Over the last two months, we have heard from a school-leaver and a vet student about what they expect and want from the profession; their responses seemed quite reasonable and should be met by a career in practice. So why are there so few vets available for employment? Where are all the vets? This question has been brought into sharp focus for me and some colleagues in other practices as we have been recruiting for new vets. SPVS have also recently released a survey on this subject. There have been many proposed factors.
Let’s get it over with – the Brexit effect. Whether we are in or out of the EU will not ultimately affect who we can employ, as long as they are RCVS-registered and no resident vet can be found for the job. Being in the EU or out of it is not so much of a problem, but what is a huge problem is the massive levels of uncertainty about it all. EU citizens will be much less likely to take the risk of moving until it is all sorted. Couple that with the drop in the
Whether we are in or out of the EU will not ultimately affect who we can employ, as long as they are RCVS-registered and no resident vet can be found for the job
exchange rate, and for the next few years we will be seeing a big reduction in EU nationals willing to move in.
What about the UK’s traditional source of vets when things get tight – i.e. the Aussies and Kiwis? I imagine the exchange rate will be a factor. I received this message from a locum agency in New Zealand:
“…afraid same predicament over here… just screaming out for vets and not the usual influx from overseas anymore sadly… It is a bit of a mystery where all the vets are as they still seem to be churning out of the universities, but I have been desperately short all year! If by some strange chance I do hear of anybody, I will be sure to get back in touch.”
So, the lack of vets is not just a UK problem. But how bad is it out there trying to recruit? Here are a few figures and quotes from the SPVS 2017 recruitment survey:
- Half of the businesses responding did not have a full complement of veterinary surgeons
- 28% of these reported a severe effect on their ability to cover out-of-hours (OOH) work
- 62% of applicants had come from outside the UK
- 22% of respondents had found it easy to recruit a suitable applicant
- Approximately 5% of businesses had received no applications at all for advertised posts
- 31% had failed to recruit a suitable candidate at the time of responding
- An unwillingness to do OOH work was the commonest reason for candidates rejecting an offer
Where are all the vets?
Please send your answers to email@example.com, but in the meantime here is a list of possible factors. Brexit is keeping some away as discussed. Increasing part-time work is diluting the productivity of the overall workforce. Large numbers of vets are leaving the profession at a young age. There are also more practices around in the cities due to OOH providers allowing small practices to exist and corporates setting up new practices at a fast rate. More smaller practices serving the same client base means further dilution of the workforce.
Looking forward to the new year and beyond, I think an employment crisis is on its way, and for the practices from the SPVS survey who can’t find a vet, it’s already here. It is coming to rural practices who do their own OOH and it is coming to the big corporates – approximately 70% of the UK vets applying for our practice’s job were corporate practice employees trying to escape corporate employment. It is coming ultimately to pet owners too, as the laws of supply and demand will push salaries up, which will inflate fees. Looks like it’s coming to the insurers too then. Hold on to your hats people, it’s going to be a rough few years out there. Or more importantly, hold on to your vets.