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OVs: thousands claim ‘grandfather rights’

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01 March 2015, at 12:00am

RICHARD GARD hears about the progress being made with the changes in OV requirements and training and the ‘very positive’ veterinary uptake of the training modules – with more to come

WITH a short time to go before the deadline, more than 8,250 veterinary surgeons have claimed “grandfather rights” and registered as official veterinarians.

In addition, over 650 new OVs have registered. Anyone else intending to claim grandfather rights should do so before 31st March.

All who register will progress through the “essential skills” module of six hours online tuition. Seven modules have been available, two more are due for immediate release with one to follow.

In conversation with John Douglass of Improve International, he indicates that the veterinary uptake is considered to be “very positive”.

Registrations activated

There were doubts over just how many vets were actively involved with OV work when the programme was launched. Across the seven modules, 32,000 registrations have been activated.

More will follow but by early February the highest registration was for OCQ(V) CA [companion animals] with over 6,000 vets; there were over 2,000 for TT [tuberculin testing], over 2,000 for SS [statutory surveillance] and the lowest for GX [germplasm exports] with around 300. Over 400 veterinary surgeons have completed and passed exams with another 400 or so undergoing training.

The full list of modules already available or soon to be introduced is: essential skills, tuberculin testing, statutory surveillance, exports general, small animal exports, ungulate exports, companion animals, germplasm exports, avian exports, and product exports.

The avian exports module was delayed because of the avian flu outbreak, with the possibility of a revision of information and activity. The delay indicates that the content of the modules are not set in stone and are able to be updated and revised as circumstances dictate.

There was also initial concern about difficulties experienced with the online aspect of the training. This also is a continuing development and the observations of those taking the courses will be of great interest.

John quotes the written comment from one of the new OVs: “I found the registration and training easy to understand and it was very useful to be able to tackle it in bite-sized chunks over a few weeks, as and when I had time.”

There are already interesting issues coming out of the work to date. Over 170 new OVs have taken and passed the full essential skills module so far. The level of knowledge of the participant is tested at the beginning and after completion. A figure of 91% improvement in knowledge level from taking the course is recorded.

This indicates that the knowledge of the veterinary surgeon has almost doubled when comparing their original to their final score. Many of the new OVs are likely to be new graduates, people from abroad looking to participate in UK OV work and individuals returning to government work after an absence. The findings may be of concern to the veterinary schools!

Improve International says it will be pleased to liaise with colleges to see whether the OV modules would be of particular value to students. If awareness of essential skills has to double, then specific technical topics may not be any easier. Students can take the modules before qualifying as vets.

Registering individuals

One of the essential differences with the OCQ(V) programme is that it is the individual who becomes registered as competent, unrelated to the person’s membership of a veterinary practice. The thrust is for a sense of online community to be developed and for discussion or information forums to aid those so engaged.

One can foresee that those involved with ungulate exports, for example, would wish to obtain practical views on issues that arise. A little bit like “Ask Jeeves”. A further consideration is that individual veterinary surgeons provide personal e-mail addresses. Modules, in sections presumably, will be downloaded to that address. “Presumably” is inserted because there is awareness of the limitations of download speed and volume options for some UK locations. The current high-speed fibre optic expansion will still not reach rural locations over 2km from an exchange and therefore potentially bypass many veterinary surgeon residences.

An expansion in satellite communications can be foreseen, which is supported financially in Wales. However, the notification of a personal e-mail to APHA will enable direct communications to individuals where local information is sought. The fact that OVs will have a direct route to APHA may yield considerable national benefits, not least as an important part of future surveillance – potentially.

It is too early to review the uptake of post-graduate credits through Harper Adams University. Once validated an OCQ(V) has the option to take an elective module. More details about this will emerge and interested individuals can contact Improve for further direction.

Following the uptake of grandfather rights, one of the earlier revalidation modules will be tuberculin testing. Within the next two years (up to 31st March 2017) the essential skills module and the TT module, with practical element and mentor, will need to be completed.

Initial indications are that the modules are not “tick box” exercises and do challenge knowledge, awareness and application.

Although two to five years for revalidation of all modules appears a long way off, anyone wishing to work as an OCQ(V) in several areas will have many hours of work ahead. The whole idea is to raise the bar and have international recognition for the quality of UK OV work.

Variable costs

The cost of modules varies. With over 30,000 modules signed up for, and potentially paid for, a “treasure chest” of over £6 million is calculated at £200 per module. Others have looked into such figures with much greater accuracy.

The term “treasure chest” is a mite mischievous, with all the development that has gone into the OCQ(V) operation, but it is noted that Improve International has just been acquired by Benchmark Holdings Plc.

The chief executive of Benchmark states, “The acquisition of Improve will enable us to combine our digital and distance learning expertise with Improve’s veterinary content across Europe, enhancing our ability to serve the professionals in our key veterinary markets. This is a significant step forward for our technical publishing division in both of the food and companion animal markets.”

Further information on Benchmark is available at www.benchmarkplc.com and Improve at www.improveinternational.com/uk.