The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has published the results of its fifth coronavirus survey which was conducted with veterinary practices towards the end of the England-wide lockdown in November 2020.
The survey was sent to all UK veterinary practices on Wednesday 25 November with a deadline to respond on Tuesday 1 December and received 186 responses, a response rate of 6% which is roughly in-line with response rates for the past three surveys.
Significant findings from this survey include:
· A fall in the number of veterinary practices reporting their situation being ‘business as usual’ to 17%, compared to 28% in the most recent previous survey conducted in September.
· An increase in the percentage of practices with at least some staff working remotely, with 37% of respondents saying yes to this question, compared to a notably lower 26% in September; the main reason was because of current restrictions. There had been a small increase in respondents reporting that their practice was using remote consulting, from 50% to 58%, although this was still notably lower than in June, when it stood at 80%.
· Although just 6% of practices reported they had veterinary surgeons currently furloughed, compared to 10% in September and 47% in June, there had been a notable increase since September in the percentage of respondents reporting adverse impacts from furloughing. In particular, 75% reported increased stress or impact on the mental health of teams continuing to work, notably higher than in September (56%) and almost as high as in June (79%). In total, eight of the ten adverse impacts have increased since September, and the percentage of respondents reporting no or minimal issues, at 14%, was notably lower than in September (26%) and only slightly higher than in June (12%).
· Although some practices were still experiencing difficulties in obtaining certain sorts of supplies, those reporting no issue had increased notably to 34%, compared to 13% in September.
· Of the 20% of respondents who said they were experiencing difficulty in obtaining an independent witness to attest to controlled drugs destruction during the pandemic, more than half (56%) had controlled drugs overdue for destruction for six months or more.
Speaking of the results Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO, commented: “Thank you once again to all the practice staff who took the time to complete this survey, it really is very useful for us to have a clear picture of how coronavirus and its restrictions are affecting day-to-day activities, as it has an impact both on our decision-making and policies, and what we can tell others about the impact on the professions, such as the UK and national governments.
“The overall picture from this survey is that, while for most it is not business as usual, veterinary practices and members of the professions are, to an extent, getting used to the disruption and have plans and policies in place to help mitigate the impact of the mosaic of different restrictions across the UK. While there is hope on the horizon with the start of the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines, we will continue to review and keep up-to-date our advice and guidance to ensure that you can practise to the best of your abilities, while keeping safe and within the rules.
“Of course, we also recognise the toll that the pandemic has taken on many people’s mental health and wellbeing, and this is reflected in some of the more concerning statistics around the impact that staff absences can have on the rest of the team. We also asked practices what might help them manage from a staff mental health and wellbeing point of view, and will take these suggestions into account when planning further support via our Mind Matters Initiative mental health project. In the meantime, we would like to remind those who are feeling stressed or are in distress that there are sources of help available during these difficult times – these can be found at www.vetmindmatters.org/help-links/help-during-covid-19/.”
The full report of the survey is available to view at www.rcvs.org.uk/publications