UK Experiencing Vet Shortage and Recruitment Crisis

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Several sectors in the UK are currently struggling to recruit enough employees, and that includes the vet industry. In this blog, we take a look at why there is a vet shortage and what can be done to tackle the recruitment crisis.

Why is there a vet shortage in the UK?

Demand is outstripping supply 

The number of pet owners in the UK increased significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with many people in lockdown deciding it was a good time to acquire a new furry friend. With more and more people owning animals, the demand is higher for treatment, but there are not enough vets to meet the demand. This means that many vets are currently overworked and many practices oversubscribed and having to turn clients away.

People are leaving the profession 

Indeed, coronavirus has made working life more stressful for vets, which has meant that some have decided to leave the profession for other jobs or to take some time out.

It is no secret that being a vet is a highly demanding job, and some are choosing to leave for various reasons, amplified by the pandemic, including stress, pay and wellbeing.

Brexit is also having an impact on recruitment 

Typically, if there were shortfalls in vet recruitment in the UK, the positions would be filled by those from the EU arriving to work in Britain. However, Brexit has meant that these numbers have fallen significantly.

As reported in the media, the number of new EU vets being registered to work in the UK is down to as little as 20 individuals per month. In previous years this figure would have been closer to 80 or 100.

This is in part due to an English language requirement set by the RCVS – while most vets meet the technical standards, they do not always have the language requirements and, post-Brexit, they cannot arrive to work here freely.

Vets required for EU exports

There is also the fact that exports of animal-based food products required inspection and certification from a vet after 1 October. Now that the UK has left the EU, strict border controls require many products to have Export Health Certificates signed by a qualified vet in order to reach shelves.

This means that many vets will be directed away from the typical job in the practice as they will be needed elsewhere.

What can be done to tackle the recruitment crisis?

It is hard to outline precise solutions to the recruitment crisis when there are a multitude of factors that are causing it and there is no quick fix. However, it is clear that we need more vets working in practices in order to meet demand.

With the absence of vets arriving from EU countries to work in the UK, there is a need to boost the numbers of UK vet graduates, so encouraging as many people as possible to study veterinary medicine will be key. 

More focus also needs to be placed on retaining talented veterinary staff. It could be possible to introduce new incentives for the sector to give vets a reason to stay. Prioritising mental health and wellbeing in a stressful job with long hours is hard but will be necessary to tackle the UK’s vet shortage.

SynergyVets is working to aid recruitment in the veterinary industry by providing detailed and up-to-date job listings for candidates and helping practices find staff. For more information, you are welcome to get in touch with us.