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MPs raise concerns over UK’s vet shortage

7 May 2024

In a letter sent to the Defra Secretary today, the EFRA Committee says that the domestic vet shortage has worsened since the estimate of 11.5 per cent made in 2018 and warn that there is currently “no clear picture of the scale or nature of the shortages”.

Among the workforce-related challenges facing the sector, a key issue of concern is the impact of the new salary threshold for the Skilled Worker visa. While MPs commend the expansion of the UK’s domestic veterinary training capacity, they highlight that “we remain reliant on recruiting veterinary professionals from overseas”. 

The Committee has heard that the minimum salary required by the Government’s reforms to the Skilled Worker visa “will preclude all but highly experienced professionals from coming to work in the UK”. 

MPs are concerned that the minimum salary thresholds, which stand at £48,100 for veterinary surgeons, could further diminish the UK’s access to veterinary resources and note that there has already been a significant reduction in vets from overseas coming to work in the UK in recent years. 

The letter draws attention to the importance of meat hygiene inspectors amongst the veterinary professionals recruited from overseas. MPs have heard concerns from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that increasing the salary of meat hygiene inspectors in line with the new Skilled Worker visa requirements would have “financial consequences in the millions”, and that these “would be passed onto taxpayers or the meat industry”. 

The Committee’s letter also makes the case for reform of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, stating that reform of the Act is long overdue. MPs advise that the “Government should launch a consultation on a new Act in this Parliament with a view to prioritising its passage in the next” and state that “the Government should continue to engage with the sector on secondary legislation” in advance of any new Act.

Amongst its other questions to the Defra Secretary, the Committee requests an update on the Department’s assessment of “the potential merits of developing a long-term workforce plan for the veterinary profession”.

The letter also highlights a number of funding related challenges. It discusses the issue of the real-terms funding cut to universities’ provision of veterinary degree courses and the salary discrepancy between roles in the private and public sector. 

The letter asks the Government to consider a student debt forgiveness scheme to attract people to rural and public health roles, and the merits of financially supporting the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to directly accredit EU veterinary schools.

The Committee’s letter follows an evidence session MPs held with veterinary sector leaders in March, to examine their concerns about the challenges facing the sector.

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