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January 2021 Meeting Summary

Defining the role of the Veterinary Technician

Towards the end of 2020, the Veterinary Technician Working Party was formed in response to approaches from farm animal veterinary practices and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) regarding the possibility of formal recognition and regulation by the RCVS of veterinary technicians as a defined role within the vet-led team. The Working Party’s membership is made up of RCVS Council members, RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council members, the APHA, the Cattle Veterinary Association and representatives from agricultural veterinary businesses, to ensure the approach to this incorporates views from across the profession.

The Working Party held its first meeting on Wednesday 27 January 2021. The aim of the initial meeting was to discuss the scope of a veterinary technician role and how it would relate to other paraprofessions.

During the first half of the meeting, the focus was on defining the role of a veterinary technician and the need to establish a sense of identity for the group. It was noted that in the United States (unlike, for example, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand) the title ‘veterinary technician’ was used for veterinary nurses (though there were campaigns there to change this to ‘veterinary nurse’ to match the title used elsewhere). Therefore, from the outset it was important to be clear that, in the UK context, the roles of veterinary technician and veterinary nurse would be distinct. 

It was agreed that veterinary technicians in the UK generally work with large animal livestock on commercial farms and smallholdings. However, at present, there is no association for the profession, therefore the Working Party agreed that Vet Technicians should be encouraged to establish themselves as a cohesive group through the creation of a veterinary technician association to help create a stronger sense of identity and to build a body of practitioners for the Working Party to engage with. Members of the Working Party who work directly with veterinary technicians will be taking the lead on this.

The Working Party also talked about models of regulation, and what would be most suitable for veterinary technicians. The two types of paraprofessional regulation available to the RCVS are the ‘accreditation model’, and the ‘full associate model’ (the latter is currently used to regulate veterinary nurses). As there is no voluntary regulator already in place that could receive RCVS accreditation, the current focus is on securing full associate status for veterinary technicians.

The second half of the meeting looked at the route into becoming a veterinary technician and the importance of the level of education and training necessary. At present, an apprenticeship for the role of a veterinary technician is already being developed. Natalie Parker, VetTech development co-ordinator at LLM Farm Vets, who is leading on this, mentioned that the apprenticeship route is best suited to a veterinary technician career path as it allows for the course to be practical and vocational. However further discussions on alternative educational routes will be discussed in future meetings.

The Veterinary Technician Working Party will meet again on Monday 29 March 2021.