New immigration rules announced today are a mixed bag for the veterinary profession and leave a “big question mark” over how the profession will recruit and retain the workforce it needs, according to the British Veterinary Association (BVA).
The BVA revealed that every year over half of new entrants into the UK veterinary register are from overseas, with the “vast majority” coming from the EU via “freedom of movement.”
Once free movement ends in January 2021, it will be replaced with an employer-led points-based system which is likely to place a significant administrative burden on veterinary businesses who will be required to sponsor recruits from outside of the UK.
The new system will allocate additional points for occupations on the ‘Shortage Occupation List’. Since autumn 2019, the list has included veterinary surgeons, following a sustained campaign by BVA, RCVS and others.
BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said: “The UK veterinary profession is hugely reliant on overseas vets in order to deliver animal health and welfare, safeguard public health, and ensure the UK can trade animals and animal products.
“The government’s blueprint for trade will require a massive boost to the veterinary workforce to deliver veterinary certification not only for exports but, as announced last week, also for imports.”
She added: “This new immigration system leaves a big question mark over whether we’ll be able to fill the workforce gap created by the end of free movement when we are already struggling to recruit and retain vets.”