Surveying the certificate landscape - Veterinary Practice
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Surveying the certificate landscape

GARETH CROSS learns more about the various certificates on offer – from CertAVP to PGCert and GPCert, including one on the way in ophthalmology – and wonders where and how APs will fit in

SEVERAL years ago I wrote an enthusiastic piece about the new modular certificates (CertAVP) about to be rolled out by the RCVS. A year or so after that I wrote a slightly controversial rant about the gaping holes in the postgraduate landscape left by the gaps in that new system and the withdrawal of the “old style” certificates.

This was mainly due to certain subjects and minor species interests being not ready to go for the new certs and the old certs in those areas being withdrawn. The structure and content of these modular certs was also a hot topic of debate.

The modular system went down well with us in practice, but the compulsory non-clinical aspects of them was widely criticised as most vets wanted to focus on the clinical material only. So from November 2007, for several years there was a lot of missing areas in the available certificates and courses. Since then there have been some major changes so I thought it was about time I reviewed the situation for readers.

One of the main news stories in veterinary postgraduate education since the RCVS cert changes has been the creation of BSAVA’s two new certificates: the PGCert (postgraduate certificate) in SAS (small animal surgery) and PGCertSAM (small animal medicine).

Tapping into hunger

These tapped into a hunger amongst vets in practice who wanted a taught course that was achievable in practice, and one that was purely clinical with a specific subject, without the A and B module content of the CertAVP.

Such was the popularity of these that the first enrolment sold out in 20 minutes and the 2012 one in five minutes. The BSAVA had to hurriedly arrange a second intake. (The RCVS’s CertAVP is also popular with 1,200 vets currently involved and 2,500 modules awarded so far).

The BSAVA PGCert details are all available on its website, but briefly there are two phases. In phase one there are 20 taught modules each followed up by online work and assessment. After all 20 of these are completed there is an exam. Phase two involves 10 case studies and a viva. Time-scale for completion is 3-5years.

One of the subjects that was left stranded in 2007 by the RCVS was ophthalmology, and I am pleased to report that the BSAVA is currently working towards launching a PGCert in that subject in 2014.

Another long-standing provider of postgraduate certificates for practitioners is ESVPS (European School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies) via the Improve International accredited courses. These are taught over one or two years and involve attendance at the taught sessions, completion of course work and a final multiple choice examination.

Since 2007, ESVPS and Improve International have been the only organisations to provide a route for postgraduate certificates and courses in some subjects (e.g. ophthalmology) that fell into the holes between the two RCVS systems. (Many of these holes have gradually been filled by the RCVS as discussed below).

Low interest

ESPVS awards the GPCert (General Practitioner Certificate) in various subjects. Previously there had been the opportunity to use a number of these GPCert awards to gain a ‘B’ module of the CertAVP through the University of the West of England. However, due to low interest these were discontinued in January 2013.

I have a GPCert from ESPVS, and have one employee going through the extremely thorough medicine course. ESPVS has recently collaborated with Harper Adams University (HAU) and now offers candidates completing a GPCert the opportunity to gain a PgC which is the equivalent to the BSAVA’s PGCert.

It is also working towards a route for past GPCert holders to build on their GPCert and undertake further study and work to gain transferable credits towards a Masters, which is positioned at a University Level 7. A full route to a Masters through ESVPS and HAU will be available later this year. [There will be more detail concerning ESPVS and Improve in a future article in Veterinary Practice.]

So what has been happening to the CertAVP since its launch? I put a few questions to the RCVS and the replies are below: Changes to the CertAVP: “The most significant review recently was the change to the A and B0 modules for key professional and clinical skills – the old modules between them accounted for 20 credits. We’ve rationalised the content, restructured and amended the A and B0 modules and replaced them with a new A module (now called “Foundations of Advanced Veterinary Practice”), worth 10 credits.

“It’s still compulsory for everyone who wants to achieve the full CertAVP. Essentially, what’s changed is that the business/practice management bits of the old A module have come out, and these are now captured in a range of new C modules in veterinary business management (currently available for assessment through Liverpool).

“This restructuring means that candidates for the full Cert now have even more choice about how they make up their Cert – they can now take four C modules (or an extra B module). The “combination rules” for people who want a named “designated” CertAVP haven’t changed, most designations still require three relevant C modules, thus freeing up choice to select other modules of interest to make up the full 60 credits.

“We’ve also recently approved new versions of the cattle modules, having worked with the BCVA on this.” Comment on the BSAVA certs: “I’ve never seen BSAVA/Nottingham Trent’s Cert as competition – RCVS is very happy to see as many vets as possible working towards good quality, university quality assured and certificated CPD. The two systems are not the same, but are complementary.

“We’ve a joint statement about the relation between the two systems on our website at”

Not recognised

Comment on the ESPVS certs: “ESVPS certs aren’t recognised by RCVS, as ESVPS isn’t a recognised awarding body or university. However, my understanding is that ESVPS is working with the University of the West of England (Hartpury) and candidates can be assessed under the auspices of UWE if they want credit towards modules in the RCVS CertAVP.”

I asked about the “holes” referred to in the introduction to this piece. Originally on the RCVS website the College merrily listed modules that had no method of being assessed and awarded.

One of the major criticisms of the RCVS in its new certificate system was the withdrawal of the old certificates and the re-introduction of some subject specific ones but not others: e.g. surgery was available but no ophthalmology.

Also some minor species interests (e.g. pigs) were left without any route for postgraduate qualification. I see, however, that now on the website most C module subjects have an accredited university next to them with the exception of ophthalmology, dentistry and fish. Are all the other modules up and running? The RCVS response: “As far as I know, yes.”

Then came a mention of something that the RCVS has been talking about for a while (and I hope you all took part in the consultation process). This will warrant further investigation from this column! The RCVS stated: “One thing to look out for in the not too distant future is the development of the RCVS Advanced Practitioner status, following on from the recommendations of the Calman review of specialisation (see RCVS website for papers at June 2012 Council meeting, which accepted all those recommendations).

“We currently have a working party which is drawing up the detailed criteria for AP status, including which qualifications will render someone eligible to apply. More details expected later this year.”

Who will move forward?

So who of you reading this is going to be an Advanced Practitioner in the next year or so? Who will the RCVS allow to apply for this status?

Which of the certificates mentioned above will allow the title to be bestowed (I’d take a punt on a CertAVP making you an AP) or will it be a more flexible system? Will the public understand it? Have they been consulted?

Find out the answers to these and other burning questions (e.g. what can an AP status vet do that others can’t, and what will non AP vets be restricted from doing?) in a future edition of this Crosswords column.

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