RCVS Legislative Reform Consultation

16 December 2020

The RCVS recently launched a 12 week consultation on RCVS legislative reform and all members of the Royal College are invited to respond so as to have their say in influencing the future of their profession.

The consultation is the result of discussions by the RCVS Legislative Working Party (LWP) which was established in 2017. Its remit was to examine the Veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 (VSA), which governs the legislative framework for the veterinary related professions, and propose reforms that ensure the RCVS is a modern and efficient regulator. The LWP was asked to establish principles on which recommendations for legislative reform could be based.

Core Principles

The LWP Report focusses on five core principles on which any reform and new veterinary legislation might be based.

  • Principle 1: Legislation should not be unduly burdensome or complicated. It should provide clarity to the public and enhance public confidence in the professions. It should also protect veterinary titles and include requirements underpinning CPD.
  • Principle 2: The RCVS disciplinary process should be ‘forward looking’, with public protection at its heart.
  • Principle 3: The vet-led team should fall under a single regulatory umbrella.
  • Principle 4: By default, acts of veterinary surgery should continue to be restricted to veterinary surgeons. However, in order to allow for future-proofing, there should be flexibility to reflect and review the procedures that may be delegated to appropriately qualified and supervised members of the vet-led team.
  • Principle 5: Delegation rights to different para-professions should be variable without impacting each other.

LWP Recommendations

With the above principles in mind, an outline summary of the key areas on which the Recommendations of the LWP Report are based is below.

Embracing the vet-led team

The LWP is keen to allow veterinary nurses to expand their role and for additional paraprofessions to be brought under the RCVS’s umbrella – becoming ‘allied professions’ – to underpin their standards. The intention is for the RCVS to regulate all members of the vet-led team, and to create greater evidence-led flexibility over what can be delegated to these allied professionals. The LWP also recommends that statutory protection be given to the professional titles of all allied professions regulated by the RCVS, including veterinary nurses.

Assuring practice standards

The RCVS Practice Standard Scheme (PSS) is a voluntary scheme and there is no mechanism to ensure standards across all practices through assessments. The LWP recommended that the RCVS be granted statutory authority to regulate all practices and for RCVS to avail of powers of entry similar to other health care regulators.

Introducing a ‘Fitness to Practise’ regime

To reflect modern best practice, the LWP recommends introducing a forward-looking ‘Fitness to Practise’ regime with less focus on past misconduct, instead introducing the concept of ‘current impairment’. The LWP also recommends reforming the appeal processes and making changes to disciplinary arrangements.

Modernising RCVS registration

The LWP recommends a number of reforms to improve the RCVS’s registration processes. These include the separation of registration and licence to practise, mandatory CPD and the provision to enable the RCVS to introduce revalidation if needed in the future.

Improving access to the profession for those with disabilities

The LWP recommends the introduction of provisions for limited licensure in specific circumstances where disability would limit the ability to work in all areas of practice.

Retaining a Royal College that regulates

The LWP recommends that the RCVS continues to be a ‘Royal College that Regulates’. This unique arrangement allows the RCVS to take a holistic approach to public assurance and also that Royal College functions are properly funded.

The Consultation Process

The LWP recommendations could form the basis for how the veterinary professions are regulated and animals are safeguarded for decades to come. Therefore RCVS want to hear from its members whose views can be given consideration before RCVS Council formally puts its final, post-consultation recommendations to Defra, the government department which has statutory responsibility for the VSA. All of the LWP’s recommendations can be accessed in full herePlease provide comments by the closing date of Wednesday 27th January 2021.

BSAVA’s December issue of Companion featured an article on the work of the LWP which can be accessed here.