The veterinary industry in the UK was hard hit by Brexit, with a lot of overseas vets going back home as soon as they could and Brexit making it harder for them to come back.
Data released by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) reveal that the annual number of registrants coming to work in the UK fell by 68 per cent from 1,132 in 2019 to just 364 in 2021. Covid19 was a big factor, with mountains of backlogged appointments for vets to work through, and restrictions stopping people from accessing the care they need for their pets.
Catherine Macpherson, 43, a vet at Bradford Vets4Pets, expressed how the plight is affecting vet services across the country.
She said: “We had problems with resources and appointments and couldn’t provide the services that the members of the public felt we should, we were already stretched to our limits. We got a lot of backlashes from worried owners.”
Katie Lloyd, a volunteer care coordinator at Bradford Cat Watch Rescue and Sanctuary, said the rise in people buying pets, is pressuring the vet sector. A lot of people went out and bought pets during the pandemic, and now that everything has returned to normal with pet owners back at work and school, owning pets became an inconvenience due to their busy schedules.
Katie advised people to ‘think again’ before buying a pet.
She said: “Owning a pet is a privilege and if you’re considering getting one, you should only get one if you can financially afford it and are willing to take the steps to care for it.” She added taking out insurance is a good way to pay for expenses for those who are struggling to do so.
Many pet owners are struggling during this tough time and Aleeza Yousaf, 20, said the current situation has had an impact on her being able to get an appointment for her cat.
She said: “I had a few health scares with my cat over the last four years and have experienced first-hand how bad the current situation is regarding veterinary clinic and their staff shortages.
“From waiting lists to emergency appointments and just getting basic prescriptions has proved to be difficult, stressful and anxiety-provoking and has often caused anxiety attacks and severe distress for myself and my family members.”
Catherine said: “A lot of people wanted to leave the profession because it was affecting their mental health.”
As a sector that has a poor work-life balance, vets are struggling to acknowledge their efforts and receive the mental health support they need to continue working. According to VetLife, veterinary surgeons in the UK are three to four times more likely than the general population to die by suicide.
Katie showed her support for the sector.
She added: “I think Vets are under immense pressure and unfortunately a lot of get practises are not able to take on new patients because they first and foremost must look after their own health and their existing patients.
“The sector is doing the best they can and now starting to put things in place to make the veterinary industry attractive in recruitment.”
Vets across the UK are evidently working their hardest to ensure quality care for all pets, but with the lack of public and government support, they will continue to be burdened and overworked.