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Reflections on a first Council term

Linda Belton MRCVS - Chair of RCVS Standards Committee

Linda Belton was re-elected as a member of RCVS Council in the 2023 election, and will take up her next four-year term at the RCVS AGM in July 2023. Here she reflects on her first term as a member of RCVS Council and why she would encourage others to get involved. 

I joined Council in July 2019 having decided to stand for election to increase Council’s direct contact with vets working in first opinion, independent practice. Working as an equine vet but within a practice which has vets working in farm, pig and small animal practice, as well as being part of the overall leadership team, gives me a broad understanding of many of the challenges in the different species areas. Whilst the RCVS doesn’t favour any business models, I believe that consideration of the impact of regulation on the commercial viability of practice is very relevant.

It is definitely in the interests of animal health and welfare, as well as the wider public interest, that there are veterinary practices in existence to provide care and to exist, they need to be commercially viable. Regulation also has a part to play in ensuring a level playing field and understanding what it takes to provide all the veterinary care that the different species need is important. Regulation which facilitates “cherry picking” will leave gaps in provision which will undoubtedly be detrimental to animal health and welfare.

One of the difficulties I have observed whilst on RCVS Council is the tension of our profession having a Royal College which regulates. Wearing two hats is never easy, and being both our leadership body and our regulator can position the College in a difficult place in the eyes of its members. There are, however, advantages for us as a profession in being self-regulating, and only funding one body. My perception of the College throughout my early career was very much “if you don’t bother me, I won’t bother you!” In hindsight, I was probably missing out on some really useful resources and, given that we are a small profession, engaging in the work of our College is well worthwhile. RCVS Knowledge and the relatively newly launched RCVS Academy are also well worth a look.

Even in my single RCVS Council term, much has changed at the College. Juggling being a well prepared and effective Council member with the demands of practice is a challenge. As well as time, significant head space is needed to consider issues from different perspectives and ensure you understand areas that are not necessarily familiar from your own day job. Changes in working practices with increased remote working on Council have definite advantages but also drawbacks.

Finding the balance between efficiency and effectiveness requires flexibility in how debates and discussions are held, such that decision making remains robust and relevant. I would encourage all members of the profession to try and find some time during their career to get involved with the College – whether through being on Council or joining the various committees, subcommittees and working groups which debate, progress and lead the different areas of the College’s work – there are many options available!

Published on 27 April 2023

Tags: Elections Advice/guidance Councils & Committees