Veterinary nurses have say on new regulatory framework

30 November 2006

During early December, RCVS Listed veterinary nurses will be asked for their views on a new non-statutory regulatory framework that will move VNs a step closer to self-regulation.

This approach paves the way for statutory changes under new legislation that it is hoped will replace the out-dated Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

At the core of the proposals being put before VNs by the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council is a non-statutory Register, to open in April 2007. All VNs who qualified on or after 1 January 2003 will be transferred to the new Register automatically; those listing before this date are able to transfer if they wish.

Joining the new Register will enable VNs to demonstrate that they are committed to maintaining their professional skills through continuing professional development (CPD) and are prepared to adhere to guidance on their professional conduct.  This greater self-responsibility will show veterinary employers, colleagues and the animal-owning public that registered veterinary nurses are prepared to be professionally accountable for what they do.   

A draft Guide to Professional Conduct for veterinary nurses is included in the consultation package and follows that for veterinary surgeons, to ensure consistency.

The disciplinary mechanism would begin if a complaint arises that suggests a VN is unfit to practise or guilty of serious professional misconduct. However, in the first three years of the Register, there will be no formal disciplinary processes, allowing time for the system to bed-in.

"Veterinary nurses undergo rigorous training in order to enter the List, but we are not subject to professional regulation after that. By contrast, the public know that veterinary surgeons, human nurses and other human health professionals can be held to account for the way in which they care for their patients," points out Andrea Jeffery, who chairs the RCVS VN Council.

"When new legislation is available to replace the Veterinary Surgeons Act, we hope that it will provide the opportunity for veterinary nurses to be fully regulated, on the same lines as veterinary surgeons. In the meantime, I believe that the non-statutory Register is an exciting development and I am keen to hear the feedback of VNs, particularly on the proposed Guide to Professional Conduct for veterinary nurses."

The consultation, including the draft Guide and a timetable for implementation of the new Register, can be viewed on RCVSonline from 1 December.  Responses were originally requested by 31 December 2006 but the deadline has now been extended to 20 January 2007.

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