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Perfect Storm

Vets face 'Perfect Storm'

The UK’s biggest vets has warned that vets across the country are facing a ‘perfect storm’ of staff shortages and a huge increase in pet ownership.

The situation has left many veterinary practices at breaking point and has resulted in some pet owners across the country experiencing longer waits for non-urgent treatment.

Since the end of 2019, the UK’s dog and cat population has risen by over a third from 9.5 million dogs to 12.5 million, and from 7.5 million cats to 12.2 million, according to figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association.

Over the same period there has been a significant decline in vets from the EU registering to work in the UK, partly caused by Brexit.  Falling from 60 EU vets registered every month to fewer than 20.

Veterinary staff becoming ill from COVID-19 or being forced to self-isolate has exacerbated the situation. Brexit has also compounded their workload, with small animal and farm animal vets needing to be available to sign off exports, not only of animals, but any products of animal origin. This includes things you might not have thought of such as crisp flavourings and weight loss products.

Emergency vet Dr Laura Playforth, said: “The rise in pet ownership has put unprecedented pressure on vet practices across the UK and there simply aren’t enough vets and vet nurses to meet demand.

“Add to this, the situation around coronavirus and self-isolation and we’re facing the perfect storm.”

Just like in human health, vets and nurses triage cases, meaning life-threatening emergencies are seen first, but a rise in demand for veterinary services brought about by the pandemic puppy boom has resulted in waiting times going up for less urgent cases.

Dr Playforth said: “Most vets are asking pet owners to bear with them as waiting times may be longer than normal. Bring a book, water and some snacks and always bear in mind that if you do have a wait, it generally means your pet is not suffering from anything life-threatening.”

She also urged pet owners to trust their instincts when their pet is unwell and to always seek veterinary help in emergency situations. But she added that the rise of video consultation services has meant people can get peace of mind without having to travel to a practice.

Dr Playforth added: “Unfortunately, there is a global shortage of suitably qualified vets and vet nurses and almost every veterinary business in the UK, Europe and the US is having problems finding additional staff. This isn’t a new issue, but the boom in pet ownership has accentuated it more.  Many people don’t realise just how much stress this increased workload has put on vet practices.”

At Links Vet Group we have been working hard to ensure we weather this industry-wide storm.  We’re using all available resources to ensure our high standards are maintained and despite the increased workload most patients are still being seen within 24 hours; or if non-urgent, then within 48 hours.  With five branches we can offer convenient options for appointments across the county.  We’ve also successfully recruited additional staff to ensure that all our patients are cared for and staff are supported.