Britain’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons is calling on lawmakers to introduce legislation to protect the title, “veterinary nurse”.
The college has written to MPs who are eligible under a ballot to put forward private members’ bills urging them to promote a bill that would establish legal protections around the job title.
The bill would also introduce an effective regulatory system that would ensure that veterinary nurses found guilty of serious professional misconduct were prevented from carrying out medical treatment to or surgery on animals.
Currently the title “veterinary nurse” is not protected in Britain and therefore anyone, no matter how little training and education they may have, may legally refer to themselves as a veterinary nurse.
Veterinary nurses are not subject to statutory regulation, but the college uses powers under its Royal Charter to award certificates to those who have undergone approved training.
Qualified vet nurses, whose names appear in a list of certificate-holders published by the college, are allowed to give medical treatment to, or carry out minor surgery on, animals under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.
In 2007, the college introduced a non-statutory Register of Veterinary Nurses. Registered veterinary nurses commit to follow a code of professional conduct, keep their skills and knowledge up to date and submit to a disciplinary system.
Registered vet nurses found guilty of serious professional misconduct can be suspended or removed from the register at the direction of a disciplinary committee, but the college has no power to remove them from the list.
This means they can still legally give medical treatment or carry out minor surgery and perform other nursing duties specified under Veterinary Surgeons Act.
The college has been working for some time to develop a framework for the regulation of vet nurses and has sent MPs a pre-prepared bill, drafted by lawyers.
The college says the statutory regulation of vet nurses is widely supported by the veterinary nursing profession and the public. Such regulation by statute is supported by the British Veterinary Nursing Association and the British Veterinary Association, the representative bodies for veterinary nurses and surgeons in Britain.
“I urge MPs selected in today’s ballot to take forward legislation for the statutory regulation of veterinary nurses and the protection of the title veterinary nurse,” the college’s chief executive, Nick Stace, said.
“The nation’s animals and owners deserve better than the current situation.
“There is widespread support amongst the public and profession for such legislation, so the RCVS has had a bill drafted by leading Counsel and is prepared to offer significant support to any MP willing to pick up this worthy cause.”