THE Royal College’s draft code of professional conduct for veterinary surgeons presents the gravest threat to vets in industry that there has ever been, according to a speaker at the latest meeting of the Association of Veterinarians in Industry.
The code was sent out by the RCVS in March, requesting comments by late June, but, said the speaker, “I believe the profession as a whole hasn’t really woken up to what is being proposed, although there are specific fears for vets in industry.”
The previous guide to professional conduct was far less definitive, he said, with terms such as “should” and “where possible” but these have largely disappeared and been replaced with “must” and “have to”.
Expressing a view endorsed by the meeting, he said that the whole
document had been written almost exclusively on the assumption that vets were either in clinical practice or retired. But there were many in industry and also in DEFRA, the AHVLA, the Meat Hygiene Service and elsewhere who could find their career options reduced if the code is introduced as it stands. Veterinary surgeons working in industry have been told in the past that in order to give advice to prescribing vets or animal owners, to run clinical studies or to sign off expert reports, etc., they have to be registered as practising members of the RCVS. But the new code suggests, he said, that in future some areas that have been flexible in the past will now become large problem areas for the members. “And will vets continue to take jobs outside practice knowing that if they ever want to go back into practice they will have to undertake further training?”
Another speaker asked: “Why do we need indemnity insurance if we are not treating animals?” He suggested that perhaps the College could split the register into “clinical practising”, “nonclinical practising” and “retired” – but he feared this would not solve all the problems as those in the “non-clinical” category would probably be blocked from, among other things, advising owners on treatments.
AVI members said that the PDP requirement posed particular problems.
“UK veterinary graduates are perhaps the most clinically adept new graduates in the world and yet it is now going to be compulsory that they do another year’s ‘development’ after graduation,” one member told Veterinary Practice.
“What is new is that the RCVS believes that EU law will allow them to apply this to foreign graduates too. This is a mine-field.
“Here are some examples: I am a veterinarian who graduated in Paris and went straight into research for a large pharmaceutical company. I have run trials across the EU for the last 10 years and now have been sent to our UK office. Do I have to do a PDP in order to register to practise?
“Or, I am a three-year graduate from Utrecht and have been practising in Belgium for those three years – do I need to do a PDP? What if it was one year out? Where do you draw the line and what will the EU think about this potential barrier to free movement?”
Another member gave the example of an overseas graduate coming to the UK to work in the MHS but some time later is offered a job in a small animal practice. Would he or she have to go through the PDP? And if so, could this become an issue for practices when they consider who to employ?
Other comments made included: “Do we really need to tell the RCVS if we are convicted of a minor motoring offence?” and “Was there really such a large problem out there that required such draconian measures to correct?”
“The interesting thing,” said one member of the AVI, “will be when the new code is first challenged in court – as it surely will be.”