CONCERNS have been raised about the financial support being offered to veterinary practices during the coronavirus crisis.
Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson said vets in the constituency had contacted him to say that demand for services had gone down but cutting costs was difficult because of social distancing rules and a lack of flexibility from landlords - and that the government’s support packages offered little help.
The Formby MP said vital services like vets needed support as they were a key part of the economy and would be needed as much as ever once lockdown ends.
He said: “Vets are telling me they’re not eligible for small business grants, are limited as to the number of staff they can furlough and have expensive premises that they have to keep paying for. They are suffering a huge loss of income but outgoings have barely reduced. They need help.
“Landlords are still demanding rent payments even though businesses are struggling. I am calling for landlords to work with all businesses to offer rent holidays during this crisis.”
Village Vets, based on Brows Lane in Formby and with a branch in Crosby, has been forced to close its Crosby site in order to pool resources and keep costs down. The Crosby site will reopen after the lockdown and all clients across Formby and Crosby are continuing to receive a service via video, phone and in person where necessary. Village Vets is also providing a delivery service for clients to reduce the need for them to travel, especially if vulnerable or self-isolating.
Mr Esterson said: “Vets are telling me they desperately need access to financial support packages. It seems the veterinary profession has so far been overlooked in the government’s support package to businesses and I am really concerned about this.
“Vets must continue to operate to maintain the food supply chain and provide vital care and treatment to animals, but at the same time they are experiencing a huge loss of income in order to comply with strict social distancing measures and will struggle to cover their overheads. They are not able to furlough many staff because they need to maintain numbers in case any of the vets becomes sick and has to have time away from work.”
In April, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) ran a survey to assess the immediate impact of the pandemic on veterinary clinical practices. Two out of three veterinary practices had seen a decrease in turnover of over 50% A quarter of all practices have seen a decrease of over 75%.
Mr Esterson added: “Businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure have been handed up to £25,000 in grants by the government to help them get through this period, but vets are not included in this scheme. Also, many vets are self employed and have earned too much in the past to be eligible for the self employed income support scheme, even though their current income has plummeted.
“I have written to the Chancellor to highlight these gap in support and to ask that he consider supporting vets and veterinary practices during this time.”