 2019.

Like other sectors, veterinary teams are also dealing with shortages due to Covid-19 with vets, nurses and other staff needing to self-isolate.

All of this is happening at the same time as the UK has seen a surge in new pet ownership. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA), 3.2 million UK households acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic.

Last month the BVA reported an increase in veterinary teams experiencing intimidation from clients during the pandemic, as frustrations spilled over into veterinary waiting rooms.

More than six in 10 vets in small animal practice reported feeling intimidated by clients’ language or behaviour over the past year.

‘The veterinary profession is already exhausted’

BVA president James Russell said:

“Like many sectors emerging from the pandemic, the veterinary profession is already exhausted.

We’re facing the triple whammy of Brexit, Covid, and the boom in pet ownership putting unprecedented pressure on veterinary services across the country.

“Unfortunately, some vet practices have had to close their books to new registrations as they simply don’t have the staff or space to provide care for more animals.

“No one wants to turn away new clients, but vets must prioritise the animals currently under their care.

“This means access to routine healthcare may have to be delayed and owners may find they need to travel further than usual to access care. But vets will always be there in an emergency to provide pain relief and emergency care.

We know how worrying it is when your pet is unwell, but we’re appealing to owners to respect the vet’s judgement on what constitutes an emergency.

“There’s no quick fix to find additional capacity so we’re asking people to think long and hard before they take on a new pet to make sure they can meet all of its needs, including access to veterinary care.”