On Tuesday 28 June, the RCVS hosted MPs, Peers, and veterinary stakeholders at a Legislative Reform Lunch in the Attlee and Reid Room, House of Lords, to outline proposed legislative reforms that would modernise the veterinary professions and make the sector more inclusive and accessible. Attendees included those with political interests and involvement in animal welfare, veterinary practice, agriculture, and the environment as well as representatives of veterinary membership organisations. The guests included representatives from the Animal Health and Welfare Board for England, Defra, the BVA, and the BVNA.
Sponsored by Professor the Lord Trees, the only vet currently sitting in the House of Lords, the event was an opportunity for the RCVS to present insight from the professions about the need for new legislation and for attendees to ask questions about the proposals.
Dr. Neil Hudson MP, a veterinary surgeon and Member of Parliament for Penrith and the Border, and Professor the Lord Trees opened the event and welcomed attendees to the lunch. Over the afternoon, attendees heard from Dr. Kate Richards, RCVS President, Dr. Mandisa Greene, RCVS Senior Vice-President, and Eleanor Ferguson, RCVS Registrar and Director of Legal Services. Kate opened the discussion by outlining the extensive developments in veterinary practice that have occurred since the current Veterinary Surgeons Act was introduced 60 years ago. Kate also gave an overview of the updates to the proposed new legislation, including extending regulation to allied and paraprofessionals, enhancing the role of veterinary nurses to allow them to perform a wider range of procedures with the recommendation that statutory protection is given to professional titles of all allied professions regulated by the RCVS, including veterinary nurses.
Next, Mandisa outlined the potential to introduce regulation of veterinary practices, as an additional means of upholding veterinary standards. Any mandatory scheme would sit alongside the current voluntary Practice Standards Scheme (PSS), to which 68% of practices are currently signed up.
Finally, Eleanor explained that the current disciplinary process was no longer fit for the modern veterinary sector and that it should be updated to be based on a ‘fitness to practise’ model that focuses less on past misconduct and provides a wider, more flexible range of sanctions.
Kate Richards, RCVS President, said: “We want to thank everyone who attended our Legislative Reform Lunch and took part in the stimulating and engaging discussions. It was inspiring to hear the views of people who are passionate about animal welfare and interested in supporting our work to help modernise the veterinary professions through legislative change, making it fairer, more flexible, and forward-looking.
“The legislative reforms the College is proposing follow years of research, surveys, consultations, and insight gathering from the professions. The proposed changes have been put forward to not only modernise the professions but to also improve standards of veterinary care, inspire a greater level of public confidence in the professions, and meet head-on the challenges the professions are currently facing, including workforce capacity. This event was a key stage in the process that we hope will form long and fruitful partnerships with people who share our commitment to upholding and championing standards of animal health and welfare.”