The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has written to the MPs drawn in today's private members' Bill ballot to call upon them to introduce legislation to protect the title 'veterinary nurse' and introduce an effective regulatory system that would ensure that those veterinary nurses found guilty of serious professional misconduct were prevented from carrying out medical treatment to or surgery on animals.
Currently the title 'veterinary nurse' is not protected, and therefore anyone, no matter how little training and education they may have, can legally refer to themselves as a veterinary nurse.
Moreover, veterinary nurses (VNs) are not subject to statutory regulation, but the RCVS uses powers under its Royal Charter to award certificates to VNs who have undergone approved training. Qualified VNs (whose names appear in a List of certificate-holders published by the RCVS) are allowed to give medical treatment to, or carry out minor surgery on, animals under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (VSA).
In 2007, the RCVS introduced a non-statutory Register of Veterinary Nurses. Registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) commit to follow a code of professional conduct, keep their skills and knowledge up to date and submit to a disciplinary system.
RVNs found guilty of serious professional misconduct can be suspended or removed from the Register at the direction of the RVN Disciplinary Committee (DC), but the RCVS has no power to remove them from the List. This means they can still legally give medical treatment or carry out minor surgery and perform other nursing duties specified under VSA (although they will then be formally listed as 'DC removal - Listed').
The RCVS has been working for some time to develop a framework for the regulation of veterinary nurses and has sent the ballot MPs a pre-prepared Bill, drafted by leading Counsel.
The statutory regulation of VNs is widely supported by the veterinary nursing profession and the public. This is evidenced by a 2012 HM Government e-petition, calling for the statutory regulation of veterinary nurses, which received over 2,500 signatures. Furthermore, the regulation of veterinary nurses by statute is supported by the British Veterinary Nursing Association and the British Veterinary Association, the representative bodies for veterinary nurses and surgeons in the UK.
RCVS Chief Executive Nick Stace says:
"I urge MPs selected in today's Ballot to take forward legislation for the statutory regulation of veterinary nurses and the protection of the title veterinary nurse. The nation's animals and owners deserve better than the current situation.
"There is widespread support amongst the public and profession for such legislation, so the RCVS has had a Bill drafted by leading Counsel and is prepared to offer significant support to any MP willing to pick up this worthy cause."
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