A month of celebration, by George!

A year or so on from one of the most spectacular series of national celebrations this country has ever experienced – in the shape of the Diamond Jubilee and London 2012 – and it seems we have all developed rather a taste for celebrating success.

First, the Lions maul the Aussies (and having lived and worked in Australia, I shall never tire of saying that) then, Murray makes mincemeat of the Wimbledon opposition; the England cricket team are confidently carrying on where the Lions left off, Froome finishes first in France and now, while we continue to bask in all this sporting glory and uncharacteristic sunshine, our future King (by George!) is delivered safe and well. Amidst all this, I’m pleased to report that the veterinary world seems determined not to miss out on achieving its own successes, and has itself had much to celebrate over the last few weeks.

For us at least, it all kicked off with RCVS Day on 5 July – our annual general meeting and awards ceremony which we held at the Royal College of Physicians in London. It being my first, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but what a thoroughly enjoyable and impressive day it turned out to be, surrounded by the good and the great of the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions, together with their friends and family.

You might not need me to tell you this, but the College doesn’t hand out its awards lightly. The achievements being recognised were, for me at least, real eye-openers into the breadth and depth of expertise amongst those in, and associated with, the profession; be they for the large animal vet who first identified BSE in cattle ‘simply’ through careful observation in practice, or the impressive number of VNs gaining their diplomas in advanced veterinary nursing, including three in the equine field for the very first time.

As I said on the day, in my first nine months as CEO I have met many members of the veterinary professions up and down the country, and have found them to be extraordinarily welcoming. It really is a privilege to be leading the RCVS at this time, and I take great pleasure in seeing vet and VN accomplishments being recognised and honoured in this way. My sincere congratulations to all of our award holders!

Pictures from RCVS Day

A few pictures from RCVS Day (click image to view more on Flickr)

Over the ensuing weeks, I switched from commending eminent vets for years of hard work and lifetime achievements to congratulating the very newest MsRCVS just embarking on their professional careers as veterinary surgeons. I was lucky enough to be representing the College at the graduation ceremonies of the Royal Veterinary College and Liverpool vet school (but for a late taxi, horrendous traffic and a missed flight, I would have been at Glasgow vet school, too) and was thrilled to witness so many young people on the cusp of their professional lives. A UK veterinary degree represents five/six years of hard, unrelenting graft (the vet schools and the RCVS rightly strive to ensure that it is just that!) and all our new veterinary surgeons can be immensely and justifiably proud of themselves.

Of course, no period of celebration can be fully appreciated without some day-to-day toil to put it all into perspective, and our work agenda has continued apace at Belgravia House.

We had a seven-hour ‘beauty parade’ of auditors this last week, which was quite the test of endurance for our Audit & Risk Committee, my colleagues and me! A regular review and renewal of auditors is an essential discipline for any organisation that wants to maintain best financial practice, a concept I was interested to note has been recently promoted by the Competition Commission.

We’ve also now had a first report back from our IT consultant summarising the responses we’ve received to our invitation to tender for our new customer relationship database. Of the nine companies invited, seven have submitted replies, which is an excellent response. I will keep you posted on developments as we take forward this eye-wateringly complex project.

Finally, as I mentioned in my previous post (‘Avoiding tunnel vision’), our new Operational Board is meeting for the first time this week. We shall be spending two days in each other’s company at the recently renamed Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, where I will be steering the Board through the latest draft of our strategic plan before it goes to Council in September. You can find out more about the Operational Board, and who’s on it, via the College website.

And there I shall leave things for a fortnight or so, as I have a couple of weeks’ holiday coming up, camping with my young family in France. At least, if you can call 14 days of unforgivingly hard floors, very early mornings and scrambled egg saucepans a holiday… Perhaps that auditor meeting wasn’t so arduous after all.

Out and about, out of hours

Staring down at a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with acute chocolate poisoning at 11.30pm in Edinburgh the other night, I felt like I was really experiencing the sharp end of veterinary practice.

I’d been invited to witness the delights and challenges of out-of-hours emergency veterinary work by RCVS Council Member Amanda Boag, and spent the evening criss-crossing the south of Scotland visiting practices in Glasgow and Edinburgh to see what sort of cases came in. Fortunately, Mischa was treated quickly, and was ultimately none the worse for her misadventure, despite having consumed ten times the toxic level of chocolate! The commitment of the hardworking vets and vet nurses who I met really was quite extraordinary.

Whilst north of the border, I also took the opportunity to visit the Dick Vet (for the uninitiated, as I was, this is Edinburgh University’s vet school, founded by William Dick in 1823) and now have an even better insight into the amazing facilities available to undergraduates there, and the education they receive.

The necessary financing for such facilities is possible due in no small part to the sterling efforts of the School’s first head of finance, Mary Dick (William’s elder sister), which continues to translate into significant funds: £100m over the last five years and £150m over the next ten, to be precise. You’d think she might look slightly happier about her accomplishments…

Mary Dick

Mary Dick – financing a vet school is no laughing matter

I had an excellent meeting with Head of School, David Argyle, too. Amongst other things, we discussed the one health initiative (the vets and medics in Edinburgh work very closely together), the need for veterinary leadership both nationally and globally and his  inspirational views on what he calls the ‘need for a renaissance within the vet profession’. My thanks to David for his valuable time.

Staying north, I was then joined by my fellow Officers and colleagues for our Regional Question Time meeting in Durham. This turned out to be a successful evening with over 40 delegates coming armed with plenty of lively questions to keep us alert for nearly three hours! We discussed everything from out-of-hours cover (I’m now an expert, you understand) to the first-rate regulator initiative, from day-one competencies of new graduates to the struggles of being a small practice in tough economic times.

Like I said in Durham, meetings like this are a great way to meet members of the veterinary team, hear their views and try to answer their questions. It’s not always possible to get out and about, though, so please feel free to contact me at any time either via this blog or by email (nick@rcvs.org.uk). Whilst I might not always agree, I will always listen!

Of course, while I was out on the road, work continued apace back at the ranch with the team  busy writing to all the MPs picked in the Private Members Ballot to encourage them to support our call for new legislation to protect the title ‘veterinary nurse’, and to introduce an effective VN regulatory system.

Like I said at the time, there is widespread support amongst the public and profession for such legislation, and the nation’s animals and owners deserve better than the current situation. We have had a Bill drafted by leading Counsel and are prepared to offer significant support to any MP willing to pick up this worthy cause.

The last leg of my recent travels has actually involved a few rare days’ holiday – the first I have taken since taking up the CEO post back in September and a very welcome break! With a very important Council meeting coming up this week, together with some intensive workshops on shaping the future of the College and the Practice Standards Scheme, its good to return to office feeling refreshed and ready to face the next challenge!