Vets from across the world were in London to look after the horses that took part in the London Olympic equestrian events, explains Christine Fraser, Head of Registration at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Veterinary surgeons are responsible for the health and welfare of animals, and act as gatekeepers for essential medicines. In order to fulfil this important role and legally practise veterinary surgery in the UK, individuals must be registered as members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).
With veterinary surgeons travelling to London from all over world this summer, to support their equestrian teams, the Olympic Games has presented a unique challenge for the RCVS.
The entitlement to be registered as a member of the RCVS is determined by the conditions laid out in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. As the Act was created at time of considerably less international mobility, it does not permit the issuing of limited licences to attend international sporting or similar events, nor does it make provision for the creation of this type of registration. Each applicant therefore has to be assessed as to the route permitted by the VSA for them to register to work legally in the UK. This is a complicated and time consuming exercise as there several routes to registration and many provisos apply.
In order to ensure that the registration process was as straightforward as possible, given the constraints of the legislation, we have worked closely with LOCOG and Defra over the last three years so as to develop procedures and protocols for registering veterinary surgeons from Olympics teams.
The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the world governing body of equestrian sport, has also played an invaluable role by publicising amongst its members the legal requirements to work in the UK. This has been especially important at there was significant confusion amongst FEI members as to whether FEI registration allowed them to practise in the UK.
Despite extensive planning, the number of veterinary surgeons registering for the Games was considerably higher than anticipated. Previous events suggested that 45-50 veterinary surgeons would register to work during the Games.
In the end the RCVS had 79 initial applications for registration and ultimately 68 completed their registration, including four that turned up at the Games having had no previous contact with the College.
Along the way we have encountered a number of problems, including one veterinary surgeon whose Team Administrator had submitted his application to General Medical Council, the regulator of doctors.
It was not until he arrived in the UK that it became clear his paperwork had been sent to the wrong body. In the spirit of the Games, however, we were able to overcome the significant logistical problems that this presented and after some innovative methods of obtaining the evidence of his eligibility to register, we completed his complex registration in 10 hours, thus allowing him to start his work without delay.
Over the course of the Games I attended Greenwich Park on a number of occasion to register Olympic veterinary surgeons from across the globe and I am pleased to report that they were appreciative of the support we have been able to provide throughout the registration process. With the Olympics Games finished we are now turning our attention to the Paralympics and are prepared for any challenges these may present, including registering veterinary surgeons that may unexpectedly turn up at Greenwich.
For more information on the RCVS please go to their microsite.
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