Bleak future for vets unless young vet exodus is halted

Vets face bleak future unless young vet exodus is halted

10 June 2016

The reasons why almost half the vets regularly think of leaving the profession – with nearly 10 per cent of young vets planning to leave as soon as possible - will be explored at the inaugural professional conference of the British Veterinary Union (BVU) in Unite on Saturday 18 June. 

The union is trying to dispel the cuddly image of a vet’s life as portrayed by 1970s television version of James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small, starring Peter Davison.

Stress and long working hours have been pinpointed as major factors which delegates will discuss at the conference being held at Unite’s headquarters at 128 Theobald's Road, Holborn, London, WC1X 8TN.

A recent survey by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) shows that 90 per cent of UK veterinary professionals consider their work life to be stressful, with the average working week of between 52-73 hours. 

With a 3.7 per cent drop in salary for new graduates and reports of a disparity between career expectations and the reality, increasing numbers of veterinary professionals are considering leaving the profession altogether. 

This could lead to shortages of talented young people joining the profession in the future.

BVU in Unite chair, Dr Shams Mir said: “We want to get away from the cuddly image portrayed in the television series All Creatures Great and Small – a dreamlike idyll that definitely does not exist in 2016.

“This inaugural conference will explore strategies to combat the increasing pressures in the profession. It will urge veterinary employers to address the issue of long working hours and to improve the working conditions for veterinary professionals.

“We believe that being a professional section of Unite, the country’s largest union, will guarantee that the concerns of vets receive a stronger voice when putting our case to employers.” 

Dr David Bartram, an expert in veterinary professional well-being, will be one of the key speakers at the conference.


Notes to editors:

Members of the veterinary press are cordially invited to attend this conference and should contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940.  Email:

Conference programme and registration, please visit the BVU website


  • Veterinary Record 2010;166:388-397 doi:10.1136/vr.b4794 
  • Veterinary surgeons and suicide: a structured review of possible influences on increased risk
  • D. J. Bartram, BVetMed, DipM, MCIM, CDipAF, FRCVS and 
  • D. S. Baldwin, MB, BS, DM, FRCPsych
  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.