STEPHEN Dawson, the new secretary general of the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority (AMTRA), believes there is a strong need foracloser partnership between veterinary surgeons and “suitably qualified persons” (SQPs) to enhance animal welfare and improve services to farmers and pet owners.
And he sees the increasing number of veterinary nurses who have also qualified as SQPs as providing an important bridge to improve the relations between the two professional bodies.
“The embedding of SQPs within the Veterinary Medicines Regulations and the increasing professionalism of the industry represented a major step forward. The 21st century SQPs are totally different to those of the 1980s,” says Mr Dawson, who took over at AMTRA in July.
“They are so much more professional and more qualified now and they play a much bigger role in providing advice on animal health and welfare matters to farmers and pet owners these days – and vets need to understand this.
“I am looking forward to engaging more closely with the veterinary profession to explain to them how things have changed and the role we (AMTRA) play in making sure all SQPs are suitably qualified and how we continually upgrade their knowledge through a mandatory CPD programme.
“They are not just sales people – they are specially trained and they have a duty to supply the right medicines at the right time, regardless of price or brand.”
While recognising that veterinary practices are often in competition with SQPs, Mr Dawson feels there is still room for them to co-operate and work together in a number of noncompetitive areas such as training, farmer awareness and animal health issues, and perhaps mutual referral to deliver improved animal health and better services to animal keepers.
Sitting in his new office in Woolpit, Suffolk, he said: “I want to explain to vets how SQPs are trained and qualified to advise people on animal medicines, how they are all taught to refer any problems they can’t deal with regarding animal health back to vets and how they can all work together on supplying things like feed, bedding and other items, as well as sensible advice to improve both the health and welfare of farm animals and companion animals.
A service provider
“While AMTRA’s core role is to maintain a professional register of SQPs and ensure they undertake the marketing and distribution of animal medicines in the UK in a responsible manner, it is also a service provider – and I believe we need to work hard to constantly improve our service to our direct customers (SQPs), as well as the indirect customers, who include vets, farmers, pet owners, food consumers and the government.
“I also want to work with SQPs and their employers to help show their customers, as well as vets, that SQPs are qualified animal health advisers who know what they are talking about and can help them look after their animals.”
As far as CPD is concerned, Mr Dawson is already working with the Shropshire-based Harper Adams University College to improve the CPD system and to make the AMTRA website more user-friendly and more professional, with interactive features.
Enthusiastic about CPD
“All the people I have met so far are very enthusiastic about CPD and we are working towards providing opportunities for CPD online, especially for those people working in smaller stores, or in isolated locations, where it is difficult to get away to attend conventional CPD events.
“It is important that we help people wherever they are to obtain the CPD points they need to maintain their professional development.
“Things are changing all the time and AMTRA is determined to continue improving its services, building on what it has already achieved and carry on always upgrading the qualifications for SQPs,” said Mr Dawson, who added that he was looking forward to the challenges and opportunities to promote SQPs and what they can add to animal welfare and getting out to meet all the stakeholders.
At the same time, he points out that AMTRA will be keeping a close eye on developments in the European Union to ensure that any decisions in Brussels are made with full knowledge and understanding of the situation in the UK.