Sunny intervals ahead... - Veterinary Practice
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Sunny intervals ahead…

JOHN BONNER catches up with Peter Jinman,the in coming president of the Royal College, to find out what makes him tick.

A MORRIS 1000, a Mini Van,avRiley 1100, a Triumph Vitesse, an MGB, a Triumph TR6 and then an unglamorous, unlamented Triumph Dolomite…

Peter Jinman can vividly recall each of the cars that he drove as a veterinary student and in his first few years in practice. So it is puzzling that his memory is so unreliable when it comes to basic details of his own career.

“BVA president? I think that was the year after the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. So what would that be – 200203?” Remembering when he obtained one of his many non-veterinary qualifications is a still greater challenge, even in fixing the right decade. “That would have been the 1980s. Or maybe not, possibly it was the 1990s.”

The likely explanation for this contrast in Peter’s powers of recall is that cars are a subject that interests him, which is not the case for the minutiae of his own CV. So it is reassuring that this Herefordshire practitioner has a lively mind and wide-ranging professional interests. Many of these – in science policy, public health, legal issues and business management –will form important components of his role as the new president of the RCVS.

Serving as president of both of his main professional bodies is a remarkable achievement, even more so when he had no initial plans to become a vet. He was only persuaded out of taking a degree in zoology by an academic colleague of his father, who warned that his chances of following in Desmond Morris’s footsteps were slim – and that he would probably end up as teacher, like so many graduates in that discipline.

Peter grew up in Leamington Spa and developed his passion for natural history wandering in the countryside around that attractive Warwickshire town. He was the only child of a father who was a designer at a Coventry-based engineering firm, which may also explain his other enthusiasm for the motor car.

But after being encouraged to consider studying veterinary medicine, he became fully focused on that goal. He spent all his free time helping out at a local mixed practice before enrolling at the Royal Veterinary College from where he graduated in 1974.

After spending a couple of years as an assistant in a practice near Worcester, a vacancy arose at the Hereford practice run by his then girlfriend’s father. He was offered the job at what is now the Laurels Veterinary Group and has remained there ever since.

Around the same time that he became a partner in the business, the girlfriend underwent a similar change in status. With his wife Gill, now a midwife, he has a family comprising two grown-up daughters and a son who is about to go to university.

Potential spotted

Even before moving to Hereford, he had taken the first step along his journey into professional politics, having been persuaded to take on the job of secretary of the Cotswold Veterinary Association within a year of his graduation.He went on to become the Midlands association’s representative on BVA Council, where he was spotted as a potential future president.

Those same political skills that were recognised within the profession were also found useful in dealings with external bodies. Peter served for 10 years as a member of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, giving guidance to ministers on public and animal health policy.

He was also part of the advisory group that helped formulate DEFRA ’s Animal Health and Welfare Strategy [sic], chaired the bovine TB advisory group and he has recently been appointed to the management board of the Red Tractor food quality assurance scheme.

Peter has also taken a keen interest in legal issues, initially through becoming an associate and then a diplomate of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, which stemmed from his work in practice, trying to settle disputes between the two parties following sales of horses.

These negotiating and political skills are likely to be tested to the full in a presidential year when the state of public finances is likely to result in some difficult decisions affecting the veterinary profession. Reform of the legal basis for its disciplinary procedures will be an important priority in the RCVS officer team’s dealings with the new Coalition Government.

“It is early days and the government is still setting out its store – indeed, it hasn’t finished looking through the cupboards to see what is in there. But we have made it clear to DEFRA officials that we want to go forward with a legislative reform order.

“Given the financial constraints that DEFRA will be working under, there is no possibility of a new Veterinary Surgeons Act but we shouldn’t look at these orders as a simple alternative: there will be a huge amount of discussion before any changes can be implemented.”

Budget cuts are likely to leave Britain’s veterinary research base extremely vulnerable and the RCVS and BVA will be lobbying hard to ensure that our defences against old and new animal diseases remain strong.

“We are fortunate in this country to have some extraordinarily good veterinary research facilities. They may be expensive to maintain but the costs are much greater when things go wrong and there is a problem with disease. That is not to say that there aren’t areas where we can rationalise things and make some savings.

Collaboration important

“My spell on SEAC showed me how important it is to collaborate with other countries in carrying out essential research. Any studies involving farm animal species is expensive and it won’t get any cheaper.”

As the guardian of the public interest, the RCVS has a vital role in helping to ensure that there is support for DEFRA from the practitioner arm in dealing with any new diseases. So it is taking a close interest in the BVA ’s negotiations with the department on changes to the work of the LVI network, he says.

“But we are an adaptable profession – the work of a farm animal practitioner is very different today to how it was 20 years ago and in another 20 years it will have changed again. We have always met the demands of farm clients and will carry on doing so.”

No reason for pessimism

So in these difficult financial times, Peter sees no reason for pessimism. “In the Royal College we have often needed to take a defensive position on various issues but it is important for us to get on the front foot whenever we can and remind everyone of the important contribution that the profession can make – not just in providing care for farm and companion animals but in protecting human health and the environment.”

And beyond the dark clouds that are swirling around the profession as he begins his presidential year, Peter reckons there is the possibility of sunny intervals.

“This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the creation of the veterinary nursing profession in Britain. In that time VNs have become a vital part of the veterinary team and I look forward to enjoying their celebrations.

“Further afield, this year will also see the 250th anniversary of the establishment of the Lyon veterinary school in France, which was the start of the modern profession. So there is a lot for us to look forward to in the months ahead.”

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