Currently the title ‘veterinary nurse’ is not protected, and therefore anyone, even if they lack the relevant training and education, can refer to themselves as a veterinary nurse. The veterinary professions believe that this should change.
In August 2015, we launched a petition asking the Government to protect the title ‘veterinary nurse’. The petition received 36,865 signatures, nearly four times the number needed to require the government to respond.
The current Government has a deregulatory agenda, and therefore it was always going to be challenging to persuade it to protect the title in this parliament. It responded to the petition to explain that it will not introduce new legislation to criminalise improper use of the title ‘veterinary nurse’.
While this was disappointing, we were heartened to be asked to work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to find new ways of bolstering the veterinary nursing profession.
A significant part of this work is our review of Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, which allows certain minor acts of veterinary surgery to be delegated to veterinary nurses. A Working Party is currently looking how the Schedule or its related guidance could be amended to strengthen the VN role and give vets and VNs more confidence around delegation. The Working party is expected to report its recommendations to Veterinary Nurses Council and RCVS Council in 2017.
We continue to believe that the title ‘veterinary nurse’ should be protected, and will continue to make the argument in favour of new legislation.
How to lend your support
We are asking the new Parliament to change the law to protect the title ‘veterinary nurse’ - here's how you can help!
Write to your MP
You can download this template letter to send to your MP asking for their support. We need to persuade as many MPs as possible to support the campaign. You can find your MP’s name here.
Why protect the ‘veterinary nurse’ title?
Under direction from a veterinary surgeon, registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) are allowed to give medical treatment to, or carry out minor surgery on, animals under (Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966).
They commit to follow our Code of Professional Conduct, keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date and, if they should fall short of their professional responsibilities, they may be subject to our disciplinary process.
RVNs found guilty of serious professional misconduct can be suspended or removed from the Register at the direction of the RVN Disciplinary Committee.
We therefore believe that it is inappropriate for people without formal training to describe themselves as a ‘veterinary nurse’, and that to do so potentially puts animal welfare at risk.
Protecting the title ‘veterinary nurse’ is widely supported by the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions and the public. This is evidenced by a 2015-6 official government e-petition, calling for the statutory regulation of veterinary nurses, which received 36,865 signatures.
Furthermore, protection of the title is supported by the British Veterinary Nursing Association and the British Veterinary Association, the respective representative bodies for veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons in the UK.
Fiona Andrew, President of the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) says:
“BVNA welcomed the new Royal Charter which formally established Registered Veterinary Nurses as registered professionals. This protects animal welfare and promotes excellence in veterinary care. The RCVS’s call for protection of the title of 'veterinary nurse' demonstrates the same clear care and commitment towards those professionals."
John Blackwell, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) adds:
“BVA has long supported full recognition of the role of veterinary nurses, who are an essential part of the veterinary team. The new RCVS Charter was an historic step that established a regulated veterinary nursing profession. Now we need to go one step further and protect the title of RVN. Not only will this recognise the skills of qualified veterinary nurses and the unique contribution they make to the veterinary team, it will give clients confidence in the professional roles of all team members caring for their animals.”
The Chair of the Veterinary Nurse Council, Liz Cox, adds:
“Our animated video received a fantastic response when it was first launched, as did the fact that we had drawn up a piece of legislation with the specific aim of protecting the title. With this petition, we want to build upon this support and bring this issue to the attention of the people best placed to do something about it.
“We believe that the fact that anybody can call themselves a veterinary nurse is unacceptable. It means that there is potential for the public to be misled and for animal health and welfare to be compromised. Therefore we would urge veterinary nurses, veterinary surgeons and animal owners to sign this petition.
“If we are successful with this campaign, the public will be assured that they are receiving the highest standard of nursing care from a genuine professional and by protecting the title we can remove any doubt about who or what a veterinary nurse is.”
RCVS Chief Executive Nick Stace says:
“The nation’s animals and owners deserve better than the current situation. There is widespread support among the profession for such legislation, so we are in the process of drawing up a Bill and we are prepared to offer significant support to any parliamentarian willing to pick up this worthy cause.”