Almost 30% of veterinary practice owners are considering selling up in the next 12 months, new research has found.
The staffing crisis faced by the sector is a key driver of this, according to the results of HLB Ireland’s sixth annual report on veterinary practices in Ireland.
Two-thirds of vets said they had to increase salaries by more than 5% in the last 12 months in order to attract or hold on to employees.
Another 60% said they will need to hire additional people in the next 12 months.
24-hour cover is a huge burden on remote rural vets
One-hundred vets took part in the survey, which took place during December 2022 and January 2023.
It looked at nine vets from large animal practices, 48 vets from mixed animal, 40 from small animal and three from equine practices.
Out of hours
Smaller practice owners have highlighted the difficulty of attracting young people to work in situations where they are required to be available for extensive out-of-hours cover.
“24-hour cover is a huge burden on remote rural vets and getting worse,” commented one survey respondent.
"Having to do an unreasonable amount of out of hours makes work-life balance practically non-existent,” said another.
Over 70% of the respondents said they work more than 40 hours a week and almost one quarter work more than 60 hours a week.
Practice owners are putting in the longest hours in an effort to retain staff by limiting the requirement for employees to be available for on-call duty, according to the findings.
Overall, 64% of this year’s respondents want to achieve a better work-life balance.
Despite their heavy workloads, 88% of survey respondents are broadly satisfied with their job and 65% would recommend veterinary medicine as a career.
Proposed vet college
When asked for their views on the proposed second veterinary college, 82% of respondents who answered favour the proposal and most (67%) also believe that the current structure of educating vets in Ireland can be improved, with many suggesting the need for a stronger focus on practical experience and business skills.
Of the 94 vets who responded to how much they are earning, the majority said they are on salaries lower than €50,000.
Some 42 are earning under €50,000, 17 are earning between €75,000 and €99,000, while the remaining 35 are earning over €100,000.
Managing partner at HLB Ireland Mark Butler said: "This year’s findings once again highlight the staffing crisis in the veterinary sector. Scarcity of candidates is making recruitment difficult.
"There is growing consensus about the need for more training places and strong support for the proposed second veterinary college," he said.