May we live in interesting times

While the past few weeks have been very interesting for observers of politics (and great for political journalists!) I imagine that for many veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and veterinary practices the excitement may be mixed with a fair bit of uncertainty.

Some 27 per cent of those on the Register of Veterinary Surgeons are registrants from elsewhere in the European Union and they make up around half of all new registrants every year. Meat hygiene and public health are heavily dependent on veterinary surgeons from the EU and I am sure that most veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses will have colleagues from one of the other 27 states. The input of these vets has been invaluable and I would like to both recognise and applaud the positive impact they have had on the veterinary industry and animal welfare.

The Brexit negotiations have yet to begin and while we may want to give absolute certainties to our EU colleagues that they will continue to be able to live and work here unimpeded – it is very much dependent on the agreements the Government makes regarding freedom of movement and the single market. What we can guarantee, however, is two things. First, that their status as Member of the RCVS is sacrosanct and that, as long as the annual fees are paid, any current registrant will be able to remain on the Register of Veterinary Surgeons.

Second that along with the British Veterinary Association, we will be lobbying and working with Whitehall’s Brexit team and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible and to take into account the best interests of the veterinary professions and the public. I would personally like to congratulate Andrea Leadsom on her appointment as Secretary of State and look forward to working with her and her team in the coming months and years.

To this end we have set up a Presidential Taskforce to consider the impact of Brexit and which aims to report its conclusions to Council by March 2017. The Taskforce will have several objectives including:

  • Considering the EU regulations that currently impact on our regulatory responsibilities and make recommendations as to which should be maintained.
  • Looking at the issue of the mutual recognition of veterinary graduates in Europe and make recommendations for how we might deal with applications to join the Register from EU countries post-Brexit.
  • Considering manpower requirements and the implications for new systems of immigration.
  • Understanding how Brexit might impact our current priorities such as governance and the review of Schedule 3.
  • Considering our role as an accreditation organisation and how we can contribute to and influence international affairs outside the EU.
  • Studying the financial impact of Brexit on the College.
Nick Stace's speech at RCVS Day

‘change might not always be comfortable or easy, but we cannot resist it and we need to embrace it..’ (RCVS Day 2016)

Brexit is very much a fact of life now and while some may be disappointed with the outcome of the Referendum, the Taskforce will very much be concerned with scoping out new opportunities and engaging with the way the world is changing. As I said at my recent speech at RCVS Day 2016 in respect of digital disruption – change might not always be comfortable or easy, but we cannot resist it and we need to embrace it, work out what it means and take advantage and control of the situation.

There will be many interesting and tough discussions over the coming months and years – and that will just be in our Presidential Taskforce – but we will continue to keep the profession updated on our progress and how the negotiations may affect EU-qualified veterinary surgeons.

Avoiding tunnel vision

Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium might seem a strange choice of venue for a recent staff ‘away day’ to discuss how to build a winning team, considering the club itself hasn’t troubled the local silversmiths since 2005, but at least there was plenty of space for everyone to congregate in the trophy room.

Cheap digs at the Gunners aside, I had wanted to take the staff away from their normal working environment for a day of brainstorming and fresh thinking about how we can improve as an organisation. I’m keen to sharpen our organisational focus, without narrowing it, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how the day turned out.

From the outset, the external facilitator, Matt White, invited us all to ‘lean in’ both literally and metaphorically, as he took us through a whole serious of exercises, debates, and presentations to look at our vision, values and purpose. Focusing very much on our service agenda and strategic direction, I was delighted with the range and quality of ideas emanating from my colleagues, regardless of whether they were a new recruit, or had been working for the RCVS for many years. These are now being fed into a draft strategic plan, for further consideration by our Senior Team, followed by the Operational Board in July and, of course, Council at a special meeting in September.

Topping off all the hard work with a fascinating tour of the stadium itself, it was, all in all, a very interesting, successful and productive day. Worth a quick tunnel celebration, wouldn’t you say…?

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In other news…

I had a meeting with the Chief Veterinary Officer for Scotland, Sheila Voas, to talk about the implications of Scottish independence on the work of the RCVS.  If next year’s referendum does result in Scotland leaving the UK, then we have agreed to work closely with the Scottish Government on a transition towards a new and independent body in Scotland.

I was also pleased to catch up with Duncan Rudkin, my counterpart at the General Pharmaceutical Council, which is the regulator that has now separated from its Royal College. This meeting was timely, as it preceded a recent round table session of our Legislation Working Party (including representatives of the BVA, its divisions and the BVNA) to look at RCVS activities that are synonymous with the work of Royal Colleges, as opposed to those more readily associated with regulation. 

I was really pleased by the quality and constructive nature of the discussions, especially as we were tackling some complex and thorny issues relating to the future of the organisation. There was a strong consensus that the RCVS should not seek to split its Royal College and regulatory functions and that our regulatory role would be complemented by pursuing ‘Royal College’-type activities that focus on raising standards.

The working party will meet again in September to develop a draft strategy for expanding our Royal College role, and this will likely be the topic of an afternoon debate in RCVS Council later this year.

Finally, if you haven’t already, I would urge you to take a look at our recently published annual report, which presents a comprehensive overview of our activities over the past 12 months. To increase the appeal of a traditionally turgid publication, we have this year, for the first time, produced a video version of RCVS Review to complement the usual printed publication.

I was interviewed from the top of Belgravia House for my bit. From tunneller to roofer in the space of a fortnight!

(You wait weeks for a blog update, then two come along all at once. Watch out for ‘A month of celebration!’ – coming soon…)