An RCVS campaign to protect the title “veterinary nurse” received a severe setback after the Government announced it will not introduce new legislation to criminalise improper use of the title.
The RCVS launched a petition in August 2015, asking the Government to protect the title “veterinary nurse” by legally restricting it to RVNs, therefore, making it an offence for unqualified and unregistered laypeople to refer to themselves as a veterinary nurse.
The RCVS, along with the BVA and BVNA, believe individuals with the appropriate level of training and professional responsibilities should be able to use the title “veterinary nurse” and its use by unregistered individuals is misleading, with the potential to endanger animal welfare.
The campaign received a huge amount of support, with more than 21,000 people signing a parliament.uk petition. Furthermore, the campaign galvanised the veterinary nursing profession, as well as veterinary surgeons and other practice staff, with many supporting and promoting the campaign on social media and in the press.
It has also raised the profile of VNs with the public and helped improve awareness within veterinary practices that it is contrary to the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct to refer to someone as a “veterinary nurse” unless they are registered and qualified as such.
In response to the petition, Defra claimed it would not recommend that Parliament give legal protection to the title, stating its belief that criminalising the use of the term “veterinary nurse” by other animal carers in a veterinary setting would be “an unduly harsh solution”.
While this is disappointing for the RCVS, it has been asked to work with Defra to find new ways of bolstering the veterinary nursing profession.
A significant part of this work will be a review of Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, which allows certain minor acts of veterinary surgery to be delegated to veterinary nurses. The RCVS hopes Schedule 3 can be simplified to give VNs more clarity and confidence over what tasks they can undertake and augmented to strengthen their role in areas such as anaesthesia.
Look to the future
The RCVS has also launched the VN Futures project, following on from last year’s Vet Futures research and report. VN Futures will take a long-term view, seeking to prepare for the future and set ambitious goals for strengthening the profession.
The RCVS would like to thank MPs who came forward to support the campaign. It would also like to give special thanks to VNs who have tirelessly assisted with promoting the campaign, especially on social media. The RCVS continues to believe the title “veterinary nurse” should be protected and will continue to make the argument in favour of new legislation.