The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is warning of a 'storm of shortages' in the profession after the numbers of new EU registrants coming to work in the UK dropped by two-thirds in two years.
Free movement and the pandemic
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) data suggests the total has fallen from 1,132 in 2019 to just 362 in 2021, which the BVA attributes to the end of free movement and the pandemic.
It has warned that the decline could result in wide-ranging direct and knock-on impacts, especially when aligned with a big increase in the demand for veterinary certifications as part of the UK’s new trading arrangements.
"The potential consequences are worrying," said BVA senior vice-president James Russell.
"If we can’t find long-term solutions, we will see impacts on animal welfare, public health and international trade."
More vet school places
"We know that the government is alive to the situation," he continued, "and measures such as more vet school places and better digitisation of the certification process will help to relieve some pressures in the long term.
"Vets are working incredibly hard but it’s an uphill struggle to comfortably cover all the work currently required."
Plugging the gaps
"And moving some vets around to plug the gaps is just robbing Peter to pay Paul, as it can lead to issues with backfilling roles in other areas which desperately need to keep staffing levels up, such as large animal work," Mr Russell concluded.
RCVS figures from 2021 suggest that 29% of the UK’s current veterinary workforce graduated in the EU.