Following a recent Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) decision to strengthen the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct regarding the use of the term ‘specialist’ by veterinary surgeons practising in the UK, the College has extended the deadline for new applications to its list of RCVS Specialists.

Changes to the Code were approved at the RCVS Council meeting on 6 June 2015 to clarify that (in the UK) only those whose names appear on the RCVS List of Specialists may promote themselves as a ‘specialist’. A similar provision was introduced regarding Advanced Practitioner status. The changes regarding specialist status will not come into force until the beginning of April 2016.

The deadline for new applications for RCVS Specialist status has this week been extended to 30 September 2015 to allow more time to apply. The deadline for re-applications by existing RCVS Specialists remains 14 August 2015.

The changes will also apply to European Veterinary Specialists fully recognised by the European Board of Veterinary Specialisation, to ensure the UK specialist list provides consistency and to reduce the potential for confusion amongst the public and the profession. European Specialists will be offered a simplified application process and a 50% reduction in the fee, because their revalidation is carried out by their specialist European college.

Gordon Hockey, RCVS Registrar, explains the changes: “Specialist status is not easy to achieve. Those who hold it have achieved a postgraduate qualification at a minimum of Diploma level and have satisfied us that they make an active contribution in their speciality, for example, through publishing academic papers.

“The change to the Code of Professional Conduct is therefore intended to ensure the integrity of the specialist list and title, so that those who do not have RCVS-recognised qualifications, experience and expertise do not claim or imply they hold such a status.

“These changes will benefit the public and, ultimately, animal welfare by clearly identifying those who have specialised knowledge and skills. They should also aid members of the broader profession in the UK when they are deciding who they should refer cases to.

“We recognise this represents a significant change which is why we have allowed a ‘bedding in’ period before the change comes into force, as well as extending the deadline for applications.”

As well as changing the Code, the College has also amended Chapter 23 of its supporting guidance (‘Advertising and publicity’) to give more detailed advice on use of the terms ‘specialist’ and ‘specialising in’ in the context of advertising and referrals. This can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/advertising.

Those who wish to find out more about applying for Specialist status, including the application process and criteria for recognition, should visit www.rcvs.org.uk/specialists. The List of RCVS Specialists is available at www.rcvs.org.uk/listofspecialists.

Details of the updates made to the Code can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/vetcode. These changes have also been reflected in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct app which can be downloaded from www.rcvs.org.uk/codeapp.