The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has written to the Government calling for veterinary practices to be covered in support measures announced for businesses affected by Covid-19.
In letters sent to key government departments and their counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the BVA calls for veterinary practices to be recognised as ‘business critical’ on account of the essential services they provide that protect animal health and welfare, public health and wellbeing.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £350 billion package of measures on Tuesday, including loans, rates relief and grants to support retail and hospitality businesses affected by the coronavirus. He pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ to keep these sectors afloat in the challenging times ahead.
However, veterinary practices have so far not been included in the scope for this support, despite the fact, the BVA pointed out, that they will also be entering a period of significant financial difficulty, while continuing to provide vital care and treatment to animals while contending with staff shortages and reduced turnover.
BVA, which represents over 18,000 vets across the UK, has also called for business rates reliefs that have already been announced for some businesses to be extended to veterinary practices, most of which are SMEs. Eligible businesses will receive 100% rates relief for a year in England and 75% in Scotland, with Wales and Northern Ireland expected to announce similar plans shortly.
BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said: “While BVA welcomes the scale of this response and the promise of an economic lifeline for many businesses, we are extremely concerned that these measures don’t currently extend to the veterinary profession.
“Veterinary practices are a mainstay in our communities providing a critical service to keep the UK’s pets healthy as well as supporting public health and wellbeing.
“With so many people self-isolating in the coming weeks and months, we can’t underestimate the important role that pets have to play in providing companionship and helping to boost their owners’ wellbeing.
“However, it is a sad fact that many practices may have no option but to close their doors for good if they aren’t eligible for the same support that’s rightly being rolled out to other businesses.
“We are asking for an assurance from governments across the UK that veterinary practices will also be included in the scope for support and recognised as a business critical service.”