Concern for vet workforce prompts pragmatic approach from regulator

The Veterinary Council of New Zealand (VCNZ) has clarified how it will manage a number of issues related to the country’s shortage of veterinarians. It is also encouraging vets to keep a close eye on their wellbeing, as the shortage puts increasing pressure on them and other veterinary professionals.

VCNZ CEO and Registrar Iain McLachlan says the Council’s response, which is detailed in a recently released statement to all veterinary practices, reflects a pragmatic approach to the current situation.

“We have tackled issues such as professional development and requirements for after hours services, to assist veterinary teams to adopt new ways of working and look after their own safety and wellbeing, as well as that of their patients and clients,” he says.

“We are also launching a campaign to let the public know that while vets may be working differently, high standards of care are being maintained. VCNZ acknowledges that at the moment many people will be finding it harder to book their animals for the likes of routine checks but this is generally because vet teams are prioritising animals that need urgent care. A little patience and understanding will go a long way at the moment.”

In its statement to veterinary businesses last week, the Council highlighted key steps it would take in response to the shortage. These included being open to reasonable requests for temporary relief from 24-7 emergency service provision; recognising that not all professional development will be completed during the shortage; and that its Complaints Assessment Committees and Notification Review Group will take the vet shortage and pandemic into account when considering complaints and concerns.

In the last week, new wellbeing information, including multiple avenues for obtaining support, has also been added to the VCNZ website,

The Council is encouraging veterinary practices to contact them if they want to reduce services, and in its official statement, highlighted several aspects of the Code of Professional Conduct that are commonly misunderstood.

“For example, in less stressful times, a lot of vets have taken the approach that they respond to any emergency call but under the Code they are only required to respond to calls from their own clients. Non-clients can be referred to their normal vet,” Iain says.

“It can be a hard decision to make but when workloads are high, it is important that people understand their obligations and the load is shared. The public also needs to be aware that any changes they see are designed to make veterinary care safer and more sustainable for everyone, particularly their animals.”

As always, if anyone is concerned about the care their animal has received, they should first discuss it with their vet, and if they are not satisfied get in touch with the Veterinary Council.