RCVS launches online petition to safeguard animal welfare by protecting the title ‘veterinary nurse’

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK, has launched an online petition calling on Parliament to protect the title ‘veterinary nurse’ in law.

The petition, which can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106153, was launched via the official UK Government and Parliament petition website.

It asks for a change in law to protect animal welfare by ensuring that only those individuals who hold the relevant qualifications and are on the RCVS Register of Veterinary Nurses may call themselves  ‘veterinary nurse’. Currently, anyone may call themselves a veterinary nurse, even if they have no qualifications or experience and are not registered as such.

In May, the RCVS launched an animated video (available to view at www.rcvs.org.uk/vntitle), calling attention to the fact that the title is not legally protected. The animation also highlights the training needed to become a veterinary nurse, the professional standards and responsibilities they are expected to adhere to and the fact they can be held accountable for their conduct.

The RCVS also drew up the ‘Veterinary Nurse (Protection of Title) Bill’ with the help of legislative draftsmen and the Clerk of the House of Lords. This was submitted to a ballot of the House of Lords in May by former RCVS President and Council member Professor the Lord Trees and received its first reading on 10 June.

Liz Cox, the Chair of VN Council, which has responsibility for matters concerning training, education and registration of veterinary nurses, said:  “Our animation received a fantastic response when it was first launched, as did the fact that we had drawn up a piece of legislation with the specific aim of protecting the title. With this petition we want to build upon this support, and bring this issue to the attention of the people best placed to do something about it.

“We believe that the fact that anybody can call themselves a veterinary nurse is unacceptable. It means that there is potential for the public to be misled and for animal health and welfare to be compromised. Therefore we would urge veterinary nurses, veterinary surgeons and animal owners to sign this petition. With 10,000 signatures the Government is obliged to respond formally and take a stance on the issue; with 100,000 signatures the issue would be considered for a formal parliamentary debate.

“If we are successful with this campaign, the public will be assured that they are receiving the highest standard of nursing care for their animals from a genuine professional and by protecting the title we can remove any doubt about who is a veterinary nurse.”

In conjunction with the petition, the RCVS has also produced a template letter which the profession and public can use to write to their local Member of Parliament asking them to support the campaign. For example, the letter asks the MP to adopt the Veterinary Nurse (Protection of Title) Bill and enter it into a Private Members’ Bill ballot or introduce it as a 10-Minute Rule Bill.

The petition, and the campaign in general, has received support from the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the representative organisations for veterinary nurses and veterinary surgeons respectively.

Fiona Andrew, President of the BVNA, said: “BVNA has campaigned for the protection of the title of 'Veterinary Nurse' for many years. We are delighted that the RCVS is continuing the campaign with the addition of the online petition and letter template.

“We would ask all out members to sign the petition and write to their MP. We believe that this is an important step towards giving clarity and reassurance to the public, strengthening the profession and raising awareness of what veterinary nurses can do and enhancing animal welfare.”

John Blackwell, President of the BVA, added: “BVA is delighted to support the campaign to protect the title, as veterinary nurses are an essential part of the veterinary team and deserve full recognition for their roles. By protecting the title it not only recognises the skills of qualified veterinary nurses, but also gives clients confidence that their animals are receiving the highest standard of care possible.”

Those who wish to sign the petition can do so on the UK Government and Parliament petition website https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/106153

To find out more about the campaign, download a template letter to an MP and view the animated video about protecting the title, please visit www.rcvs.org.uk/vntitle

Notes for editors

1.     The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK and sets, upholds and advances veterinary standards, so as to enhance society through improved animal health and welfare.