A continuing European role for the College

While we are told on an almost daily basis that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ (whatever that may mean!), there is still a very strong case in the veterinary sphere for close cooperation and partnership with our European neighbours.

It is in this capacity that, twice per year, key members of RCVS Council and me attend meetings of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), an organisation that strives to promote animal health, welfare and public health across Europe through spreading knowledge and best practice amongst colleagues across the continent.

One concrete example of how best practice is shared and diffused amongst FVE’s 38 members is the fact that the Vet Futures project, started here in the UK in 2014 as a joint venture between the College and the British Veterinary Association to help the profession determine and prepare for its long-term future, has inspired a ‘Vet Futures Europe’ project.

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Key members of RCVS Council and CEO Nick Stace attending a meeting of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) in Brussels, June 2016.

The project aims to develop themes and actions which will help the European veterinary profession plan for its future, and inform a strategic plan for the FVE, as well as providing a framework for other member states to develop national Vet Futures reports. The fact that the project has been so well received by our European colleagues and taken on board by them is very gratifying and demonstrates that Britain is often at the forefront of innovation in the veterinary sphere.

One of the countries that has shown the most enthusiasm for Vet Futures is Switzerland which, while not a member of the EU, is certainly a key player in FVE. It is important to note that FVE is not an EU institution and that many non-EU members are active within FVE, including Norway and Turkey. When the United Kingdom leaves the EU we will continue to have a vital role in FVE as one of the biggest economies in Europe employing many thousands of vets from across the continent.

Leaving the EU may create certain complications – decisions made by the European Parliament regarding animal health and welfare in its member states may continue to have an impact on the UK, yet we will lack the ability to directly influence them. Nevertheless, through FVE, we will still play a big role in lobbying not only the EU but also national governments, institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders in promoting the views of the profession as well as animal health and welfare and public health.

And on the subject of what Brexit might mean for the veterinary profession, we recently had the second meeting of the RCVS Presidential Taskforce on Brexit, where we looked at issues ranging from the labour market to mutual recognition of qualifications and much more. The next meeting will be on 9 November and we will be reporting back to RCVS Council in March 2017 with recommendations.

A turnout for the books

We started last week with some very encouraging news. Turnouts in the RCVS Council and VN Council elections were both significantly up on last year (25% and 67% respectively) and, in the case of VN Council, the highest on record! I’m delighted with these results because they indicate increasing levels of engagement with the profession.

Interestingly, all members on both Councils who were standing again were re-elected, and in both cases, the highest number of votes went to younger and ‘unknown’ candidates. I think this speaks well for endorsing the direction in which we are heading, as well as embracing the need for a continual renewal. If you voted, thank you, if you didn’t, we will try to do more to convince you that it’s worth your while.

Whilst Electoral Reform Services were counting up the votes, the Senior Team spent Monday at the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill for a full-day meeting to focus on our organisational purpose and to begin to think about our goals and targets over the next three years. It proved an inspiring setting although, sadly, the chocolate exhibits were not for consumption.

Last Wednesday we met with the BVA Officers and discussed everything from the RCVS Charitable Trust and Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine, to the First Rate Regulator initiative and possible changes to the Practice Standards Scheme.

As you can see from the photo below, the BVA President Elect, Robin Hargreaves, has an interesting way of persuading the RCVS President to see his point of view – he obviously doesn’t know that Jacqui is a dab hand with a knife!

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Robin Hargreaves persuades Jacqui Molyneux to come round to his way of thinking

We’re now approaching the end of a very full-on week of Committee meetings – always a challenge for even the most passionate of bureaucrats! First up was the Audit & Risk Committee last Wednesday and three-and-a-half hours of looking at year-end accounts for last year (hearing that must make you quite envious of my job!).

Last Friday we had the Legislative Working Party with plenty of discussion around how we should change our Charter. There were some obscure, but very entertaining, discussions around the Crimean War and the RCVS involvement in allowing more horses to go into battle!

Then, this last week, we’ve had the quadruple whammy of VN Council, Education Policy & Specialisation Committee, Communication & Public Affairs Board and Planning & Resources Committee. There have been no major decisions to make this time around.

This is the last round of Committees under the old regime, with the new Operational Board coming into being in July, with smaller Committees and clearer lines of decision-making.