Blog post from NOAH chair Jamie Brannan
This has been a challenging time for the animal health sector. In addition to planning for the end of the Transition Period for the UK’s Exit from the EU we have been faced with the global COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this year, NOAH’s initial COVID-19 discussions with VMD and government centred on ensuring availability of animal health products to treat and prevent disease. Now, we are learning to work within new restraints, including how we can support our veterinary colleagues as we face an uncertain Winter.
We have taken the opportunity to review NOAH’s Strategy to make sure we are fully equipped to meet our members’ needs.
Adapting to change
The NOAH ‘COVID-19 Animal Health Industry Guideline’ was developed to reassure the wider animal health community, demonstrating that NOAH member companies and their staff are following all best practice guidance to keep their people and customers safe, around ongoing and changing government restrictions. This guideline takes account of best practice advice and complements individual company policies, which include specific company needs. As the COVID-19 situation remains fluid so does our guideline: it will be reviewed regularly.
In parallel is our work to support the health of our animals by working alongside our colleagues in the veterinary and animal welfare world. During the initial lockdown, the necessary changes to how pet owners were able to access veterinary services meant that while emergencies were taken care of, some arguably more routine activities could not take place. This was picked up in several reports, including those from Liverpool University’s SAVSNet, which showed a dip in regular vaccination, for example. We felt this could lead to health and welfare problems in the future if not addressed, and produced a report spelling out the situation. Through the Canine and Feline Sector Group, infographics for pet owners have been produced on pet health, behaviour and what pet owners might expect when contacting their vet. Please support us in sharing this advice.
Informing and advising
As we face the end of the Transition Period, a recent NOAH survey shows this is seen as an area of both concern and opportunity for our sector, and NOAH’s 2020-23 Strategy has evolved to adapt the association to future needs in relation to this area.
Many details relating to EU Exit still need to be resolved – nowhere more so than the situation with Northern Ireland where we have been in intensive discussions with VMD, instigating change at the highest level. This has been supported by dialogue with other affected NI organisations and while more clarity is emerging, there are still areas of concern and we will continue until member businesses have the certainty that they need. There is still much planning to be done to ensure continuity of supply as we face a potential exit without a trade deal with the EU.
Connecting and collaborating
But there are opportunities for the UK animal health sector too – particularly with the Government’s stated support for science and R&D.
NOAH is now fully engaged on international trade policy and discussions, with NOAH’s Donal Murphy’s expanding his role to head of Regulatory and International Affairs to cover this vital aspect. We have also:
- appointed a consultant to advise how we can make the most impact in supporting our member businesses
- built on our relationships with the Department for International Trade
- engaged with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on their consultations
- published our priorities for trade, which we are discussing with policy makers and stakeholders
We will carry this theme forward in our Conference ‘Changing times: a healthy future’ to look at how the end of the EU Exit Transition Period and the global COVID-19 pandemic are impacting the animal health market, identifying trends and opportunities. It will take place on 30 November and is free to attend – find out more and book here.
One important aspect will of course be the revision of the Veterinary Medicines Regulation; this will help create the regulatory climate companies need to encourage and foster innovation in the UK.
There are opportunities in relation to the Agriculture Bill, where we are working to cement animal health at the heart of the policy – our Vision for Animal Health and Welfare spells out how this approach means gains for the Government in their broader policy areas. We have been pleased to see the Trade and Agriculture Commission placed on a statutory footing within the Agriculture Bill – we have been supporting calls for greater protection for our high standards in future trade deals.
Our sector has a strong base, with skilled personnel, and we can capitalise on these exciting times and help build new markets. This means not only for veterinary medicines, but increasingly there is support for new technology and wider innovation, broadening the scope of the animal health products and services that NOAH represents.
Through NOAH as its trade association, our industry speaks with one voice. It is through our strong trade association, proactively looking for opportunities, that our sector can grow – at home and on the world stage. Our members cover a wide range of businesses from multi-national companies to family-owned SMEs and there is a place for everyone.
NOAH’s values are to be informed, expert, agile, connected and collaborative – these have never been more appropriate as in these changing times.