On Tuesday 25 October, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) hosted MPs, Peers and veterinary stakeholders for afternoon tea in the Cholmondeley Room and Terrace at the House of Lords to discuss the need to replace the Veterinary Surgeons Act with new legislation.
As the regulator for the veterinary professions, the RCVS is campaigning for a new Act to ensure the legislation underpinning the vet-led team is modern, principles-based and future-proofed. The proposal has been informed by the findings of a four-year review of the existing legislation followed by a public consultation.
The event, sponsored by Professor the Lord Trees, the only vet currently sitting in the House of Lords and a former President of the RCVS, focussed on how the profession has changed since the 1966 legislation was enacted. A key theme of the day was the importance of the vet-led team. This message was translated through a series of case studies, short speeches, and a mini-exhibition of the recent history of the veterinary professions curated by the College’s charity partner, RCVS Knowledge.
Lord Trees, RCVS President Melissa Donald, and Veterinary Nurses Council Chair Matthew Rendle opened the event and welcomed attendees to the afternoon. Each of the speakers impressed the vital need for new legislation for the sake of animal welfare, public assurance, and the wider veterinary team. This was followed by a short speech from British Veterinary Association Senior Vice President Justine Shotton, who also spoke out in support for the plans to reform veterinary legislation, citing the urgent need to work together for legislation which is reflective of the modern veterinary profession to realise a legacy which will bolster and sustain the veterinary professions for the future.
Guests also heard from three paraprofessionals including a farm veterinary technician, a musculoskeletal therapist and an equine dental technician. None of these roles are regulated under the current legislation and all three paraprofessionals spoke in favour of regulation, citing the need for accountability and setting standards. The titles of these professions are not currently protected which presents evident problems for animal welfare. The RCVS is calling for the protection of these titles under new legislation. The speeches set the tone for the day, highlighting the need for the RCVS to widen its regulatory umbrella.
The speeches were followed by a break for networking before RCVS Knowledge archivist Lorna Bannister talked attendees through the mini-exhibition curated to demonstrate the evolution of the profession since 1966. The exhibition brought to life the need for a change in the law by displaying a collection of artefacts including photos, letters, veterinary instruments, public health posters and newspaper clippings. The afternoon was brought to a close with an address from RCVS President, Melissa Donald.
About the event and the campaign, Melissa commented: “I would like to thank everyone who attended our event, with particular thanks to Lord Trees for his sponsorship and ongoing support of our campaign to bring about new legislation.
“The tagline for our campaign for a new Veterinary Surgeons Act is ‘life has changed over the past 60 years, veterinary care has too’, which could not be more accurate. The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 is no longer fit for purpose, and we are asking people to support our campaign for new legislation that’s right for now and the future.”
Jake Paterson, an equine dental technician and one of the three veterinary paraprofessionals who spoke at the event, said: “Animal welfare is the main concern for any veterinary surgeon, veterinary nurse or allied professional when in practice. Each individual has a duty to follow a strict code of professional conduct.
“The proposed legislative reform where the RCVS will regulate each subdivision creates a veterinary team that will be accountable for their actions.It will protect the titles of allied professionals to provide the much needed clarity to the public and will offer a solution to the current confusion in legislation due to unregulated practitioners.”
Lord Trees added: “It was fantastic to welcome so many veterinary professionals, Peers, and MPs to the House of Lords to discuss the pressing need for veterinary legislative reform.
“The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 is no longer fit for purpose and there is an urgent need for change. The regulation of the veterinary professions is of utmost importance to animal welfare and all members of the veterinary team must be able to be held accountable for their actions, both for the protection of the animals under their care, and in terms of the wider public interest.
“The UK is proud of its world leading approach to public health and animal welfare and, if we are to continue to uphold and champion our animal health and welfare standards, it is essential that we work and evolve together to create a Veterinary Surgeons Act which is not only fit for purpose now but will continue to serve us effectively for years to come.”
For more information on the campaign for a new Veterinary Surgeons Act, visit the dedicated RCVS Life Has Changed campaign website.