Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Council, the College’s governing body, met remotely on Thursday 8 October 2020 where it discussed and voted on a number of matters relating to College governance, culture and an upcoming consultation on legislative reform.
Below is a summary of some of the key topics discussed and decided upon at the Council meeting, which was chaired by RCVS President Dr Mandisa Greene.
Under Care/ Out-of-Hours Review
An update was given by Dr Melissa Donald, Chair of the RCVS Standards Committee, on the current progress of the review which had to be postponed earlier in the year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
She confirmed that the review would be getting underway again shortly with virtual focus group discussions being undertaken by RAND, the research agency that has been appointed to carry out the review. To facilitate these virtual focus group discussions RAND was producing an introductory video for participants.
The agency is also now in the process of inviting key veterinary stakeholders, such as representative bodies and charities, to contribute to the review. Further information about the review process will be published in due course, meanwhile the RCVS will be hosting a Stakeholder meeting later in October to update organisations on the process and how they can contribute, as well as offering an update on the consultation on the Legislation Working Party’s recommendations (see below).
A paper was brought to Council about the future of the RCVS Covid Taskforce, which was set up in March this year and comprises Officers, Committee Chairs and Council representatives, along with some senior RCVS staff members, with the aim of allowing quick decision-making on temporary changes to RCVS guidance and policies in relation to the pandemic and its associated restrictions.
The future of the Taskforce had been raised during general discussions at its meeting on 3 September, including whether it should continue or be disbanded. Following a Council vote to defer a decision on this until its next meeting, a series of recommendations from the Officer team on the future of the Taskforce were subsequently put to Council for discussion on 8 October 2020.
The proposal in the paper was that the Taskforce be continued until 31 March 2021 with a review of whether to continue the Taskforce beyond this point taking place at the 18 March 2021 RCVS Council meeting. This review would take into account factors such as the state of the pandemic and its associated restrictions at that stage and with the possibility that the Taskforce could be revived if circumstances changed.
A motion laid by RCVS Council member Dr Neil Smith supported the continuation of the Taskforce, but stipulated that a decision on whether to continue it should be a standing item on the agenda of each regularly scheduled Council meeting, as well as a number of additional checks and balances. A further amendment to this motion was put forward by Senior Vice-President Dr Niall Connell which would allow additional scrutiny by Council members of Covid Taskforce decisions. This included making minutes of the Taskforce meetings available within two working days of its meeting, along with making any supporting papers available for scrutiny by Council members and publishing them to the fullest extent possible on the RCVS website. Furthermore, should an objection be raised about a Taskforce decision within two working days of publication of the minutes by two or more Council members, the decision of the Taskforce would have to be submitted for discussion by Council at the earliest appropriate opportunity. The amended motion was carried by majority vote.
Speaking after the meeting Dr Mandisa Greene, who also chairs the Covid Taskforce, said: “I would like to thank Council members for working constructively with the Officer Team to achieve this outcome. The decision recognises that the pandemic is not over and that we are entering a difficult autumn and winter period which may see some further restrictions, including in particular areas and regions of the UK, which may in turn require swift decision-making from the College, while also recognising the importance of Council being the ultimate arbiter of decisions and the importance of taking into account its members’ views.”
Dr Niall Connell, RCVS Senior Vice-President, presented a paper on the culture of Council, which included suggestions on how to rebuild trust following a series of leaks of confidential information and a subsequent independent investigation, as well as how to mitigate the risk of similar situations in the future.
The paper set out a series of measures including: improved information being given to those standing for election for RCVS or VN Council; an improved induction process for those joining RCVS or VN Council; refresher training for existing Council members; introducing appraisal processes for Council members; and improving security as well as the information provided to Council members about why particular information is confidential.
Council was invited to discuss the proposals and then vote on whether to approve the general ‘direction of travel’ with a more detailed plan then being put together for Council’s further consideration and approval at a later Council meeting. The proposal was passed by majority vote of Council members.
Legislation Working Party Review consultation
Following agreement that the Legislation Working Party’s Report should go out for consultation at the June meeting of RCVS Council, the process for that consultation, including a draft document containing the full proposals for legislative reform, and the related reforms of the RCVS disciplinary system, were put before Council for approval.
The consultation document makes recommendations for reforms requiring new primary legislation – the key themes for which are: embracing the vet-led team; enhancing the role of the veterinary nurse; assuring practice standards; introducing a modern ‘fitness to practise’ regime; and modernising RCVS registration processes. In addition the document proposes reforms of the disciplinary system that do not require changes to primary legislation but could be carried out under the remit of the RCVS Charter.
Council agreed the consultation document and process by majority vote, including an extension to the proposed six-week consultation period to 12 weeks, and the consultation is due to start in late October or early November.
During the closed session of RCVS Council, members discussed the 2021-22 budget for the RCVS, where it was decided that the registration and annual renewal fees for both veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses would be frozen at their current level.
The full papers for the October meeting of RCVS Council can be found at: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/document-library/rcvs-council-papers-october-2020/
Please note: a statement on RCVS Council’s decision regarding its temporary guidance on the remote prescription of veterinary medicines during the pandemic has been published separately.