Legislation has been approved that brings veterinary regulation up to date, by ensuring the independence of those who adjudicate on complaints.
A Legislative Reform Order (LRO) to reconstitute the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) disciplinary committees separately from its Council was signed by Defra Minister David Heath on 17 January, and will come into force on 6 April 2013.
The LRO will amend Part I of Schedule 2 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (VSA) and require that the RCVS Preliminary Investigation and Disciplinary Committees are made up of veterinary surgeons and lay members who are not RCVS Council members, and who are appointed independently.
This will provide regulation in line with modern practice, by ensuring that the same group of people is not responsible for setting the rules, investigating complaints and adjudication, and by bringing lay people formally into the Preliminary Investigation Committee.
The LRO will also allow the RCVS to increase the pool of people available to investigate complaints and sit on disciplinary hearings, reducing the onerous workload on the individual Committee members whose primary appointment is to RCVS Council.
The RCVS has been working on the LRO with Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials since late 2010, and the Order was based on extensive consultations undertaken by the RCVS and Defra.
At every stage of Parliamentary scrutiny the Order was commended as an effective means to address the single biggest deficit of the VSA and to improve how the RCVS regulates the profession. Furthermore, during debate in Grand Committee of the House of Lords on 10 January, the RCVS received considerable praise for its strenuous efforts to modernise under the constraints of the present legislation, and the LRO received unanimous support.
Following the Order coming into force, the first external members will join the Disciplinary and Preliminary Investigation Committees from July 2013. After a two-year transition period, members of the RCVS Council will become ineligible for membership of these committees. Information about how to apply to join these committees will be available shortly.
President Jacqui Molyneux says: "I am delighted the LRO has been made and I am immensely thankful for the hard work of the Defra team and my colleagues in the College. The LRO is the single biggest reform to the regulation of veterinary surgeons since the 1966 Act, and it will bring the RCVS in line with regulatory best practice and improve the perception of the independence of the RCVS disciplinary processes."
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