Young vets don't want to work in mixed practice anymore and prefer to treat pets, says TV vet
His tales of veterinary practice and country life have been credited with inspiring a generation of vets.
But the days of a James Herriot-like existence – lovingly recalled in his memoirs All Creatures Great and Small and the subsequent TV drama series – may be over as some younger members of the profession are shunning rural and mixed-practice work in favour of treating cats and dogs, it has been claimed.
Julian Norton, who appears in The Yorkshire Vet, a reality television series based on Herriot’s old practice in Thirsk, North Yorks, said the number of applicants for jobs at rural mixed surgeries – where both farm animals and pets are treated – was in decline.
Instead, graduates are choosing positions in larger practices where they do not have to make difficult decisions on their own or be called out to muddy farms late at night, he said.
“People are turning to surgeries where there are more cats, dogs and rabbits, as there is a general perception that a small animal job is easier,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “There are often less out-of-hours complaints, you don’t have the 2am cow to calve and you don’t have to spend three hours in the mud and rain.
“In mixed practice, you have stretches of 19 days without a day off and 11 nights on call, rain lashing down. People don’t want to do that any more.”
A few years ago, an opening at Skeldale Veterinary Centre, in North Yorks, would have received at least 50 applications, he said. But recently, one opportunity drew just 10 replies.
His concerns are not unfounded; a survey of nearly 7,000 vets by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in 2014 showed the share of respondents employed in mixed animal practices declined from more than 22 per cent to 15.8 per cent in four years, while the numbers working in small animal or exotic practices increased from 48.9 per cent to 53.6 per cent.