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UK vets coping well with global pandemic
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By Josh Loeb

Vets in the UK feel better prepared for the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic than their counterparts in other European countries, a survey of practices across seven countries suggests.

The survey, carried out this week by market researchers CM Research, gathered data from more than 1000 veterinary practices across seven countries worldwide (UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, USA, Australia) to compare the situation across them.

UK practices had the highest level of contingency planning in place to prepare staff for the impacts of the pandemic

Of the five European countries that were part of the survey, UK practices had the highest level of contingency planning in place to prepare staff for the impacts of the pandemic, and had done the most planning to prepare for any medicines shortages.

Practices in the UK also have more policies in place around cleaning and disinfecting the workplace than in any of the other European countries.

In addition, of the five European countries, clients in the UK were found to be the least likely to limit their pets’ outdoor access as a result of the pandemic.

However, the UK was lowest in Europe for the following measures:

• Practices asking owners to telephone first to assess the real need to come in.

• Wearing protective clothing (eg, face masks) during regular consultations.

• Limiting the number of clients and pets allowed into the practice each day.

The survey also revealed that relatively high numbers of veterinary staff in the UK – the highest of all seven countries surveyed – have been asking what will happen to their pay if their practice closes.

UK vets appear to be finding it harder to source cleaning supplies, with 60 per cent of practices – the highest proportion in Europe – reporting that they are finding it more difficult to get hold of cleaning products.

By a slim majority, most practices in the UK reported no change to the number of clients that are visiting. However, 48 per cent of UK practices reported lower footfall over the survey period (13–17 March). In terms of revenue, 60 per cent have seen no change, but 40 per cent said takings have been lower than usual. However, in a possible sign of things to come, in Italy – currently the worst affected country in Europe – 93 per cent of vet practices reported their takings were down.

Of the seven countries surveyed, the UK came second (with 31 per cent, after Spain’s 40 per cent) in terms of the proportion of practices that said they were stocking up on medicines. However, by contrast, only 12 per cent of UK practices said they were stocking up on pet food – as compared with 32 per cent in France, 14 per cent in Germany and 51 per cent in Spain. In Italy, the figure for food stockpiling is, paradoxically, lowest, at 9 per cent.

Client requests for testing pets for coronavirus is highest in Germany (8 per cent). In the UK, it is 1 per cent, while in Italy it is 0 per cent.

Survey data indicate that, so far, no practices in the UK have closed, even temporarily, and staff are only very rarely refusing to treat non-emergency cases. In Italy, the majority of practices (70 per cent) are now limiting themselves to emergency cases only.

UK vets are generally satisfied with the official advice from the government, but a sizable majority expect rationing of essential veterinary products to become necessary.

Eighteen per cent of UK practices currently have at least some staff absent owing to the coronavirus, but practices generally do not anticipate that staff shortages will cause problems in meeting demand, since they anticipate significantly reduced demand for veterinary services over the course of the outbreak.

Three per cent of UK practices say practice closures would force them to seek access to extended credit or emergency funds. This is low compared to other countries.

The survey will be repeated every two to three weeks for as long as the outbreak continues, to try to track trends in the veterinary sector.

BVA president Daniella Dos Santos issued an update for the profession this week in which she called for practices to ‘now put social distancing measures in place, such as asking clients to wait in the car park rather than the waiting room, triaging as much as possible via the telephone, considering alternate rota models and whether it is appropriate to continue seeing routine consultations’.

The full update can be found at https://bit.ly/2x2CdKb

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