The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) have joined forces with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on a project to assess the challenges and opportunities posed by EU exit, with the aim to develop a flexible and skilled workforce which meets the UK’s needs for both the immediate and longer term future.
The Veterinary Capability and Capacity Project (VCCP) is co-chaired by the UK’s chief veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens, RCVS senior vice-president Dr Chris Tufnell, and BVA senior vice-president Gudrun Ravetz.
The project board also comprises the CVOs for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Sheila Voas, Christianne Glossop and Robert Huey, as well as the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Food Standards Agency.
The project’s objective is to work with the veterinary sector to better understand the UK’s workforce needs and ensure that both the Government and veterinary businesses can continue to protect animal health and welfare, safeguard the food chain and maintain levels of public health and public services, and enable trade in animals and animal products.
The project will include a joint BVA-RCVS submission to the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on workforce issues post-Brexit. Three working groups have been set up within the project to look specifically at issues of veterinary resources, recruitment and retention.
The UK’s chief veterinary officer, Nigel Gibbens, said: “Leaving the EU provides us with an opportunity to develop gold standard policies on animal welfare. The UK Government is determined to get a good Brexit deal for Britain and Ministers have been absolutely clear we will maintain our world-leading animal welfare standards.
“The VCCP is a great example of collaborative working between government, professional bodies and regulators to prepare for our exit from the European Union.”
“I am pleased the Prime Minister has set out the government’s aim to secure the status of the veterinary workforce as a top priority as we leave the EU. The UK’s vets – both Official Veterinarians and those in the private sector – play a key role in protecting our country from endemic and exotic diseases, tackling outbreaks when they occur, safeguarding our animals and tackling global challenges like antibiotic resistance.”
Chris Tufnell said: “Since the vote to leave the European Union last year the RCVS has been working in partnership with BVA to highlight to Government and others the potential workforce shortages that could arise from a loss of non-UK EU-qualified vets, particularly in public health work where they tend to predominate. Our position was highlighted in our Brexit Principles published earlier this year and at an event organised by us and the BVA at the Palace of Westminster for MPs and Peers.
“We are very glad that Defra is working proactively with us and BVA to understand the scale of the issues and map out the risks and opportunities and to help us plan for a number of different scenarios in advance so that we do not find ourselves in a position whereby animal health and welfare or public health might be compromised by workforce shortages.”
BVA senior vice president Gudrun Ravetz said: “Vets provide the foundation for the UK’s high animal health and welfare, and make an essential contribution to the UK economy and wider society. Veterinary teams up and down the country support the UK’s 11 million pet-owning households; not a penny of the UK’s £12.7 billion livestock industry could be realised without vets; and vets are vital to facilitating UK trade, through health certification and controls, so that consumers have confidence in the food safety and welfare of the products they buy.
“Non-UK EU vets make up around 50% of our new workforce each year yet, since the EU referendum; we are facing increasing problems in recruiting and retaining EU colleagues to the UK. The impact of the loss of even a small percentage of the veterinary workforce could have serious repercussions on the practices, communities and industries that vets serve. This profession-wide project is pivotal to ensuring we have a veterinary workforce that can serve the UK’s needs post-Brexit.”
The BVA’s Brexit and the veterinary profession report can be found at www.bva.co.uk/news-campaigns-and-policy/policy/future-of-the-profession/brexit/