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Posted: 1st December 2020

UK vets facing 'triple whammy', BVA warns
The report warns that veterinary surgeons could be taken away from statutory disease surveillance work to deliver export certificates.
Report raises serious concerns in the run-up to the Brexit transition period.

The UK veterinary profession could be facing a 'triple whammy' of Brexit, COVID-19 and exotic diseases, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warned.

In a new report, BVA assesses the readiness of the UK and raises serious questions concerns around veterinary capacity and infrastructure just weeks away from the end of the Brexit transition period (31 December).

It calls on the government to clarify the number of Official Veterinarians that will be needed to certify export health certificates (EHC) and to identify where in the country they will be required. 

The BVA has been raising concerns about veterinary capacity since the EU referendum, as around half of new vets registering in the UK each year are from the European Economic Area (EEA). It says that COVID-19 has placed additional pressure on veterinary capacity as fewer vets have come to work in the UK during 2020.

The report warns that veterinary surgeons could be taken away from statutory disease surveillance work (such as TB testing) to deliver essential export certification work and keep goods moving safely. It calls on the government to guarantee that statutory disease work will not be impacted by the resulting negative impacts on animal health and welfare.

The report also raises questions about preparations for pet travel and equine movements and highlights how veterinary diagnostic and research samples for CITES-listed species can be moved in a timely fashion between UK and EU laboratories. 

Moreover, the BVA's report warns of the high threat of some exotic diseases, such as avian influenza and African Swine Fever, potentially putting an additional strain on veterinary capacity. 

“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,” commented BVA president James Russell. “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 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.”

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

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