A move to reinstate vets on the Shortage Occupation List has been hailed ‘a huge win for animal welfare’.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) also said the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recommendation today (May 29) was ‘a resounding vote of confidence in the veterinary community’.
MAC’s report said it was clear the sector was facing significant recruitment difficulties and that the Home Office should restore vets on the list to help address concerns about capacity meeting future demand and to make it easier to recruit into the profession.
Vets were removed from the Shortage Occupation List in 2011.
The recommendation follows a submission by the BVA and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – also supported by Defra – that an already stretched veterinary workforce could struggle to cope with increased demand for some services after Brexit.
About 95 per cent of vets carrying out critical public health work and animal welfare monitoring in abattoirs come from overseas, and the BVA said it worried demand for veterinary certification and health testing services could ‘spiral’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
BVA president Simon Doherty said: “We are absolutely delighted that the committee has heeded our calls and recognised the need to reinstate vets on the list to keep workforce supply and resilience high in the unpredictable times ahead.
“While this is a very welcome boost, the profession itself is also doing a huge amount of work to understand and address recruitment and retention challenges both now and into the future.
“Reinstating vets on the list would be a decisive move to help develop a flexible, skilled and robust veterinary workforce that meets the UK’s needs for both the immediate future and longer term.”
Professions on the list are prioritised for visas required to live and work in the UK, with employers wanting to hire workers from the list not required to complete the Resident Labour Market Test, meaning they would not have to advertise vacancies locally.
RCVS president Amanda Boag said the move was ‘a very important step in ensuring the future security of the profession and mitigating against worsening workforce shortages’ but that she would be working with the BVA and Defra to look at how the number of ‘home-grown’ vets could be increased.
She added: “By adding veterinary surgeons to the Shortage Occupation List, and therefore reducing the immigration requirements needed to live and work in the UK, the Government will be helping ensure vital veterinary work continues to be done particularly in areas such as food safety and public health.”