Thursday, April 12, 2012


New Codes of Professional Conduct for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses were launched by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) World Congress in Birmingham on Thursday 12th April.


The Codes were approved by RCVS Council and the Veterinary Nurses Council earlier this year, following a lengthy consultation and review process that began in 2009, and will replace the existing Guides to Professional Conduct.


They are principles-based, easily accessible and, at 16 pages long compared to the 50-page Guides, much more concise. They bring the College's guidance into line with the codes of conduct of other regulatory bodies, and help to describe those professional responsibilities that are fundamental to veterinary surgeons' and veterinary nurses' practice.


To expand on and clarify these professional responsibilities, an additional 27 chapters of supporting guidance have been published on the RCVS website, which also consolidate and update all existing RCVS guidance for veterinary professionals.


Both Codes set out five principles of practice: professional competence; honesty and integrity; independence and impartiality; client confidentiality and trust; and, professional accountability.


The veterinary surgeons' Code features an update to the declaration made on admission to the profession and, for the first time, the veterinary nurses' Code includes a declaration to be made on professional registration.


Among the professional responsibilities introduced in the Codes are: mandatory recording of continuing professional development; a mandatory professional development phase for new veterinary surgeons and period of supervised practice for registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) returning to practice after a break; a Performance Protocol; and, notification to the RCVS of any matter that may affect fitness to practise, including convictions (although this will require further consideration by the College).


For the first time, mandatory clinical governance has been introduced, and minimum practice standards have also been incorporated, at equivalence to the core standards set out in the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme.


A pocket-sized hard copy of the Code will be posted to all vets and RVNs shortly, which will include references to where the supporting guidance and further information can be found on the RCVS website. The online versions - at and - are fully searchable by keyword, and PDF versions will soon be available to download. A digital version is also being explored, to enable veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to access the Codes and supporting guidance on smart phones and tablets.


Although only registered veterinary nurses have agreed to abide by the VN Code of Professional Conduct, the College hopes that all veterinary nurses will consider it a useful benchmark of professional standards.


Dr Jerry Davies, RCVS President, says: "I am delighted that this significant piece of work has come to fruition. The RCVS has shown that, despite aged legislation, the Codes will, through imaginative interpretation of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, ensure the public and their animals continue to receive the level of professional service they have come to expect from veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK."



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