The topic of veterinary numbers has created much discussion recently in Australia along with the United Kingdom and United States. The standard gauge of supply and demand is price or wages. Increasing numbers of veterinarians also lead to increasing numbers of veterinary clinics and house call businesses which causes declines in business incomes. Other professions such as dentists and medical practitioners have suggested that oversupply of practitioners leads to decreasing standards of care. So supply and demand is an issue that all veterinarians should be concerned about due to potential lower standards of animal welfare.
Ian Neville [in the December 2013 issue of The Veterinarian] focused mainly on the production of graduates, which is one source of veterinarians. However over the last few years according to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons more than 40 per cent of new registrants in the United Kingdom are from other countries, primarily the European Union. In 2011 the United Kingdom removed veterinarians from their skilled immigration list due to declining employment prospects but this change only affects non-EU immigration (eg. Australians). Veterinarians are currently, whether rightly or wrongly, listed as a skill in shortage by the Australian government. The combination of an additional three veterinary universities, increasing veterinary immigration, uncapping of student numbers, declining numbers of dogs/cats and consolidation of farming enterprises will create an interesting situation for Australian veterinarians and veterinary clinics over the next few years.
Tim White BVSc