What a difference a year makes - Veterinary Practice
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What a difference a year makes

Professor Bill Reilly president of the BVA, looks back on his year in office and forward to this month’s congress.

When I became BVA president nearly a year ago I knew that I had a very short time to make my mark. As you will no doubt know by now I chose to focus on the “public good” role of vets by championing the importance of the profession, as well as re-establishing vets as the leading voice on animal welfare.

Although it’s very difficult to quantify the level of success, I believe on many issues we have made huge progress. The BVA’s annual review will be published at the end of August on www.bva.co.uk/annual and, reading through it, I hope you will be impressed with the impact the BVA has had on a wide range of issues of animal welfare as well as issues relating directly to the profession.

On all of the major consultations and legislative changes we have presented the strong voice of the veterinary profession, and we’ve been listened to. Our relationship with both the Labour and new Coalition governments continues to be one of a well-respected critical friend.

Considerable strain

However, our relationship with DEFRA has come under considerable strain this year due to the actions and announcements of its delivery agent Animal Health (AH) regarding the future procurement of OV (Official Veterinarian) services.

I wrote at length on this topic a couple of months ago. Since then AH has written to all OVs to inform them that not only will they have to tender for OV work, some of the TB testing work is being retained by AH with immediate effect. AH has now clarified that in the first instance tendering will only apply to the provision of TB testing and the availability for contingency work.

This latest development is yet another blow for those practices that deliver OV services. The BVA is working closely with the BCVA to make representations to Animal Health and DEFRA on behalf of our members; I hope all veterinary surgeons can get behind our OV colleagues to support them through these very difficult and uncertain times.

While I should count myself as lucky (at the time of writing!) in not having to face a disease outbreak during my time at the helm, the fallout from the OV tendering situation could prove devastating in the longer term and it is something I will continue to work on in my year as past president.

On welfare issues we’ve certainly upped our game with a recent lobbying success in the banning of hot branding of horses in Scotland and the beginnings of an important campaign for higher welfare labelling of food, amongst other issues.

Not only are vets enhancing the welfare of animals in everyday work, we are getting involved in campaigning at local, national and international levels to promote better welfare for all animals.

This year has also seen changes within the BVA. Many of the innovations were in the pipeline before I became president but I’m very proud of the achievements nonetheless. The new mediation and representation services are already proving popular with members and making a real difference to the lives of individuals.

One member wrote in to tell us: “Due to their excellent help and advice [the case] did not go to an employment tribunal, but was fully sorted out… This especially has shown me that [BVA membership] is great value for money!” It’s comments like this that remind us of the importance of the BVA and what it can do for members.

Refresher days

In addition to the services we provide, we also review our member benefits regularly.

The clinical Refresher Days running each month from September to December are aimed primarily at people returning from a career break, part-time workers, or those changing practice type. BVA members get a 50% discount on the courses, which are delivered by RVC lecturers here at the BVA www.bva.co.uk/events.

I must end with a final plug for congress. As you know, this year’s congress is in my home town of Glasgow and we will be showcasing the very best that Scotland’s academic and research institutions have to offer in clinical CPD, covering companion and production animals and equids.

This year also sees a full non-clinical CPD stream covering important issues faced by many vets in practice, as well as a lively contentious issues programme tackling, amongst other things, questions of over-treatment, the links between domestic violence and animal abuse, and the role of vets as expert witnesses.

The Wooldridge Memorial Lecture, Vets and the public good: the broader perspective, will be delivered by Professor Stuart Reid of the University of Glasgow. Ours is a small but hugely varied profession and the breadth of the contribution of vets to society may surprise us all.

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