Brexit may force third of EU trainee specialists to quit UK

Henry L’Eplattenier, ECVS chairman and clinical director of Southfields Veterinary Specialists, warns specilaist vet loss due to Brexit would mean a shortage of practitioners across the board.

The chairman of the European College of Veterinary Surgeons has warned of the potential loss of around a third of EU vets in specialist surgery training if they are forced to leave the UK post-Brexit.

Henry L’Eplattenier, who is also clinical director of Southfields Veterinary Specialists, said the concept of EU trainees having to leave the UK due to Brexit was “deplorable”.

A decision to eject EU vets post-Brexit would mean those undertaking a three-year residency may be forced to give up their training and start again elsewhere.

Dr L’Eplattenier said: “It would be deplorable if some of those specialists in training had to give up their positions because they are from the EU and might lose their right to work here.

“If they had to leave, they would have to find a new trainee position and there is already huge competition for these places. It is a very tough selection process, so to then be told you cannot stay would be quite devastating for the individuals.”


Such a loss would mean a shortage of practitioners across the board, from first opinion to specialist vets, Dr L’Eplattenier said.

“Potentially, you could imagine more specialist treatments having to be done by certificate holders if there weren’t any diploma holders to accommodate all the specialist referrals,” he said.

The shortage may also make it harder for clients to get access to specialists, which could have a knock-on effect for animal welfare.

Uncertainty over Brexit is causing issues for Southfields Veterinary Specialists, as potential EU candidates are hesitating before applying for positions due to concerns regarding relocation.

“There is a shortage of specialists in the UK, so we have to recruit them from all of Europe,” Dr L’Eplattenier said.

“As a clinical director of a UK referral practice trying to recruit vets from Europe, I can say the uncertainty relating to Brexit has made it difficult.”

In 2009, there were 630 UK graduate vets compared with 622 from outside the UK, but by 2014 the balance had shifted to 844 graduate vets from outside the UK and 795 within it.

In the UK, 10 EU specialists-in-training are doing a residency in surgery out of 30 positions.

Southfields operations manager Daniel Hogan said the lack of available UK candidates for veterinary roles would exacerbate the issues Brexit could cause.

  • Read the full story in the 18 September issue of Veterinary Times.