Concerning email from my small animal vet practice

Tiddlypom

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The small animal practice that I use has just sent out an email to all clients. It's a formerly independent practice which is now part of a regional group of vet practices, not one of the huge nationwide groups. We've used it for 35 years.

Part of the email:-

'The veterinary industry is currently experiencing challenges like never before. We feel that it is right to let you know about this situation so that we can all work together to ensure your pet continues to receive the veterinary care they need.

Pet ownership across the UK has increased by 3.2 million pets during the pandemic, but this coincides with a developing nationwide shortage of Veterinary Surgeons. This is a result of several factors including Brexit, Covid, travel restrictions and new rules governing locum employment now impacting on veterinary practices across the whole of the UK.

Standard services may take longer so routine appointments for boosters etc may be delayed by a few weeks. We anticipate that there will be occasional days when there will not be a vet available at every single branch.'

This is rather worrying. Obviously Covid is a big part of it, but there is more to it than that.
 

Lindylouanne

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My vets are part of a regional group, it seems to be the norm now. On a Sunday the small animal side alternates with a Vets in Chipping Norton although there is always a farm and equine vet available for emergencies 24/7.

I think they are all struggling financially though, our free zone visits now cost £15 and are only free with over x amount of horses being treated.
 

Pearlsasinger

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One of our local vets has frequently employed EU newly qualified vets, in the past. He is a brilliant vet (horses and small animals) but a hopeless businessman and struggled to get emergency/holiday cover several years ago. Goodness knows what he will do now. We use an independent group practice for both large and small animals, purely because they can provide emergency cover.
 

Aru

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This is a worldwide issue and ones that's been coming for a while. Covids just sped things up. There's hours long waits most emergency clinics in the US at the moment and several have closed because they can't get staff. The UK will likely follow soon with the same issue in multiple locations.

Retention is a massive issue in veterinary. A massive amount of vets leave the profession before 5 years qualification and thats been an issue for a very long time. There's plenty of new graduates produced every year but despite making it thorough vet school...the job breaks people. The suicide rate is high. The rate of burnout is rediculous. It's not just the UK...Ireland Australia and the USA have the same issue. The smart ones leave and retrain rather then stay working long hours in a very stressful job for poor pay....and tbh I can see why. It's not always a fun job. It's long hours. The pay isn't very good and hasn't risen all that much for associates despite the "shortages" .working afterhours for no extra pay is pretty common, it's pretty normal to work 9/10 hours without a lunch break. Double booking appointments and adding emergencies to an already fully booked out day is common so you don't get enough time for each case to actually work them up properly. On call work is awful and life consuming not to mention working all night and then working the next day sleep deprived if you've been up all night is seen as the normal. Personally I find small animal work much more stressful large animal....and it's not just the things above though they don't help...it's actually mostly as it's working with people with financial concerns and limitations day in day out. But small animal owners have an emotional bond with their pets,not like farmers who are more likely to be honest and state this is how much we can spend on this animal..do what you can within that and the outcome will be what it will be.
It's finances make medical decisions in Veterinary not medicine. There's plenty more I could do medically for a lot of the animals I see..but their owners either do not have the money or don't want to spend it on the pet....but they all still want good outcomes and because there's an emotional bond there everything is much more changed with high emotions of stress and worry and unfortuantly anger when things don't go well. I don't think people realise what a amazing thing it is to have free and subsidised health care for humans... medical care is insanely expensive and hospitals are expensive to run..even if I didn't pay staff wages and everyone worked for free..the amount off a bill would still only be around 30 percent less in a normal practice. But all you hear is....vets are only in it for the money. It's amazing how many people have 0 issues saying that to your face....when in reality the vet job is to offer choices and options. It's owners who need to decide what they want to spend on the animal. But rant over on that.
Covid just added another layer of stress by increasing the amount of pets and increasing the amount of owners wanting service and highlighting onto a issue that's been eating away at the profession for a very long time. We cannot keep enough experienced vets working in the profession. We keep breaking them and acting like this is an individual issue each time someone kills themselves or decides to quit and retrain or become locum because it's better pay for locum work and you can say set boundaries easier...not a systemic one. And it is systemic...it's the same issues coming up on all the UK, USA and Australian regions.
Corporate practice spreading buying out all the private companies hasn't helped either as they can be challenging to work for and there's no hope of advancement for the associate vets in those clinics...but it's everything together that's created the perfect storm.

But of course rather then fixing or even trying to fix some of the issues that are causing poor retention, burnout and suicide....the only thing being talked about is adding more new grads and vet schools....rather then trying to address why the bucket is leaking and losing so many people who worked v v hard to get into the industry in the first place. It's pretty depressing.

I graduated almost 10 years ago. I would never recommend this job to anyone....and I still like being a vet.. most days. But that's because I was lucky enough to be able to leave the bad jobs and cut my hours when I hit burnout...not everyone is lucky enough to be able to just say f this and make changes like I recklessly do...and this profession eats its young idealists alive.

I worry about what the profession is going to be like in another ten years when we have even more new grads to throw in and there's no incentive for the corporations in particular to try and make the day to day working in practice better.
Guess time will tell.
 

MurphysMinder

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The small animal practice that I use has just sent out an email to all clients. It's a formerly independent practice which is now part of a regional group of vet practices, not one of the huge nationwide groups. We've used it for 35 years.

Part of the email:-

'The veterinary industry is currently experiencing challenges like never before. We feel that it is right to let you know about this situation so that we can all work together to ensure your pet continues to receive the veterinary care they need.

Pet ownership across the UK has increased by 3.2 million pets during the pandemic, but this coincides with a developing nationwide shortage of Veterinary Surgeons. This is a result of several factors including Brexit, Covid, travel restrictions and new rules governing locum employment now impacting on veterinary practices across the whole of the UK.

Standard services may take longer so routine appointments for boosters etc may be delayed by a few weeks. We anticipate that there will be occasional days when there will not be a vet available at every single branch.'

This is rather worrying. Obviously Covid is a big part of it, but there is more to it than that.

You are lucky to have received the email, a friend did too, but despite my being with them for over 30 years haven't received notification yet. I tried to make an appointment on Monday of this week for the next day for a dog I suspected had a grass seed. Earliest they could offer was Wednesday which I took, however he became increasing lame, so I phoned again and managed to be seen on Tuesday, no issues with the care I received.
However, since they were taken over I have become increasingly unhappy with the service, when one of the excellent horse vets left I followed her. As the small animal OOH is now nearly an hour away I registered my new pup with a practice in Nantwich who does own OOH, I have found them excellent and would highly recommend.
I am staying with the original practice as long as the one remaining senior partner is still there, but I am afraid if he leaves then I will be transferring my other animals too.

I know , as Aru says, that vets have a tough life, long hours and not brilliant pay for most , despite people moaning all the time about cost etc. I am happy to pay for good treatment but sadly do feel a little let down by a practice I have had a long connection with.
 

honetpot

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One puzzling thing with the timing of that email is that the practice is actually doing some fairly substantial building work. Personally I'd rather know I could see a vet when I asked, rather than have some fancy all singing, all dancing consulting rooms.
I think they are two entirely separate problems, but not unconnected. The days when a vet operated out of his house, like your local GP are gone. I can remember going to get a flu jab for my horse, which I then gave myself, and saw the vet in his kitchen while he was making a cup of tea.
Most vets practices need space and storage for equipment to comply with regulations and make a good working environment, so someone will want to work there. Covid has the made the need for space even more important.
 

MurphysMinder

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I think they are two entirely separate problems, but not unconnected. The days when a vet operated out of his house, like your local GP are gone. I can remember going to get a flu jab for my horse, which I then gave myself, and saw the vet in his kitchen while he was making a cup of tea.
Most vets practices need space and storage for equipment to comply with regulations and make a good working environment, so someone will want to work there. Covid has the made the need for space even more important.
Yes, wouldn't argue with this, but this was a purpose built practice and it's not that many years ago when a lot of work was done. I suspect some of the work may be due to the fact that they are no longer doing farm or equine work so have more space they can incorporate into the small animal part, but the timing just seems a bit off to me.
 

Tiddlypom

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Are they no longer doing farm or equine, MM? I know there was talk of using Ashbrook for equine referral work.

Whilst I've only used them for the small animals, they had always been very much a properly rooted in the community mixed vet practice.
 

CorvusCorax

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I think they are two entirely separate problems, but not unconnected. The days when a vet operated out of his house, like your local GP are gone. I can remember going to get a flu jab for my horse, which I then gave myself, and saw the vet in his kitchen while he was making a cup of tea.
Most vets practices need space and storage for equipment to comply with regulations and make a good working environment, so someone will want to work there. Covid has the made the need for space even more important.
Yes and no. Mine is in the old house (they have recently built a much-needed extension but it isn't open yet). It's extremely claustrophobic and I go in without them/ask that any work is done with my dogs outside in the car park as it is just too cramped, the reception and waiting area is like a Gary Larson cartoon, with dogs of all shapes and sizes/temperaments and various cats/rabbits in carriers thrown into the mix.
 

MurphysMinder

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Are they no longer doing farm or equine, MM? I know there was talk of using Ashbrook for equine referral work.

Whilst I've only used them for the small animals, they had always been very much a properly rooted in the community mixed vet practice.

Nope, they stopped farm work a while ago. I had a letter last month (they did remember me that time) stating that their equine vets would be based solely at Ashbrook , "due to this you will need to register with an alternative local practice .. .. with effect from 16 July. This also means Ashbrook will no longer be able to provide your out of hours service".

Interestingly the letter, dated 17 June, also states "We would like to reassure you that there will be no alteration to small animal provision from ..." .
 

Umbongo

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As others have stated, this has been a problem for a long time. It is a tough line of work and good vets and nurses have been leaving the profession too soon for a long time. However Brexit has sped it up by preventing a lot of european vets from coming to work, and a lot of european vets who were already in the UK....leaving. Covid has prevented a lot of vets from abroad from working and also a lot of practices are working on skeleton staff due to lots of staff having been off work (self-isolating, living with a compromised family member etc). IR35 changes with HM revenue has meant that it is harder for a lot of locum staff to work too. All in all, it's a bit shite. I won't wade in on the private vs corporate debate as I have worked for both and there are positives and negatives to both.

It's happening all over the world, I am currently in NZ and we are having the same problems.
 
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Landcruiser

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I'm a receptionist at a small animal practice in Wiltshire. We have been trying to recruit 2 full time vets for about 2 years now - we are a 5 vet practice running on 3 vets plus locums, which is incredibly stressful. The supply of EU graduates has stopped, and we are now constantly being asked to do Animal Health Certificates too, for dogs to travel to Europe on holiday. Each one takes an hour, they are massively heavy on paperwork. We are being approached by people from other practices because their own vets won't do them or don't have suitably qualified vets. We have two that are allowed to do them, but have stopped allowing non clients, we are just too stretched. We've recently stopped taking on ANY new clients, for the first time ever. Our vets work a 12 hour day 4 days a week, plus a shorter day on a weekend rota. They are absolutely on their knees. We on reception have people being very rude about how money grabbing we all are, we are only in it for the money. They have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA.
Just to add to our difficulties, we have huge supply issued with some meds, many of which come from the EU. It's an absolute shambles and getting worse with the huge numbers of new puppies and kittens people have taken on recently.
And then of course there are the thousands of vets now needed to do the certification of meat and dairy in and out of the EU. The thousands that DON'T EXIST.
I've done a lot of jobs in my time - bookselling, teaching, farm work, all sorts - but this is the best and the one I still love. Which is why I'm prepared to work damn hard and keep smiling for minimum wage. But it's getting harder and harder, and our clinical staff are crumbling. Tears are commonplace. They are exhausted. It's not sustainable and I don't know what's going to happen long term, but something has to change.
 

Skib

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Did the vet's organisations restrict entry? I am the mother and grandmother of three very bright Oxbridge science students. One is now a consultant surgeon. But when she was at school, the grades needed at A level to do vet medicine were far higher than to be a doctor.
 

ester

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I think mostly we just had limited capacity, when I was applying there were only 6 unis offering (and you could only apply to max. 4) and approx. 100 a year at each intake.
 

smiggy

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We are the only local small animal practice still taking on new clients. We may soon have to stop as have a vet leaving and no one lined up to replace her.
it’s been a long hard slog through COVID.not having clients in the building means appointments have to be longer so less slots per day, more new puppies and kittens and less staff , is a struggle !
 
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