Updated January 2016
What did we do?
On Tuesday 19 May Lord Trees submitted the ‘Veterinary Nurses (Protection of Title) Bill’ into the House of Lords Bill ballot.
As it is drawn up, the Bill would prohibit use of the title ‘veterinary nurse’ for any person whose name is not on our Register of Veterinary Nurses. Any non-registered person who used the title veterinary nurse or a name, title or description that implied they were on the Register would be guilty of an offence and may be fined or convicted under the Veterinary Surgeons Act.
Currently the title ‘veterinary nurse’ is not protected, and this is a problem because it means 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.
Registered veterinary nurses :
- may give medical treatment to, or carry out minor surgery on, animals under Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 under the direction of a veterinary surgeon.
- commit to follow the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct, and keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
- may be subject to our disciplinary process if they should fall short of their professional responsibilities.
- may be suspended or removed from the Register at the direction of the RVN Disciplinary Committee if found guilty of serious professional misconduct.
Consequently, we believe that it is inappropriate for people without formal training to describe themselves as a ‘veterinary nurse’, and that to do so potentially puts both animal welfare and the welfare of the individual employed as a veterinary nurse without qualification at risk.
Protection of the title is supported by the British Veterinary Nursing Association, the British Veterinary Association, the respective representative bodies for veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons in the UK, and also by their regulator, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
How to submit a Private Members Bill
- Ensure your sponsoring Peer has taken the Oath of Allegiance.
- Submit a Private Members Bill into the ballot.
- Get drawn early in the ballot to improve the chances of getting time in the chamber.
How did we do?
The Bill was submitted on time and was drawn 36 out of 44 bills entered into the Lords ballot. This relatively low position in the ballot decreases our chance of getting time in the chamber for the second reading of the Bill; in the House of Commons bill ballot, it is expected that the first seven bills drawn are usually debated in the chamber. The rest of the time in either chamber is devoted to Government-led legislation. If the Bill did make it through the Lords it would require sponsorship from an MP to pass through the Commons chamber and become law.
The introduction of the bill stimulated wide discussions and media attention and helped to raise the profile of this issue. An online petition was launched by the RCVS in August 2015 and received over 20,000 signatures (correct as of December 2015).
How did the Government respond?
Minister George Eustace discussed the protection of the title Veterinary Nurse with his DEFRA team and whilst they are extremely sympathetic with the aims of the bill we have been advised that it will not be supported by the government. The government believes that “the legal protection already in place to make sure that animals in veterinary care are treated only by individuals who are trained and qualified to do so” is sufficient and that “criminalising the use of the term “veterinary nurse” by other animal carers in a veterinary setting to be an unduly harsh solution.” To address the issue DEFRA have suggested that the “RCVS and the veterinary membership associations work with veterinary practices to encourage that only properly qualified, registered veterinary nurses should be referred to as such.”
Where do we go from here
Despite this position the government have shown willingness to continue discussions and have invited the RCVS “to discuss further with Defra how new thinking may require existing laws and regulations to be amended to bolster and clarify the role of veterinary nurses.”