December 3, 2020


UK veterinarians in tight spot as Brexit transition comes close


A new report from the British Veterinary Association (BVA) said the United Kingdom's veterinary profession is facing a triple threat from COVID-19, Brexit and exotic disease.


The report assessed the readiness of the UK in terms of its veterinary capacity and infrastructure weeks from the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.


BVA has called on the government to clarify the number of official veterinarians needed to certify export health certificates (EHCs), as the UK and the European Union continue to negotiate a trade deal, and to identify the parts of the country where EHCs are needed. Whether a free trade deal is reached or not, EHCs will be required, but no details have been released, creating difficulties for the preparation efforts of the industry and the veterinary profession.


BVA has raised concerns about veterinary capacity since the EU referendum, as around half of new veterinarians registering in the UK each year are from the European Economic Area (EEA). COVID-19 has placed additional pressure on veterinary capacity as fewer vets have come to work in the UK during 2020, and capacity within veterinary teams are being stretched with COVID-19 safe working practices.


The report cited concerns that veterinary surgeons might be taken away from statutory disease surveillance work, such as TB testing, in order to deliver essential export certification work and help keep goods moving safely. BVA has called on the government to guarantee that statutory disease work will not be impacted by the resulting negative impacts on animal health and welfare.


BVA recently raised questions with the UK government on how veterinary diagnostic and research samples for CITES-listed species can be moved in a timely fashion between UK and EU diagnostic laboratories. To date, no solution has been reached.


BVA is also concerned that the threat of some exotic diseases are currently high. For example, there are avian influenza and African swine fever,  potentially putting an additional strain on veterinary capacity.


BVA president James Russell said: "The veterinary profession is absolutely critical to the safe trading of animals and animal products whether the UK reaches a deal with the EU or not. With just weeks to go until the end of the transition period, we are deeply concerned that we still don't have clarity on exactly what will be required.


"We're calling on the government to urgently send a strong signal to the industry that it needs to recruit official veterinarians now to secure the necessary workforce.


"At a time when we need to be gearing up our capacity, our workforce is at full tilt under the shadow of COVID-19 restrictions and depleted by a reduction in registrations from overseas. This needs to be factored into plans.


"Our biggest concern is that as we look to 2021, we face the threat of a triple whammy of COVID-19, Brexit and exotic disease. Vets will always prioritise animal health and welfare and public health, but we need the government to give us the information we need to do so."


 - The Poultry Site