‘Veterinary surgery’ as an area of work is protected by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. This means that activities described as veterinary surgery can only be carried out by veterinary surgeons, with some exemptions.
Veterinary surgeons must be registered with the RCVS in order to practise in the UK and have the initials ‘MRCVS’ (for Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) or ‘FRCVS’ (for Fellow) after their names.
The title ‘veterinary surgeon’ is protected in law: only those who are registered with the RCVS can use the title.
With rights come responsibilities, and the same legislation that protects the profession of veterinary surgery also lays down the way in which the profession should be regulated.
The veterinary profession is made up of over 26,000 registered veterinary surgeons. Over 19,000 of these are registered as ‘UK-practising’ members, which means they can practise in the UK.
The title ‘veterinary nurse’, and the letters ‘RVN’, should only be used by those who have completed an approved veterinary nurse training course and are registered with us. There are over 11,000 registered veterinary nurses in the UK.
All RCVS-registered veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses have achieved an educational qualification that meets our registration requirements. In addition, those practising in the UK agree to abide by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons / Veterinary Nurses and commit to keep their skills and knowledge up to date, by means of continuing professional development.
The RCVS regulates the educational, professional and ethical standards of all veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses. A robust investigation and disciplinary mechanism is in place and will be triggered if a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse falls short of the standards expected by the profession and the public.
Veterinary surgeons can also delegate some veterinary tasks – such as minor surgery and medical procedures – to other properly trained and qualified individuals. These groups include registered veterinary nurses, and also veterinary and veterinary nurse students, as part of their training.
Unhappy with your veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse?
Information about how to raise a concern about a veterinary surgeon or a registered veterinary nurse, and our area of jurisdiction, can be found in our Animal Owners site. (Please note that this link will open in a new window.)
Check the Register
You can check online to see if a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse is registered or call us on 020 7202 0707.
If you have concerns about an individual who you believe is practising as a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse and does not appear to be registered with us, please contact us immediately and we will pass the details to the relevant authorities.
Unqualified and/or unregistered people carrying out veterinary surgery can have serious implications for animal health, and even human health.
- For a profile of the veterinary profession, see RCVS Facts.
- You can also download RCVS Surveys of the Veterinary and Veterinary Nursing Professions (2014) - see 'Related links' box.