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VN Council vote on model for governance reform at first meeting of the year

27 March 2024

On Wednesday 28 February 2024, Veterinary Nurses (VN) Council voted on a proposed new model for governance reform at its first meeting of the year.

At the meeting, members voted to approve in principle recommendations that: the composition of VN Council be reformed to have a parity of lay and professional members (that is to say, lay and professional members in equal measure); to include fewer veterinary surgeon members; and to reduce the number of Council members from 14 to 12.

The decision made by VN Council will now be consulted on in tandem with the proposed governance changes for RCVS Council. The overall proposed changes to RCVS governance are being made in anticipation of changes to the regulatory framework of the veterinary professions in new primary legislation to replace the Veterinary Surgeons Act.

Chair of VN Council, Belinda Andrews-Jones RVN, said: “As a profession, we believe that it is of vital importance that veterinary nurses continue to have a strong presence both in VN Council and in RCVS governance as a whole.

Belinda Andrews-Jones“However, it is important to take best practice for regulatory bodies into account. The current composition of the RCVS is markedly different from other regulators of professions, including those in the healthcare sector. It is the norm for all members of a healthcare regulator’s governing body to be appointed via a rigorous process with transparent criteria.

“Bringing in an appointed system for both RCVS Council and VN Council would help us to achieve representation from all four nations of the UK, along with ensuring that members bring expertise from across the sector – something that is not possible with the current electoral model.

“Additionally, regulatory boards usually consist of 10 to 12 members, with a parity of lay members in order to give the public assurance that the regulator acts in their interests as opposed to working to serve professional interests.

“Taking all this into consideration, VN Council decided to put forward the proposed model in order to adhere to regulatory best practice while ensuring that the maximum number of nurses possible remain on the Council.

“Our proposed new governance model is one that seeks to build on the best aspects of the current arrangements, while reflecting modern best practice.”

At present, VN Council comprises 14 people: six elected veterinary nurses, two appointed veterinary nurses, two appointed veterinary surgeons, and four appointed lay people, as well as an additional observer from the RCVS Officer Team. The decisions put to VN Council on new Council structure were as follows:

a) Whether to introduce lay parity.

b) Whether to recommend reducing the number of veterinary surgeons on VN Council from two to one (plus one RCVS Council observer).

c) Whether to retain a 14-member Council.

d) If no, then to choose between a 10 or 12 member Council.

VN Council consequently voted to introduce lay parity, reduce the number of veterinary surgeons from two to one (plus one RCVS Council observer), and to reduce the size of VN Council from 14 to 12 members. Therefore, the new model recommendation being put forward for approval from RCVS Council means the new structure of VN Council will consist of five veterinary nurses, one RCVS Council appointed veterinary surgeon, and six lay members, along with the additional observer from the RCVS Officer team.

The decision comes after RCVS Council approved similar proposals for future College governance reform in January 2024, having agreed to consult on reform models including:

a) Parity, or near parity of veterinary professionals and lay members.

b) Replacing all elected members with appointed members.

c) Removing Vet Schools Council appointees, while ensuring there is a strong educationalist voice on the appropriate committees.

d) Increasing the proportion of allied professionals as and when the RCVS comes to regulate them.

As RCVS Council has already agreed proposals to become an entirely appointed body, the reform models proposed to VN Council were based on the assumption that it too would be all-appointed. This is because, if VN Council failed to also switch to an appointed model, there would still be elected members of VN Council sitting on the RCVS Council, thus making the model incompatible.

As with the governance reform options put forward to RCVS Council earlier in the year, the proposals put forward for VN Council members to discuss and vote on were in line with recommendations on regulatory best practice identified in a 2014 Law Commission report (‘Regulation of Health and Social Care Professionals’), which were subsequently adopted by the UK Government.

For further detail, the governance reform paper considered by VN Council can be found in the VN Council papers for February 2024.

Following a discussion about the governance consultation process at the March meeting of RCVS Council on Thursday 14 March 2024, the consultation is expected to be published in the spring.

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