RCVSwas originally created by Royal Charter in 1844. It has statutory duties most recently described in the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966, so it exists both through charter and through statute.
The draft new Charter clearly sets out the College objects as to ‘set, uphold and advance veterinary standards, and to promote, encourage and advance the study and practice of the art and science of veterinary surgery and medicine, in the interests of the health and welfare of animals and in the wider public interest’.
The new Charter will clarify the role and identity of the College, and provide a solid foundation for key existing activities that complement statutory regulation, such as the regulation of veterinary nurses, the
Practice Standards Schemeand the recognition of
The consultation is now under way on the charter, to get the views of vets, veterinary nurses and members of the public.
Professor Stephen Mayfrom the Royal Veterinary College serves on the
RCVSCouncil and chaired the legislation working party through all the discussions and the creation of the charter proposals.
“What we wanted to do was create a modern charter that goes back to a statement in our original charter around our social contract,” he told Central Lobby.
“What we do is in the public interest, in exchange for being given the privilege of having a monopoly on the care of animals.
“That historically was centred on the veterinary surgeon, as the sole individual responsible for that. Clearly the veterinary surgeon remains the senior professional involved in the health and welfare of animals, but increasingly with the professionalisation of veterinary nursing, we have a ‘veterinary team’ outlook in the way we function and protect the public’s animals and contribute to public health.”
The new Charter strengthens and formalises the regulatory framework for veterinary nurses, representing a huge step forward for the profession. It recognises veterinary nursing as a profession regulated by the RCVS and gives registered veterinary nurses the formal status of associates of the College.
RCVSVeterinary Nurses Council has overall responsibility for all matters concerning training, post-qualification awards and the registration of qualified veterinary nurses.
Katherine Kissicksaid the “ultimate aim” of the new charter for a veterinary nursing perspective is to uphold nursing standards.
“A lot of people think that is just about protecting veterinary nursing but it isn’t, there is a strong public benefit in our work,” she said.
“That is not just in general practice but in teaching, pharmaceutical companies. The whole role of a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN) is to uphold standards.”
She strongly supports clarifying the role of a veterinary nurse through the new charter.
“The last charter was in 1967 so things have changed,” she said.
“It needs to set out the College's objectives: on standards, promoting study, and protecting the health and welfare of animals.”
While the new charter will not protect the name 'veterinary nurse' in the same way as other professions, it will “tighten the way we regulate nurses, so it is a step in the right direction”.
Kissick explained: “We as veterinary nurses are aware that the public don’t know which nurses are registered and which aren’t. Naturally they assume that if someone wears a uniform they are a professional nurse who has done her training.
“There are of course roles for nursing assistants and indeed student nurses in a veterinary practice, but the public need to be aware of who they are handing their animal over to.
“The nurses also need to be aware of what legally they are allowed to do. We want to ensure the public and animal welfare are both protected.”
She added: “We need to inspire those who are working as nurse assistants to go on to train as nurses. It is tough – there are three years of training in total and there is a lot to learn, but there are some exceptional nurse assistants out there that we need to encourage them to take their skills and careers to the next level.
“The depth of knowledge has changed; we now apply what we learn – we are making nurses into professional decision makers who question and think about what they are doing. Veterinary nurses are nursing holistically - each patient is looked at as an individual because we are using clear, individual nursing care plans. That is all a result of the training that has been developed since I qualified.”
For Professor May, the consultation is the result of “12 months of fairly intense activity and the creation of the latest proposals”.
“We are in the consultation phase, getting feedback from interest groups. As you would expect inevitably there will be some that have concerns,” he said.
“But on the whole I have been very pleased with how many have seriously engaged with the proposals and responded very favourably in terms of the direction the college is taking.
“There is an invitation for people to respond to the consultation and we would welcome both general comments on the charter proposals and the direction we are taking and specific comments, because if an individual (veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse) recognises something from their background and experience that causes them particular concern in any of the detail of the proposals, then we want to know that, so that we can respond to that if it is clear that we can further improve this for the future.
“Comments should be sent to Ben Myring (
firstname.lastname@example.org) at the RCVS by 5pm on Friday 7th February.”
The consultation can be found online at: