Pets overwhelm vets in the UK?

NEWS AND COMMENT: There is a report in The Sunday Times about the coming together of three events which has resulted in vets being overwhelmed in some parts of the country because there are too many pets to deal with.

Pets overwhelm vets in the UK?
Pets overwhelm vets in the UK? Photo: Pixabay.


Brexit

It appears that Brexit - the UK leaving the European Union - has resulted in a smaller number of qualified veterinarians coming over from the continent to practice their veterinary skills in UK clinics. One of the problems is that continental veterinarians who want to practice veterinary medicine in the UK have to pass a language test which apparently is quite difficult. This is restricting the number of immigrant veterinarians into the UK. This in turn is causing a shortage of veterinarians at a time when there has been a surge in the number of pets adopted in the UK.

Covid

Another factor is that a lot of employees are being told to stay in isolation as they have been in contact with a person suffering from Covid-19.

Surge in adoptions

The newspaper tells me that the UK has 3.2 million more pets than 18 months ago due to Covid social isolation but there has not been a similar increase in terms of percentages of veterinarians to treat these companion animals. A senior veterinary surgeon in Scotland said that a lot of their veterinary practices have closed their books and restricted opening hours because of severe staff shortages.

The surge in pet adoptions is remarkable because it represents something in the order of a 30% increase in pet ownership in the UK over a period of about 18 months. My gut feeling is that a lot of these companion animals are going to be relinquished to shelters once there new and sometimes inexpert owners have decided that they can no longer cope on their return to normal office work.

Normally more than 50% of veterinarians registering to practice in the UK each year are qualified in the European Union. However, between January and May 2021 Britain welcomed only 155 EU vets, down from 533 in 2019 (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons).

James Russell, the President of the BVA, said that there is an increasing number of veterinary clinics saying that they are currently unable to take new patients. He remarked that this is very unusual. But he encouraged anyone thinking about adopting a companion animal to be aware of these potential shortages in veterinary care.

The Sunday Times states that the veterinary training schools can produce about 900 vets a year but Charles Hartwell, chief executive of Eville & Jones, a provider of veterinary surgeons, said that the country typically requires about 2,000.


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