The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' (RCVS) Veterinary Nurses Council celebrated the 50th anniversary of veterinary nursing at the House of Commons today (11 October 2011) with a call for statutory regulation for the profession.
At a Golden Jubilee event hosted by Mr Roger Gale MP, Veterinary Nurses Council Chairman Liz Branscombe drew attention to the fact that there is no legal protection for the title 'veterinary nurse', despite qualified nurses playing "a unique role in the practice team".
This effectively means that anyone could work in a veterinary practice as a nurse, without taking the three- or four-year training required for Listed or Registered Veterinary Nurses:
"We believe that the nation's animals and their owners deserve better than this," said Liz. "And it's not just a question of animal welfare: public health is at risk from the incorrect use of medicines - for example, the well documented development of antimicrobial resistance."
The legislation governing the veterinary profession is the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, put in place only five years after the introduction of veterinary nurse training and too soon to fully recognise the potential of veterinary nursing as a profession in its own right.
As an interim measure, the RCVS has put in place a non-statutory Register for Veterinary Nurses, to which 86% of eligible nurses have signed up. Registered Veterinary Nurses agree to follow a code of conduct, keep their skills and knowledge up to date and abide by a disciplinary system. However, it is not possible for the College to bar those removed from the Register for serious professional misconduct from working as a veterinary nurse.
The Register also does not address the misuse of the title 'veterinary nurse' by unqualified people.
Liz asked MPs present at the House of Commons reception to sign up to an Early Day Motion tabled by Andrew Rosindell MP, which calls for statutory regulation for the veterinary nursing profession.
Others are urged to sign a petition on the Government's website which has been mounted by the British Veterinary Nursing Association and is supported by the College and the British Veterinary Association: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/18700.
The issues are being considered by the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Legislation Working Party and the group's recommendations will feed into the wider work of the RCVS Legislation Working Party, which will be reporting to the Defra Minister of State in the summer of 2012 with proposals as to how statutory regulation could be provided for a range of veterinary services, including veterinary nursing.
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