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RCVS publishes survey results on impact of pandemic on veterinary businesses

17 April 2020

Cover image of the RCVS COVID survey conducted with veterinary practices in April 2020 More than 500 veterinary practices have responded to a survey sent by the RCVS to UK veterinary practices with the aim of gauging the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the associated government restrictions on veterinary businesses.

View the Survey Report

The survey was sent to a total of 3,096 UK veterinary practices for whom the RCVS had a unique email address on Friday 3 April. The survey closed on Tuesday 7 April having received 532 responses – a response rate of 17%.

Lizzie Lockett, our Chief Executive (pictured below right), commented: “I would like to thank all those practices who took the time in what is already a very fraught situation to respond to our survey and provide the evidence we need to gain a holistic picture of coronavirus’ impact on the business and economics of veterinary practices. We plan to continue running these surveys on a regular basis in order to gauge impact over time and the findings will feed into our policy and decision-making.

“This ongoing research will also be a vital tool when we are talking to Government and other bodies about the impact of policy on the veterinary sector. On this note, we are aware of the challenges of a minimum furlough period of three weeks given the need for practices to take steps to offer 24/7 emergency and critical care, and have written to government on this with some case studies around the impact this is having.

“To those on the ground it won’t come as too much of a surprise that the impact of the coronavirus has been profound in areas such as practice turnover and staffing, with many vets, veterinary nurses and other support staff being furloughed with the aim of signing them up to the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Lizzie Lockett

“There are some bright spots in the data we’ve gathered – very few practices reported that they had made or were planning to make staff redundant, and many practices reported mitigating the challenge of social distancing by carrying out consultations with new and existing clients remotely.

“Since the survey took place we have also taken steps to meet some of the requests for greater clarity and guidance from the RCVS with the publication of our flowchart helping practices to decide what treatments it is appropriate to carry out safely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Among some of the key findings of the survey were:

  • Around 30% of practices reported being impacted by veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses self-isolating/or with Covid-19, whilst almost 35% have ‘other support staff’ self-isolating;
  • 66% of practices reported their weekly turnover being reduced by more than half;
  • 97% of practices reported limiting the service they provide to emergencies or emergencies and urgent cases (in accordance with RCVS guidance at the time);
  • The majority (71%) of premises remained open but 5% of respondents had closed their main premises and 24% had closed branch premises;
  • 62% of respondents had furloughed or intended to furlough veterinary surgeons, compared to 64% for veterinary nurses and 78% for other support staff;
  • Only 6% of respondents had made, or had immediate plans to make staff redundant;
  • All respondents answering the relevant question (n=451) reported that their practice was using remote consulting for existing clients/animals, whilst 45% were using it for new clients/animals;
  • 14% of respondents said they had donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the National Health Service for use by those tackling the pandemic on the frontline;
  • Three-quarters of those who responded to the survey answered a question on how the RCVS could better support veterinary practices through the crisis. The most frequent response (27%) was that the RCVS needed to provide clearer guidance, in particular as to what services it was permissible for veterinary practices to provide [the College published its updated guidance and flowchart on 9 April]. Of those who responded to the question, 15% felt that the RCVS was doing a good job or that there was nothing more it should do, while just 2% of responses that expressed negative sentiment towards the RCVS.

The survey results can be read in full on our Publications webpage. The next practice impact survey is planned for early May.


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