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 has so far received nearly 23,000 signatures, more than twice 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 has now responded to the petition to explain that it will not introduce new legislation to criminalise improper use of the title ‘veterinary nurse’.
While this is disappointing, we are 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 will be a review of Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, which allows certain minor acts of veterinary surgery to be delegated to veterinary nurses.
We continue to believe that the title ‘veterinary nurse’ should be protected, and will continue to make the argument in favour of new legislation.
The petition will run until 14 February, and we would encourage anyone who has yet signed it to do so – the more evidence we have of support for protecting the VN title the more likely it is that we will be able to achieve this important change in the future.
Three ways to lend your support
We are asking the new Parliament to change the law to protect the title ‘veterinary nurse’ - here are three ways you can help!
- Sign the official petition
If 10,000 people sign the petition then the Government is obliged to respond. If we get 100,000 signatories then the issue will be considered for a formal parliamentary debate.
- 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.
- Spread the word with a Twibbon!
If you use Facebook or twitter, please help to tell your friends and followers about our campaign by adding a 'Twibbon' to your profile picture via our special campaign page. You can also tweet and post your support from that page, as well as find a link to the all-important petition!
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 nursing profession and the public. This is evidenced by a 2012 HM Government e-petition, calling for the statutory regulation of veterinary nurses, which received over 2,500 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.”