The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is leading the drive for reforming the training and revalidation system for Official Veterinarians (OVs) carrying out critical public health work in Great Britain, nearly 1,300 BVA members responded to a survey on the current process, with many expressing frustrations.
The survey, which was carried out in July, asked members to list what Official Controls Qualification (OCQ) they hold or have held in the past, and give reasons for dropping a previously held qualification or choosing not to revalidate. The qualifications cover a range of areas such as tuberculin testing, surveillance and exports, and OVs need to pay a fee to renew each one they hold at regular intervals in order to maintain their OV status.
Many respondents criticised the current training and revalidation process, which is currently administered by Improve International on behalf of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Factors including time, the cumulative cost of renewing each module at regular intervals, a lack of relevance and duplication of learning across different modules were cited as reasons for choosing to drop qualifications.
Over a quarter (25.3 per cent) of vets who currently hold the Essential Skills OCQ under Grandfather rights – which all OVs must hold, other than for those that hold the non-commercial pet export OCQ which is a self-contained course – are planning not to renew this qualification, with two-thirds (66 per cent) of these saying they find the requirements too onerous.
The results also suggest particular frustrations with export certification OCQs, most of which needed revalidation this summer. These are essential qualifications for OVs who check and certify animals and animal products leaving the UK. In the current system equine exports are included in the ungulate export OCQ and this was a concern for those vets who only work with farm animals. APHA and Improve International have helpfully introduced an equine only OCQ for exports that better meets the needs of equine only vets. Nearly three quarters (72.5 per cent) of respondents holding grandfather rights to the avian export OCQ and nearly half (47.1 per cent) holding the animal products OCQ are not planning to revalidate their qualifications.
BVA has had a positive meeting with APHA to discuss the survey results and explore practical solutions to iron out issues with the current system and make it easier to use. As a next step, BVA has agreed to review the modules and make recommendations for improving the structure of training and the revalidation process.
John Fishwick, BVA President, said: “The unprecedented response rate to this survey really hits home the strength of feeling on this issue. There is an urgent need to review and improve the revalidation process to safeguard against capacity and capability issues in this critical section of the workforce.
“It’s really positive that APHA recognises that there are issues with the current system and is keen to work with us to make it more proportionate and fit for purpose while continuing to maintain high standards. It’s more important than ever to retain skilled professionals so that the workforce is at full strength to respond robustly to disease outbreaks and meet demand for export certification after Brexit.”
Andrew Soldan, APHA Veterinary Director said “The integrity of our official controls and export certification is vitally important. The Official Controls Qualifications are a key part of this as they provide standardised OV training as well as assurance of high standards. I’m grateful to BVA for their assistance as we look to make further improvements to the system in the future.”