New Council gets down to business - Veterinary Practice
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New Council gets down to business

RICHARD STEPHENSON an elected member of the RCVS Council, reflects on the latest meeting

THE November meeting of the
Royal College Council is the first
occasion since the AGM in July
which new members have an
opportunity to attend.

It is a reflection of the extraordinary
length of the election process that
nominations for next year’s Council
election have opened before the members
elected this year have fully “taken their

David Catlow, previously BVA
president, is perhaps the
best known of the new
members who include four new lay members:
Rachael Jennings,
Judith Webb, Andrea
Jeffreys and Professor
Peter Lees.

I’m not sure if it
was the experienced
chairmanship of the
new president, Peter
Jinman, or the absence
of Bob Partridge but
the meeting proved
somewhat more sedate
than usual – although
no shorter. Bob had,
however, given the
president a comprehensive list of
questions which were faithfully asked
and in one instance resulted in a change
to the proposed document.

These reflections “reflect” some of
the things that interested me at the
Council meeting (and frankly a few that
did not) and are not necessarily a
complete picture of the proceedings.

There was a poignant start when
councillors remembered members who
had died since the last meeting – a
special tribute to Mary Brancker having
been circulated prior to council.

At the end of the meeting, the
president announced that proposals will
be discussed after the next Council
meeting (in March) to create a two-year
presidential term.

The Budget

The College continues to operate in the
black with increased retention fee over
budget due to greater membership
numbers; this, however, is almost exactly
offset by decreased interest and
investment income. The projected
operating surplus will now be £174,163
(as opposed to £186.871).

I raised the issue of the
“confidential” classification of the draft
budget report. Apart from the fact that
it doesn’t contain anything that is
confidential, it seems to me that such a
designation is liable to misinterpretation
when applied to a document of a
financial nature in a public body. It gives
the impression that there is something
to hide when there is not. The president agreed to “look into this” – which is
what I say when I don’t intend to do
anything but I hope Mr Jinman has a
different approach.

RCVS Strategy Plan

The plan had already been debated in all
RCVS committees and the final version
was largely uncontroversial – although I
suspect the commitment “to achieve
revision of the Veterinary Surgeons
Act” is more of an aspiration than a “plan” – despite the
positive noises being
made by the new
Minister of State.

In the event the
plan was surprisingly
controversial with Mr
Catlow being
particularly vocal in
opposition. It was
argued that the RCVS
needs to better define
its role in acting as a
source of scientific
information before
approving a strategy.

I argued that the
College must respond to numerous HMG
consultations at present – these arrive thick and fast. A better system needs to
be put in place – so whilst not
disagreeing with Mr Catlow, I felt this
was an instance in which the cart needs
to be put before the horse.

What is proposed is that the public
affairs committee will establish small
boards including outside experts who
are capable of providing both
considered and rapid responses to
requests for information when required
by the Council to do so.

VN bye-laws.

The vexed question of the lawfulness of
the RCVS removing a nurse’s name
from the Schedule 3 Statutory List of
VNs (following a finding of disgraceful
conduct by the VN DC) has been a bit
of a bugbear in previous meetings.

The initial plan was to set up a VN
DC (similar to the vet DC) with powers
to remove VNs not just from the new
voluntary register but from the Schedule
3 List – thereby preventing them from
undertaking Schedule III tasks. This had
been questioned by a previous registrar
and the College had produced a rather
watered down proposal that removal
would only be from the Register and
not the list.

In committee, a large majority of
members had indicated they would not
support this approach and it had been
agreed to seek a third (written) opinion
from Queen’s Counsel to determine the
extent of the College’s powers.

Counsel provided a useful, fresh and helpful insight into how we should view
the VN List and the “rights” of those
people entered therein, the essence of
which is: “There is no general right for a
veterinary nurse to carry out minor
surgical procedures. The right exists if
and to the extent that a veterinary
surgeon … permits the nurse to carry
out the procedure.”

In other words, employing a VN
listed under Schedule 3 confers the right
on the veterinary surgeon to delegate
acts of veterinary surgery to that nurse.
The exemption to the general
prohibition on lay veterinary practice is
enjoyed by the VN only under the
supervision and control of the VS. The
“List” itself does not confer statutory
rights on the VN.

Counsel advised that: “It would be
sensible for a warning to be given that
there may be disciplinary consequences
to a veterinary surgeon who permits a
nurse to undertake surgical procedures
under his direction in circumstances
where that nurse has a disciplinary record…”
Counsel was unambiguous that the
RCVS not only can but
should do this.

The College is currently
acting ultra vires when
making any bye-law
concerning post-
qualification regulation of
“listed” nurses, and Counsel
urged the College to deal with this “as a
matter of some urgency”. This can be
done by a Statutory Instrument under
Section 19(5) of the VSA.

Thus, it was proposed and agreed by
RCVS Council to introduce the new
VN bye-laws coupled with a change to
the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct
which will effectively prevent a
veterinary surgeon authorising a VN
who has been removed from the
Register from performing Schedule 3
tasks (even if still on the List). Both the
List and Register will be clearly
annotated so that the name of any
removed person will be readily

An amendment proposed by Bob
Partridge to give the registrar authority
to keep a list of disciplined RVNs was
approved by Council without a vote.

New health protocol

I have highlighted this very positive
development before. A consultation
exercise had been held since the last
meeting which was inundated with 11
responses. To be fair these did include
SPVS, VDS, VBF, BVA and interestingly
the embryonic Vets4BVU. All were
basically supportive (except Vets4BVU
who felt it would not be helpful to
veterinary surgeons) with some constructive suggestions.
The new protocol will enable the PIC to intervene at an earlier stage
when members are found (suspected) to
have alcohol/drug/suicidal/health
problems, avoiding the need for a
formal referral to the DC. Members will
be directed into an appropriate care
programme and /or will be expected to
offer “undertakings” to the PIC such as
submitting to blood testing for alcohol
or drugs, joining AA, refraining from
alcohol, not working alone, etc.
Breaches of these will be liable to result
in a full disciplinary hearing.

Council approved the protocol
without further debate and the
necessary amendments to the Guide to
Professional Conduct
to bring the changes
into effect.

Council also approved a
memorandum of understanding with
the Veterinary Surgeon’s Health Support


The heads of veterinary schools (HOVS) had considered the status of
EMS at their recent away
day. They felt it was
unsustainable for EMS to
continue to be compulsory.
The universities had a
responsibility to ensure
students gained Day One
skills and the RCVS should
assess this outcome rather
than enforcing compulsory

This view hadn’t found much favour committee which had agreed to instigate an EMS recording system similar to the PDP and integrated with it (two universities indicating that they don’t wish to participate).

The approach to EMS by the
HOVS caused considerable debate. Dr
Barry Johnson was particularly exercised
that they had suggested that compulsory
EMS could be dropped. He felt it was
essential to graduates gaining the
necessary day one skills and had only
recently been reviewed.

This was backed up by Roger Eddy
and Jacqui Molyneux who both pointed
out that in gaining practical skills EMS
was vital – a “gem” in UK veterinary
training. Dr Bertie Ellis, however,
disagreed: his daughter had qualified
from Grenada without EMS and was,
he said, a perfectly good vet.

I cited the recent manpower survey
which showed that employers had little
confidence in the current day one
competencies of UK grads and that
clients were also reporting severe
deficiencies. Dr Eddy proposed,
seconded by myself and Christine
Shield, that Council reaffirms its
commitment to EMS: this was not
voted on but found general favour with
the whole Council.

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