In response to the RCVS Council vote to move forward with legislative reform proposals, the leading bodies for vets and vet nurses have raised concerns around a number of key points that do not support the overall aim of developing the College as a compassionate regulator.
Although the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) broadly supported the majority of the recommendations of the RCVS Legislation Working Party, they have identified a number of areas where they do not support the approach and have called for ongoing engagement with the professions as plans are developed.
Within the main proposals, BVA and BVNA do not support proposals for the RCVS to have powers of entry and remain concerned that this will perpetuate a culture of fear. Given that there are already powers of entry for the police, Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Health & Safety Executive, and others, it’s not clear what granting powers of entry for RCVS would add. Instead, the associations propose a system of short-notice interim inspections.
On the interim measures, the associations are concerned that the establishment of a Charter Case Protocol for minor transgressions via a system of published warnings seriously risks introducing an element of public shaming into the disciplinary process. Although the RCVS states that these are cases that would currently meet the threshold for a full disciplinary hearing, the examples given (failings in indemnity insurance; minor convictions; minor social media failings; and confidentiality issues) do not constitute serious professional misconduct.
In the context of concerns about mental health and wellbeing in the professions, BVA and BVNA are particularly concerned that this approach, coupled with no clear additional resourcing to expedite the disciplinary process, risks exacerbating existing problems. If the aim is to promote education and learning, this could be delivered through anonymous case studies.
In addition, BVA and BVNA continue to oppose the introduction of limited/restricted licensure for UK graduates with disabilities due to concerns it could result in a two-tier system. Instead, the associations are again calling on the RCVS to pursue a system of reasonable adjustments under the Equalities Act to enable disabled students to demonstrate day one competences, which could be considered with a new Veterinary Surgeons Act.
BVA and BVNA have welcomed the RCVS Council decision to delay changing the standard of proof from criminal to civil and had previously called for this to be the final step in a package of measures to develop a modern fitness to practise regime.
Commenting on the RCVS Council decisions, BVA President James Russell said:
“This is the culmination of a huge amount of work. Although we broadly welcome the direction of travel on legislative reform, we are concerned that a number of decisions risk undermining the College’s stated aim to develop as a compassionate regulator.
“On powers of entry we don’t believe the case has been made and there’s a genuine danger that it could erode confidence in a system that vets should be supported and encouraged to engage with. And on proposals to deal with minor transgressions, we cannot support a system that will publicly name and shame veterinary professionals.
“As the reform plans progress it’s essential that there is ongoing engagement with the veterinary professions to feed in these concerns and help shape a future regulatory system that is proportionate and fair.”
Jo Oakden, BVNA President, said:
“There’s a huge amount to welcome in these regulatory proposals, particularly the commitment to protecting the veterinary nurse title, which BVNA has long championed.
“However, we question some of the decisions, such as introducing limited licensure, which is an inappropriate and potentially discriminatory way for disabled students to meet day one competences.
“As the proposals are developed into new legislation it’s important that the veterinary and nursing professions are fully engaged and have the opportunity to input so that we can all have confidence in our regulatory and disciplinary processes.”