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Legislative Reform Consultation extended to April 2021

The Legislative Reform Consultation is asking for feedback and comment on a series of recommendations for changes to the way in which the professions are governed and regulated

21 January 2021, at 9:00am

The RCVS Legislative Reform Consultation has been extended to April in order to give members of the professions and the public more time to respond, particularly in light of the current difficult circumstances with the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.

The Legislative Reform Consultation is asking for feedback and comment on a series of recommendations for changes to the way in which the professions are governed and regulated, contained in the Report of the RCVS Legislation Working Party (LWP), by 5pm on Friday 23 April 2021.

The recommendations were developed over the course of three years and cover the shape of the future legislation governing the veterinary professions, as well as the principles that would underpin this legislation. These principles include the need for greater clarity, the incorporation of the entire vet-led team under one regulatory banner, and introducing greater flexibility and future-proofing to the legislative framework for the professions.

The consultation is available online and members of the public and professions do not need to complete the whole consultation but can choose particular areas of interest to comment on.

The responses will feed into the development of a full set of proposals for legislative reform which, if approved by RCVS Council, will be sent to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for consideration.

Ben Myring, RCVS Policy and Public Affairs Manager, commented: “Thank you to the hundreds of people who have engaged with the consultation thus far. It is a big and detailed report and so we appreciate those who have taken the time to look through it, read the recommendations, and give their views on what has been proposed so far. However, in recognition of the difficult circumstances we are now all working under, we wanted to give more people and organisations the opportunity to respond to this very important consultation and so have extended the deadline for responses by three months.

“With the extended period of time now available, I would urge members of the profession and the public who are interested in the governance of the veterinary professions to read the report to gain an understanding of the recommendations and their rationale.

“If you have already made a start on your response, but not had time to finish and submit it, you should be able to pick up where you left off, without having to begin again, providing you use the same device.

“If anything strikes you as particularly noteworthy, or if you feel strongly about a particular recommendation, please bear in mind that you don’t have to give a response on every aspect of the Report but can choose to comment on those areas that most interest you.

“We look forward to hearing from you and reading your feedback on the proposals.”

The consultation recommendations, which were approved by RVCS Council in June 2020, are grouped into five headings:

  • Embracing the vet-led team – includes giving RCVS powers to regulate all paraprofessionals in the vet-led team on a statutory basis; making delegation by a veterinary surgeon to a paraprofessional (including veterinary nurses) more flexible.
  • Enhancing the veterinary nurse role – includes extending the role of veterinary nurses in anaesthesia; allowing veterinary nurses to carry out cat castrations; and exploring the possibility of a VN prescriber role
  • Assuring practice standards – includes making the regulation of veterinary practices mandatory, supported by powers of entry; and giving the RCVS powers to issue improvement notices to veterinary practices.
  • Introducing a modern “fitness to practise” regime – includes refocussing the disciplinary system on issues of current capability and impairment of fitness to practise rather than past misconduct; introducing powers of interim suspension orders for veterinary professionals under investigation; and, introducing a wider range of sanctions for the Disciplinary Committee.
  • Modernising RCVS registration processes – includes introducing provisions to allow limited licensure, including for those with disabilities; empower the RCVS to be able to introduce regular revalidation for veterinary professionals; underpin continuing professional development (CPD) on a mandatory basis.

As well as the main Report of the LWP, the consultation also covers three specific proposals on reforming the disciplinary system that do not require primary legislation in order to enact.

These changes were developed by the RCVS separately from, but complementary to, the recommendations made by the LWP, and are designed to bring RCVS disciplinary processes closer to best practice in the short term, where feasible, without having to wait for the primary legislation essential to achieving the LWP recommendations in full.

The three recommendations are:

  • changing the standard of proof used in deciding whether or not the facts of a case are proven from the current criminal standard (“beyond all reasonable doubt”), to the civil standard (“on the balance of probabilities”);
  • the introduction of a “Charter Case Protocol,” under which cases that meet the threshold for a full Disciplinary Committee hearing, but which might be likely to attract a low sanction, may be concluded without a public hearing; and
  • introducing a simpler, single-stage concerns review process with complaints considered by a number of “mini-Preliminary Investigation Committees” with three members would be used.

To take part in the consultation please visit the RCVS website where you will also be able to view or download the full report, as well as view a number of other resources explaining the recommendations, including videos, blogs and a series of feature articles that summarise the key issues, and which originally appeared in Vet Record. The deadline for completing the consultation is Friday 23 April 2021.