As part of my studies at the moment I have to get up to speed with regulation of other professions. Part of this made my heart sink: in December 2012 the General Medical Council acquired the statutory powers to require revalidation of medical staff on a regular basis.
Looking at the wording of the regulations is mind-breaking stuff and it is written in labyrinthine terms – what I call “Spaghetti English” because it ties itself in knots and you need to sit down with two (or more) copies of the wording to follow its self-referencing – so I don’t pretend to be able to follow the letter of the regulations yet, but the gist I get (please correct me if you are more knowledgeable in these things) is that the GMC registrar will now require revalidation of medical doctors every five years by appropriate means – a registered and “approved” practitioner writing a nice letter of recommendation about the subject doctor, passing an assessment (at “the practitioners own cost” according to the rules), and/or supplying evidence to the registrar that they may determine.
Apparently the British GMC is the first medical regulatory body in the world to require and enact formal revalidation for doctors. I understand a less formal system of colleague recommendation is in use in the dental profession in this country. That has downsides in local politics! In my experience many veterinary practitioners do not get on with their local colleagues, seeing them as competition, so I would be pleasantly surprised if this could be implemented in our profession! This is said knowing there are exceptions where local practices are friendly!
Where the medical profession goes the veterinary profession will slavishly follow I suspect, putting further pressure (academic and financial) on practitioner, and we shall have no say. Don’t get me wrong – our views will be “sought” but I suspect count for nought.
The cost of the disciplinary process is already totally borne by the practitioner in paying their annual registration fee and in mounting their defence in the event of a complaint (risk and cost-free to the complainant).
I like every one of you joined the profession under the assumption that so long as I kept up to date and did my best that I would be OK. Now there is probably going to be a further stress added to the daily stresses of the job. I am generally of the attitude “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach in matters like this, though I can see the flaws in a reliance on CPD (e.g. did they actually pay attention, or daydream?). That said I have worked in many practices in my time and they have all had local competition who are of the “steroids and antibiotics” approach to everything, and make you wonder how they get away with it!
Also this will inevitably increase the costs to an individual vet. As it is, meeting the (sneakily, now compulsory*) CPD requirement is an expensive business. Average CPD budgets seem hardly to have risen since I first graduated in 1997, yet one focused course for a day or two can easily eat that up now. I have to make up the rest using hard-earned income which really should be going towards a pension or my family’s needs, but instead goes towards funding CPD. I’m sure any periodic revalidation process will incur costs to the vet. I would be pleasantly surprised if a practice met those costs for any but the longest-serving vets, and if it did it would have to pass the costs along to the clients. Don’t forget that much CPD is done on personal (unpaid) time by vets attending evening lectures, lunchtime lectures, webinars, weekend courses. That is a cost to that practitioner too, in terms of time and travelling costs.
I do hope that if and when the RCVS start asking for this power and looking at implementing it they consider those in practice rather than just those in and near academic institutions. They must consider the solo practitioner, who more and more is a discouraged practice model but one which is bound to increase in number as the numbers of graduates continues to expand, and the opportunities to “buy in” to practices diminish (as larger practices grow). They must pay less attention to the assertions of those from academic institutions who will want a piece of this pie and for whom revalidation will be particularly easy. I hope it is practical, not onerous, and run by practitioners for practitioners, and not academics, administrators, or legal-eagles sitting in a warm conference room in London. It must level the playing field. It must force the antibiotics-and-steroids brigades to pull their socks up, and reconfirm those who really do do their best.
* You have to sign a form every year saying that you have met the requirements. If you don’t sign it you can’t reregister. If you do sign it and haven’t met the CPD requirements you’d be signing a false declaration.