A parliamentary reception to celebrate the golden jubilee of veterinary nursing has heard of the need for statutory regulation of the profession.
At a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) event held in the Strangers' Dining Room, the chairman of the Veterinary Nurses Council, Liz Branscombe, called for legal regulation of veterinary nursing.
The veterinary nursing profession is currently governed by the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, a law which entered the statute books just five years after the introduction of veterinary nursing training.
Branscombe called for greater recognition of the profession and outlined the work that the RCVS, and associated organisations, were undertaking with 'Registered Veterinary Nurses'.
The introduction of Registered Veterinary Nurses is designed as an interim measure and is non-statutory, but 86 per cent of eligible nurses have signed up. Branscombe said: "A 'Registered Veterinary Nurse' is someone who has joined the College's non-statutory Register – which we launched in 2007 – and has agreed to be accountable for their professional practice."
"The Register has been put in place by the profession for the profession, and is an indication of veterinary nurses' willingness to take the final step towards becoming an independent and legally recognised profession in their own right."
However, Branscombe argued that a voluntary agreement to register veterinary nurses was insufficient. She stated that a non-statutory register had two major problems: the fact that, due to legal advice, nurses guilty of misconduct could be removed from the Register, but not stopped from working as veterinary nurses; and that there was no legal protection for the title of veterinary nurse.
Branscombe noted that, whilst the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct advises employers only to give the title 'veterinary nurse' to properly trained and qualified professionals, there is no legal protection of the title.
She said: "We believe that the nation's animals and their owners deserve better than this. And it's not just a question of animal welfare."
"Public health is at risk from the incorrect use of medicines, for example, the well-documented development of antimicrobial resistance; and the public may become victims of behavioural changes in their animals to which poor nursing care may contribute."
Also speaking at the event was Roger Gale MP, a former chair of the all-party parliamentary group for animal welfare. Gale agreed that the time had come for greater regulation and recognition of the profession.
He said: "There are steps that need to be taken to ensure that every veterinary practice uses fully qualified veterinary nurses."