Vets face ‘crisis’ with staff shortages and surge in pet ownership

Archie, like many other dogs, has become an important companion during the pandemic.

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There is a ‘crisis’ for vets as they face staff shortages at the same time as the number of Scots owning pets has surged.

A routine check up has been more difficult to organise with veterinary practices across the country facing mounting pressure.

Lara Wilson, who works at Vets Now in Glasgow, told STV News: “What that means on a day-to-day basis is the veterinary team – so our nurses, our vets, our receptionists – are essentially having to deal with 150% more cases than we had before.

“What people are used to, just being able to book an appointment with the vet, coming in and being seen straight away, is that we’re seeing quite long waiting times which in some occasions can be up to four or six hours.”

Brexit has impacted the number of vets coming from the EU to work in the UK and, since the end of 2019, dog and cat ownership has increased by almost 50%.

A dog walker told STV News: “I haven’t noticed any issues in getting appointments or anything like that. But it’s actually very difficult having to then do consults by telephone.”

Another said: “Heard other people saying, you know, like if an emergency has come in, they’ve had to wait maybe for an hour, hour and a half. I mean obviously if a dog is injured or whatever you understand that. But you know I think it was just one vet that was working at a time as opposed to maybe two or three.”

There are currently two veterinary schools in Scotland, both are over-subscribed but the University of Edinburgh said the number of applicants has been decreasing in recent years.

Professor David Argyle, of the University of Edinburgh Dick Vet School, said: “It’s a great profession but it’s a challenging profession so we have to make sure that we’ve got appropriate structures in place when people graduate and they go into practice or they go into the various other arms of the profession, that they have a really fulfilling career and they’re valued and they have the right remuneration for that as well.”

Even increasing vet school capacity won’t sort the short-term staffing crisis. Vets are asking owners to use video consultations in non-emergency situations.