Rules implemented by the RCVS demands overseas vets demonstrate the same level of English as that required for students to enter Oxford or Cambridge University – standards EU vets were previously exempt from.
Following a nationwide shortage of veterinarians, the RCVS has recently agreed to relax the rules, leading to a half-point reduction in one area of the English test. Eville & Jones chief executive Charles Hartwell claims the change is “Not large enough to make an impact on the industry”.
The UK veterinary school system which has a handful of accredited universities, produces just 900 qualified vets each year with openings of around 2,000 job roles. Charles explains that “the veterinary profession in the UK is in crisis. We need more vets to come through the education system which takes five years, and an easier process for EU vets to join the UK workforce – of which there has been a 70 percent fall this year.”
Post-Brexit export regulations, a spike in pet ownership during lockdown and the impact of the pandemic, has lead to workforce shortages throughout the entire veterinary sector, including those within public health and animal welfare. The strain on the industry Charles says is “catastrophic” and will result in “challenges with trading, supply of animal products and completion of food chains”. Charles adds “We are already seeing the reaction to a huge increase in pet ownership with the BVA advising to think twice before adopting new pets and some veterinary practices having to refuse new clients.”
“Over 95 percent of official veterinarians (OV) working in England and Wales come from the EU, where official controls form a sizeable portion of the veterinary degree syllabus and working as an OV is seen as a rewarding and valued profession. Consequently, there is a huge amount of work to be done in the UK to recognise the important role that OVs play, the demand for meat hygiene inspectors (MHI) that support OVs, and the contribution both make to everyday life. Our vets enable international trade, ensure meat is safe to eat, safeguard animal welfare, and keep our restaurants, supermarkets and farmers markets stocked with high quality produce.”
Since 1 January 2021 export health certification is required for all EU-bound products of animal origin. An Export Health Certificate (EHC) is an official UK Government document which is issued by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and signed by an export official veterinarian (EOV).
EOV’s ensure exports of products containing ingredients of animal origin meet the import requirements of the destination country. This means overseas consumers of British food can consume it with absolute confidence, and it enables UK businesses of all sizes to export produce around the world.
Charles explains “As a business we are now actively seeking to recruit somewhere in the region of 100 more vets to work in this relatively new and fast-growing area of veterinary practice. In the first half of this year Eville & Jones alone signed in the region of 12,000 EHCs for a variety of different customers.”
“The challenge of meeting new requirements as well as a reduction in qualified vets available in the UK, cannot be underestimated. As a country we need to look at our capacity to produce qualified vets and how we normalise and promote the benefits of a career in public health. There’s not an overnight fix but maintaining and prioritising public safety and animal welfare is vital.”