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RCVS Council debates its future

3 March 2004

At a special meeting today, the RCVS Council debated its own future and called for fresh thought on how RCVS activities should be carried out.

Early last year consultation papers went to all members and all listed veterinary nurses. The responses were reported to RCVS Committees last May. In view of the importance of the issues Council decided to devote a special meeting to discussing the recommendations which have emerged.

Council agreed that the Disciplinary Committee (DC) should be independent of RCVS Council. It should include veterinary and lay members in roughly equal numbers.

The consultation paper suggested more flexible powers to deal with disciplinary cases, with more options than just striking off or suspension. Many respondents agreed but argued against financial penalties.

The report to Council recommended that the DC should be able to give a warning, impose conditions or restrictions, and suspend or remove members from the Register.

The DC might have the option to meet with reduced numbers and limited powers, like a magistrates' court, to deal with cases that did not merit striking off or suspension.

The Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC) should have power to give a warning, with the agreement of the veterinary surgeon.

A difficult question was whether there should be power in very serious cases to suspend a member pending disciplinary proceedings. The proposal now is that the DC should be able to suspend on the recommendation of the PIC.

The training and conduct of veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and a range of other occupations providing veterinary services should be regulated. How this should be done is for further consideration.

The RCVS was established to recognise veterinary qualifications, keep the Register of veterinary surgeons and supervise their professional conduct. It also maintains the List of qualified veterinary nurses, but is not necessarily the right body to regulate a range of different occupational groups engaged in the care of animals.

Council has therefore commissioned a study of different possible ways of discharging these different functions.

Should a single body control entry to the profession and regulate the conduct of veterinary surgeons, as now, or should there be separate bodies?

The report to Council recommended that it should be smaller, with 25% lay membership or thereabouts. Council decided, however, not to discuss its constitution at this stage, in view of the wider examination of functions which is to be carried out.

There is also to be further work to define what a new Act should say about education and registration in view of the changes which have been under debate. The legislation will also need to provide a framework for a mandatory practice standards scheme.

No one knows yet when there may be a chance to bring the Act up to date, but there are plenty of difficult questions to be considered meantime.


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