At the June 2017 meeting of RCVS Council, members decided to look into two models by which paraprofessionals working in the veterinary, animal health or related fields, might be regulated by the College under powers granted by the RCVS’s Royal Charter in 2015.
The first was an accreditation model, which would involve the RCVS accrediting an organisation which would regulate the profession in question. The second was an associate/ full regulation model, in which individual paraprofessionals would receive a similar level of regulation to that already received by veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.
At its January 2019 meeting, RCVS Council agreed to proceed with both proposed models of paraprofessional regulation, with the suitability of each model being considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the profession applying for recognition.
Paraprofessions whose work will need to be underpinned by Schedule 3 reform would need to apply for the associate model, as the RCVS would be required to be directly responsible for the register of any individuals undertaking such minor acts of veterinary surgery.
Two paraprofessional groups that have already expressed an interest in being regulated by the College, namely meat inspectors and animal behaviourists, will now be invited to apply for associate or accredited status.
Eleanor Ferguson, RCVS Registrar, said: "This is a very significant decision by Council to open up a pathway to related paraprofessions to apply to become regulated by the College.
"It is difficult to give a time-frame at this stage as to when these particular professions will be brought on board, as we will have to go through a process of developing a number of new regulatory structures including registration, education and investigation and disciplinary, as well as the appropriate governing bodies for each of the professions.
"However, we are very pleased that the Association of Meat Inspectors (AMI) and the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) have expressed an interested in being regulated by the College and we look forward to working with them to make this happen."
David Montgomery, President of the ABTC, said: "The ABTC enthusiastically welcomes the news that the RCVS is expanding its influence to include paraprofessionals. We look forward to exploring the opportunity to demonstrate the professional status of ABTC-registered Animal Trainers and Behaviourists by coming under the regulatory umbrella of the RCVS for the benefit of animal welfare."
Ian Robinson, a Trustee of the AMI, said: "The Association of Meat Inspectors welcome the news that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons intends to invite paraprofessionals to be regulated under the ambit of the RCVS. We believe it will offer enhanced security, opportunity and status, and we look forward to further dialogue to explore the various models in due course."
The College says it is also in touch with a number of other paraprofessional groups, including those representing animal musculoskeletal practitioners and equine dental technicians, about the future of paraprofessional regulation. However, before such professions could become associates, there would need to be reform of the Veterinary Surgeons Act in order to remedy some of the deficiencies of the current legislative regime and make sure that these groups have appropriate legal underpinning for their work. This, says the College, complements ongoing discussions on changes to the legislative framework to bolster the role of veterinary nurses.
On particular issue that the College says the new proposals are designed to remedy is that of equine dental procedures being carried out by well-trained but nevertheless unregulated paraprofessionals. Neil Townsend, Chair of the British Equine Veterinary Association’s (BEVA) Allied Professional Committee, said: "Change to the current situation, where legislative enforcement is impossible, horse owners are confused, and horse welfare is compromised, is long overdue. BEVA is really pleased that the RCVS has listened and is supporting a proposal for regulation of all equine dental procedures. We hope that Government will act."
RCVS President Amanda Boag, said: "This is a real milestone in the history of the RCVS and represents quite possibly the biggest change to our regulatory role since the introduction of the Register of veterinary nurses in 2007, and should Schedule 3 reform be achieved it would be the most significant change since the role of veterinary nurses was first recognised in law in 1991. It is particularly befitting for our 175th anniversary year, as it demonstrates we are an organisation that can evolve to meet the changes occurring in the wider veterinary and animal health sector and use our regulatory experience and expertise to ensure that animal health and welfare and public health is safeguarded in different, but related fields of endeavour."
The full approved paper regarding the review of the minor procedures regime and paraprofessional regulation can be found on the RCVS website at: https://www.rcvs.org.uk/news-and-views/policy/veterinary-legislation-review/
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