Growing confidence in the profession’s determination to help itself... - Veterinary Practice
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Growing confidence in the profession’s determination to help itself…

The Mercury Column, in which a guest columnist takes the temperature of the profession – and the world around.

THERE’S A DEEP SENSE OF SATISFACTION which comes from seeing something done well, whether that’s watching one’s team hit a six or seeing people succeed in their careers.

If, in the process, it can seem as if the issue at stake is an important one, then that adds a level of magnitude to the satisfaction gained.

Anyone connected with this profession will share the frustrations, the setbacks and the challenges (there are plenty of those), but it
is impossible not to view it with considerable affection so when, from the touchline, it appears that the veterinary profession has been playing with a considerable handicap, there is an ineffable sense of relief when the tide turns and all that promise looks to be within reach.

Role and remit

One of the issues most poorly understood over the ages has been the rôle and remit of the two organisations which frame the management and the future of the profession and if I had a tenner for every time I’ve heard people complain about the level of service offered by the RCVS in return for their annual renewal fee, I could probably buy Horseferry Road.

The RCVS was established in 1844 by Royal Charter to be the governing body of the veterinary profession and its statutory duties are currently laid out in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

Its principal role is to safeguard the interests of the public and animals by ensuring that only those registered can carry out acts of veterinary surgery.

As a statutory regulator it is responsible under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 for keeping the register of veterinary surgeons eligible to practise in the UK, setting standards for veterinary education and regulating the professional conduct of veterinary surgeons.

It also has powers to award Fellowships, Diplomas and Certificates to veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and others. What it doesn’t do is act as a union for veterinary surgeons or discuss the interface between the profession and government or manage communications with the media.

That, rather loosely expressed, is the function of the BVA, a body that represents individuals and the collective profession in the non-regulatory aspects of their work.

Is that it? Well, more or less. I’m sure that the ether will be fuelled by superheated steam within hours of the ink touching the paper because nothing is black and white – not even an organisation established by Royal Charter, let alone a collective body of like minded professionals who have formed a club of their own.

Over the years, there has been some degree of overlap where the boundaries might have appeared less clearly drawn and, to some extent, one can see why the RCVS may have felt it useful to anticipate a vacuum if the BVA might have appeared to have been distracted.

What is needed is for the BVA not only to be strong but to be evident in its strength and resilience. What underlies my current euphoria is the continuing evidence that the BVA has made considerable progress and is now, once again, both a meaningful support for its members and an evident driving force for the profession.

Expanding support

We learned last week (at the time of writing this) that the BVA is to expand its support for recent graduates to help in both their professional development and personal wellbeing and is investing in the Young Vet Network (YVN) to drive connections geographically.

To say that this focus on young veterinarians is all new would be to malign earlier efforts by the BVA, but communication is a wonderful thing and the current BVA team has certainly grasped this nettle to good effect.

Indeed, in this world of digitally instantaneous information, a glance at the BVA’s home page gives a reassuring glance at the way in which the association is using its communication skills to good effect.

I was excited to see the incoming president, Gudrun Ravetz, describe the profession as a veterinary family in her inaugural communication: “As a profession we are also a veterinary family… In our day-to-day jobs it can often feel like a family. Working with a small team, sometimes under pressure, with most of the time it being a great experience where we all gel, but sometimes it falls apart and we have to rebuild. [Yet] if we trust and respect each other as a working family we can rebuild to be stronger.”

This sits well alongside the association’s attempts to support our careers and the profession’s uncomfortable history with mental health issues and sends all the right messages when it comes to offering both overt and covert support for both its members and the profession as a whole.

Of course it is always difficult for a member organisation to represent a whole profession, some of whom will not be members. However, the very concept of a veterinary family ensures that the interests of the whole will be considered, regardless of membership and, to its credit, this has always been the BVA remit.

One doesn’t have to be a member to access information on life post-Brexit, or to take part in the interactive Veterinary View, using #VetView. But for access to the excellent journals and to other benefits, membership has to be worth investigating.

No longer sceptical

I recognise that I have become even more of an old cynic over time and, when the BVA and RCVS combined forces to create the Vet Futures project I, together with many others was a tad sceptical.

Several months on, however, I can only applaud this joint venture, its ambitions and the steps it is taking to keep the profession informed about issues which affect its future.

For so long in this column I have lamented the lack of input from the profession itself into managing its own future and had harboured real fears that if it didn’t start to do it, it couldn’t expect anyone else to do so.

Yes, I’d like to see its remit cast wider, I’d like to see some robust figures which would lead us to a better understanding of the factors which will affect our collective future and, like everything else, I’d hope for wider participation with more people knowing about and contributing to Vet Futures.

But, after 30 years of watching and waiting, I can genuinely say that I now have more confidence in the profession’s determination to help itself and in the organisations with which it is associated, than at any other time.

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