At its meeting on Thursday 3 March 2016, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Council agreed wholesale reform to the College’s governance arrangements to improve the efficiency and accountability of its decision-making processes.
The changes agreed by Council included almost halving the number of Council members and formalising lay and veterinary nurse membership.
Under the proposals approved by Council it would be reduced to 24 members – comprising 13 elected veterinary surgeons (constituting a majority of Council), six appointed laypeople, three members appointed on behalf of the UK veterinary schools and two veterinary nurses. There would also be the option to appoint an additional member on behalf of any allied professions that RCVS Council may choose to regulate as associates of the College.
Professor Stuart Reid, Senior Vice-President of the RCVS and Chair of the Governance Panel that developed the recommendations, said: “I am delighted that Council so fully supported our proposals for a new structure. The new composition will ensure that both veterinary nurses and laypeople have a guaranteed place at the Council table, as well as maintaining a majority of elected veterinary surgeons and important input from the veterinary schools.
“The proposal recognises the unique nature of the RCVS and will allow us to expedite our decision-making process, making us more fleet of foot and better able to respond to the needs of the profession and the public. It has also been constructed to allow Council to evolve its position, ensuring it remains relevant into the future. If all goes well we hope that the changes could come into force as soon as March 2017.”
Liz Cox, the Chair of VN Council, particularly welcomed the changes in respect of veterinary nursing representation on RCVS Council, adding: “It is an historic decision for veterinary nurses and one that has been long awaited. It is only right that those who work so closely alongside veterinary surgeons in practice should have a direct input into regulation that affects us all.”
Council’s approval of the recommendations was the culmination of two years of debate and consultation with the profession and other stakeholders. This included a formal consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last year which garnered 52 responses – including from the British Veterinary Association - most of which were supportive. Different options for reform had, in turn, been developed by a Governance Panel, chaired by Professor Reid, which was set up by Council in March 2015 to consider various options.
Defra will now run a short informal consultation to provide those who responded to the initial consultation the opportunity to comment on the proposed reforms. If no issues are raised Defra officials will seek approval from the Government to proceed with a legislative reform order (LRO) to make the necessary changes to the Veterinary Surgeons Act.
This LRO will be scrutinised by parliamentary committee and voted on in both the House of Commons and House of Lords. Once this has been passed there will be a three-year transitional period, agreed by Council members, during which Council’s numbers would be gradually reduced.
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