More than 1,000 VNs are being given a stark choice: join the register or stop working as a VN.

RCVS registrar Gordon Hockey is writing to all listed VNs outlining the situation to them.

The nurses are on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons list and many qualified several years ago.

They elected not to go on to the register of veterinary nurses, which would have meant they were obliged to do 45 hours of CPD over three years and abide by the code of professional conduct.

However, under the new royal charter, which was approved by the privy council on November 5, unless they agree to join the register they will be breaking the law if they carry out any procedures under Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act and will no longer be able to call themselves a veterinary nurse.

RCVS figures show 1,015 VNs are on the list and 11,304 are on the register. The list closed to new additions in 2012.

RCVS registrar Gordon Hockey is writing to all listed veterinary nurses (LVNs) to explain the situation.

“This is a particularly historic time,” he said. “Veterinary nurses are now a chartered profession, as are many other professions. I will write formally to the listed nurses saying they are now on the register and subject to regulation from the changeover.”

He said they would be able to say whether they wanted to be on the register, but would not be asked to confirm CPD or disclose any convictions – as required by the code of conduct – until next year.

The issue of LVNs was discussed at a question and answer session held by the RCVS at BVNA Congress. Its head of veterinary nursing, Julie Dugmore, said the new charter recognised RVNs as associates of the college, answerable for their professional conduct.

“We will automatically transfer any listed VNs on to the register so those nurses will then need to maintain their CPD, work to the code of conduct and be subject to the disciplinary procedures,” she said.

“If that’s not what they want to do, they will not be able to practise legally as a veterinary nurse.”

She said the RCVS would also write to employers, making it clear those LVNs were no longer able to work as VNs.

She added: “One of the things that’s very important in the code of professional conduct is that practices should ensure all their VNs are on the register, but sadly, that isn’t the case all the time.

“There are many employers out there who will take on nurses assuming they are registered or listed and they may not be. Employers should check each name on the register and if they can’t find it, they should call the RCVS.”

VN council chairman Kathy Kissick said VNs also had a responsibility to ensure nurses were qualified and urged them to check the status of all new colleagues.

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