Author: Gudrun Ravetz
News that Sajid Javid has secured an exemption to the cap on skilled migrants could be a huge win for public health. But it must include the veterinary profession.
So far news reports suggest that non-EU doctors and nurses will be excluded from the Tier 2 visa limit, plus an extra 8,000 skilled migrants in other industries, with detail to be announced later this week.
The British Veterinary Association has been making a strong case for the government to take action over immigration measures for vets, because of our unique position with responsibility for animal health and welfare, food safety and public health, and our critical importance to the UK economy.
Vets are the cornerstone of the UK’s multi-billion-pound livestock industry, working with farmers on health and welfare plans, ensuring strict biosecurity and disease prevention for the UK herd, and protecting public health and animal welfare at slaughter.
Veterinary certification is essential to the UK’s ability to trade in animals and animal products with the rest of the world. Within the agriculture sector, veterinary workforce shortages could have a direct impact on ‘UK PLC’, not to mention human health and animal welfare.
The major veterinary employers within small animal practice – the high street vets that look after our much-loved pets – are reporting an estimated workforce shortfall of 11%. We asked our members if the EU Referendum had had an impact on their ability to recruit veterinary surgeons and a fifth told us it had become harder since the election.
A government response to the House of Lords sub-committee report on Brexit: farm animal welfare in September 2017 noted the Prime Minister’s own commitment to securing the status of the veterinary workforce as a top priority. But we need more than words and assurances; we need action.
We are hearing daily from increasingly desperate practices and other employers that are struggling to recruit, including those where applications for Tier 2 visas had fallen foul of the cap. The knock-on effect is being felt by our colleagues who must deliver 24-hour care for their patients as the demands of the practice rota look increasingly daunting. This has to be considered against the back drop of high levels of stress and mental health problems that exist within our small profession.
BVA has been working alongside the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (the veterinary regulator) to support the profession in their careers. But we have a problem of supply.
We have worked together to make the case to the Home Office that vets should be reinstated onto the Shortage Occupation List after we were removed in 2011 when the landscape looked very different from today. We will keep making these calls and work with the government to shape a future immigration policy that takes account of the need for veterinary skills and expertise.
But right now, we want a clear indication from government that vets are valued and that the profession will be exempt from the Tier 2 visa limit