The RCVS has published its sixth Covid impact survey, finding that despite continuing lockdown conditions, the situation has been improving in terms of staffing levels and practice cash-flow.

201 practices took part in the survey between 25th February and 4th March 2021. The main findings were:

  • The majority of respondents (58%) had roughly the same number of full-time equivalent staff as in the first quarter of 2020 (before the first lockdown), while 19% said they had fewer, and 23% reported having more.
  • During the period of continued lockdown restrictions, the proportion of practices providing ‘business as usual’ services had remained low, at 16% (compared to 17% in the December practice survey).
  • There was a decline in the provision of a ‘near pre-Covid’ level of service (34%, compared with 63% in December), and an increase in practices providing a ‘reduced caseload’ (31%, compared with 15% in December). 
  • Fewer practices said their cash-flow position had worsened since before the pandemic and was causing concern (13%, compared with 22% in December), and slightly more said their cash-flow had stayed the same (51%, compared with 47% in December) or improved (34%, compared with 30% in December).
  • 51% said school closures had “some impact” on staffing for in-hours emergency and essential care, with a further 7% reporting a “severe impact”. Meanwhile a lower 15% reported some impact on out-of-hours emergency care provision, with only 3% saying there was a severe impact.
  • There was a reduction in the percentage of practices that had staff working reduced hours, from 24% in September and 21% in December, to 15%.
  • The percentage reporting staff pay cuts remained low, at 3%.
  • There was a continued increase in the use of remote consulting among practices (64%, compared with 58% in December, and 50% in September).
  • The type of clients remote consulting was used for remained similar to the last survey, with 47% saying they used it for existing clients only, 52% for both existing and new clients, and only 1% for new clients only.
  • There was an increase in practices reporting issues with obtaining certain medicines (54% compared with 41% in December) and with obtaining pet food (15% compared with 5% in December).

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO, said: “Although this survey took place in the midst of the lockdown and before the schools re-opened, there were some positive results here around staffing and the financial situation for practices. Hopefully this will mean that, as the restrictions ease going from spring into summer, many practices and practice staff will be in a position to return to a near-normal level of service and business.

"There were, however, still a few areas of concern, some of which will hopefully be resolved by the forthcoming easing of restrictions, for example, the difficulty in obtaining independent witnesses for the destruction of controlled drugs, with some 34% of practices reporting difficulties, compared to 20% in December.

“Once again, I would like to thank all those practices who responded to this and previous surveys, and continue to provide invaluable evidence and feedback about the current state of veterinary practice.”

The full results of the survey can be downloaded at: www.rcvs.org.uk/publications


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