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The impact of COVID-19 on the Veterinary Industry

The impact on COVID-19 has brought a lot of changes to the Veterinary Industry by creating challenges in how practices operate daily, perform treatments, deal with emergencies, and adhere to social distancing measures. Unfortunately, the impact of COVID-19 also led to a huge change in the veterinary recruitment market.

Before COVID- 19 in the Veterinary Market there were more jobs available in comparison to the number of Vets and Nurses available to fill them. So much so before COVID-19 the BVA managed to get Vets on the Shortage Occupation list.Covid-19 hit and suddenly locum contracts were cancelled leaving an abundance of Veterinary Surgeons and Nurses desperately seeking work along with a large amount of permanent Veterinary Staff within a practice becoming furloughed. The recruitment of newly graduated veterinary surgeons along with new permanent Veterinary staff halted. COVID had a huge impact on the industry not only from the employment aspect but also on mental health and wellbeing.

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Permanent Veterinary staff, locums, the self-employed and new graduates were suddenly and unexpectedly faced with financial difficulty, stress, fearing for their health, worrying about finding work along with self-isolating and all the implications of adhering to government guidelines on COVID-19. Practices began to shut down and operate on an emergency only basis leaving recruitment requirements for staff in an unprecedented change of balance. The percentage of candidates looking for work increased, and the demand of veterinary jobs decreased. Similarly, the amount of permanent staff becoming furloughed increased along with the percentage of locum contracts being cancelled.

Results from the RCVS Survey 21st – 5thMay reported that:

  • “The majority (66%) of respondents currently had furloughed or intended to furlough veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses”
  • “Similarly, to the first survey, 56% reported using locums (53% in the first survey), of these, 84% had decreased their use (83% in the first survey)”.
  • The CM which is a research agency focusing on the veterinary and companion animal sector conducted a survey on the impact of COVID -19 and it showed that
  • “more than a third of the vets surveyed across both independent and corporate UK practices reporting either job loss or loss of income”.
  • “A total of 4% of practices have closed completely due to the virus, while almost a quarter have laid off staff with full pay (23%) and 7% have been forced to lay people off with nothing”
  • The full Corona Virus tracker study on the impact within the Veterinary Industry can be found on https://www.cm-research.com/

Practices themselves have experienced changes in the volume and type of work carried out.The university has published a series of reports since April on the trends emerging through the pandemic.

  • Compared to 2019, there has been a large decrease in the number of consultations being carried out, particularly throughout the enhanced social distancing phases. After an initial decrease, vaccinations had started to increase again by May, particularly for dogs.
  • By July, consultation volumes are steadily returning to average 2019 levels, however by September this return slows down during early signs of a second wave of COVID-19 infections.
  • The full reports can be found here: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/savsnet/covid-19-veterinary-practice-uk/

The everchanging demands faced by veterinary practices throughout the pandemic have made planning for the near or distant future extremely challenging. Recruitment is usually closely and positively correlated to practice turnover which is a direct product of demand for their services, thus creating an almost impossible task of planning for the unknown given the uncertainty surrounding Covid restrictions, social distancing measures and timescales for these.

In the wake of the country's initial lockdown there was also uncertainty as to whether Veterinary Professionals would be classified as “key workers”. Please see the RCVS website for further information: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/faqs/are-veterinary-surgeons-classed-as-key-workers-under-the/

Emergency Vets, and veterinary professionals working in relation to food production seemed to have been allowed to continue working, there is a grey area when it comes to veterinary surgeons working in clinical practice, and Registered Veterinary Nurses were not considered to be “key workers”.

Again, this lack of clarity has made staffing decisions extremely difficult; who can keep working? Who should be furloughed?

Thankfully it does not look like we will see another forced closure of businesses in England, however the situation is still tenuous. Consumer confidence and uncertainty of market conditions are huge contributing factors to the health and strength of the national economy, therefore we can only hope that planning is underway to ensure a successful return across all sectors.

Vet Seekers can offer a flexible approach to staffing, by being able to source candidates for either permanent or locum engagements. If we may be able to support your practice in the coming months please don't hesitate to get in touch with our team.

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