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Rapid registration for new qualification

by
01 November 2014, at 12:00am

Richard Gard hears about preparations for the recently introduced new system for handling government work on farms – and the new responsibilities being thrust upon them.

THE first registration for the Official Controls Qualification (Veterinary) took place within 14 minutes of the website (www. improveinternational.com) opening.

Whether this was done from a desktop, laptop or mobile is not clear but over 1,500 vets had paid the registration fee by 1st October.

There is some advantage in registering before 9th January 2015. Not only is the price of a pub meal saved but also included is six hours of essential skills online training. The deadline for existing OVs is 31st March in order to claim “grandfather rights”.

A recent presentation at the offices of Improve International gave details of the initiative. Many veterinary surgeons have attended modular programmes with this CPD provider at its headquarters near Swindon – a purpose-built training facility within a hotel.

Simon Hall (veterinary director of the AHVLA) and David Babington (MD of Improve) talked to prepared slides but also answered questions and discussed issues along the way; John Douglas (Improve) and Mike Wake eld (AHVLA) also contributed to the conversation.

Veterinary surgeons will be aware of the lengthy discussions that have led to this major change in OV registration but the development work has clearly yielded an impressive format and content.

Growth of training media

There will, of course, be glitches despite all the careful considerations. The breadth of media that is expected to be utilised by vets to access the training is growing all the time. Improve hopes that any issues will be made known at the earliest opportunity by phone, e-mail or any other means.

The first point of change is that the branding AHVLA has to be changed to APHA (Animal & Plant Health Agency). The extensive contract was developed by the AHVLA but no sooner had the ink dried than a title change popped up.

Not a problem: Improve and their development e-learning partner, WillowDNA, are well-versed in change. The contract to develop and deliver the training is for three years with a two-year likely extension before re- tendering. Veterinary surgeon training for OCQ(V) is self-financing.

When the grand plan was drawn up it was known that some 11,500 vets were registered as OVs but fewer than 8,000 are active. Over 3,000 made up the TT panel on paper but around 1,500 are active.

The registrations to date include 200 new OVs and 44 vets have sat an OCQ(V) quali cation and passed, but some have failed. These failures are evidence that improvement is required as only an MRCVS is able to enter the system.

There will be 10 OCQ(V)s with accompanying revalidation courses and the rst three are up and running (essential skills, tuberculin testing and companion animals), with a further four available from December. All modules will be available by the end of March 2015.

The quali cation is aimed at individual veterinary surgeons and held by them throughout their careers, provided the required revalidation examination is completed. An option is for possibly 10 years of CPD and a Masters degree. The clear and stated aim is to raise the quality of OV performance. Course leaders will manage each topic and be available to individual vets for support and discussion.

The key features related to quality are: “OVs play an important role in protecting our nation against disease and supporting the economic vitality of the livestock farming industry. The national interest requires that this role is consistently performed to the highest possible quality.”

Additionally, the whole registration and revalidation initiative “supports a new approach to the way taxpayer funded work is awarded”. Or, put another way, if you want the Queen’s shilling, then you have to march in step.

An overview of the annual activities of OVs includes 80,000 bovine TB surveillance herd test visits carried out, plus 61,000 export health certificates issued, plus 1,000 anthrax enquiries, plus 2,300 brucellosis investigations, plus 50,000 pet passports issued. So, these and other panels will have revalidation courses and examinations.

There was some discussion about how the online aspect of technical training will operate, with oversight of online examinations and with TT testing a practical assessment of competence.

Manageable sections

The training modules are broken down into manageable sections to be completed in sequence over an extended period, not as a six-hour session. There was a demonstration of the format that included pieces of video and resource materials. Feedback on the content will be welcomed and clearly the structure of each section will be changed and updated as new information and legislation become available.

The European School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies (ESVPS) academic board controls standards across the syllabus and other key components of the taught courses leading to postgraduate qualifications. Harper Adams University is carrying out a rigorous validation process and ensuring that teaching elements and examination processes meet the highest academic standards.

In response to the question “Why Harper Adams?” the response came: “Because of their professional standards but also they are good people to work with.”

The modules will cost from £99 to £249 and it is indicated that this will be lower in many cases than the previous attendance at a training centre, with travel and loss of working time. Also there will be no delay in the availability of training as the online approach allows staff to become operational as OVs more quickly.

Revalidation removes the criticism that it was inappropriate for those who perform official functions to be trained once and then given minimal support for the rest of their careers. Procedures change, skills can be lost and it is important that OVs are con dent that their knowledge is up to date.

Duties discharged on behalf of government need to meet international standards and revalidation is also seen as a defence from claims against veterinary surgeons for poor performance.

Interesting possibilities with TB control 

There is a further aspect to the initiative that offers interesting possibilities with TB control. Guaranteeing that TT testing will only be carried out competently eliminates the doubt that positive cattle are left in the herd (within the limits of the test). The Government expectation, therefore, is that the incidence of bovine TB is likely to fall.

The OV was responsible for testing, whereas the OCQ(V) is expected to also control the disease. These control options will be included in the revalidation module.

Just what steps a veterinary practice is expected to take to control bovine TB and have the outcomes assessed is expected to be discussed at VetsSouth 2015 in Exeter next February.

TB Plus is planned and there could be many other tweaks and approaches, once practices achieve effective reductions in the number of client herds under restriction.

Veterinary surgeons are entering a new era of expectation from Government work. No doubt there will be many discussions and presentations at meetings to maintain enthusiasm and develop the new system. Certainly OCQ(V) has started well and more veterinary surgeons are registering – hour by hour.