Another BSAVA congress in Birmingham, another record attendance. But the fact that 1,000 more people came through the doors of the ICC in 2009 than the year before hasn’t lulled the association’s officers into thinking that everything in the garden is rosy.
At its AGM on 5th April, outgoing president Ed Hall warned that the association’s membership had reached a plateau or was even shrinking at a time when the number of registered veterinary surgeons in the UK was still growing. Indeed, the most up to date figure showed a total of 5,500 members, down nearly 400 on the same period last year.
So the BSAVA’s officers and staff are developing a range of new incentives intended to recruit and retain members. Recognising that the significant levels of debt being carried by newly qualified vets was a potential barrier to membership, a new, graduated fee scale would be introduced for new graduates in their first three years as members of the profession.
Meanwhile, the association would not forget the loyalty shown by its more established members and would be offering them financial incentives such as discounts for direct debit payments, he said. New president Richard Dixon confirmed that improving member services would be the main focus of his term of office. “Taking the ongoing success of the BSAVA for granted would be a huge error of judgement in this increasingly demanding and competitive environment.
“The UK economy is under pressure right now and while small animal practice is holding up relatively well, those leading the association will work to make sure that members get increasingly good value for money from their subscriptions.”
One new service to be launched soon is a collaboration with the Veterinary Information Network which will create an on-line community, called Grapevine. As a development of a successful US initiative, the first priority would be to build it up as a source of information which is relevant to the needs of practitioners in Britain.
The first UK inhabitants of this proposed virtual community would be the students graduating next year for whom it will provide clinical advice during the most difficult period of their professional careers, said Professor Hall.
During the meeting, Dr Sue Shaw of the University of Bristol veterinary school was awarded honorary life membership of the association. She is best known within the profession for her work in drawing attention to the risks of bringing in companion animals with exotic arthropod-borne diseases through the Pet Travel Scheme.
The following were elected or confirmed as officers of the association: president, Richard Dixon; senior vicepresident, Ed Hall; vice-president and president-elect, Grant Petrie; junior vicepresident, Andrew Ash; honorary treasurer, Mark Johnston; and honorary secretary, Alison Speakman.