Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Session 2007-08

14 May 2008


Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966€”Report published

The veterinary profession must iron out its differences and decide what it wants in terms of regulatory reform, says the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

In a report out today (Wednesday 14 May) the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 the Committee says that a decision by Defra to walk away from work on a white paper to update the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 has left the revision of this forty-two year old legislation in a mess.

However it also finds that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has not done enough itself to provide a clear picture of its proposals for a new statutory framework for the regulation of the profession.

Any new Act should not overload the profession with unnecessary legislation, says the Committee but it must safeguard the health and welfare of animals and also protect them, and their owners, from those who offer potentially dangerous treatments without sufficient knowledge or training.

Chairman of the Committee the Rt Hon Michael Jack said:

"Not only do veterinary surgeons provide a service to millions of pet owners in the United Kingdom, but they also play a valuable role in maintaining the wellbeing of the country's livestock industry and the protection of public and animal health by acting as sentinels against animal disease outbreaks.

"It is vitally important that the profession meets modern day standards of quality of service, and has the transparent and accountable disciplinary procedures demanded by the public.

"We urge the profession to coalesce round some specific proposals to amend the disciplinary process for veterinary professionals. We believe that a working party should be set up between Defra, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the British Veterinary Association to produce a new Bill for introduction in 2009."

The Committee found there appears to be general agreement, within the profession and beyond, that aspects of the Act require modernisation.

However, whilst there is consensus that the disciplinary procedure is in urgent need of updating, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons does not have the support of the majority of the profession for its proposals on compulsory practice standards and compulsory continuing professional development. Despite working for almost five years on the subject, the Royal College has not yet formulated a detailed plan for how a new Council might be structured. Nor is there a clear vision of how "para-professionals" and those administering complementary and alternative therapies to animals ought to be regulated under a new Act.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs agrees that the Act is in urgent need of updating, but has said that there is no funding available for work on a White Paper until at least 2011. The Committee says the next three years must be used by the profession as an opportunity to decide what it wants, and to iron out internal differences, if it is to have influence on the shape of future legislation. An important step in this process would be for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to analyse the costs of its proposals both for those practising and for the consumer.


Further details about this inquiry can be found at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environment__food_and_rural_affairs/efra_veterinarysurgeons.cfm

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