Around Council in a few minutes – a video update

We’ve had three Council meetings and an RCVS Charitable Trust Board meeting this week – some 15 hours in total – and I, for one, am ready for the weekend! There has been a lot to discuss, though, and some exciting changes are underway.

Council has adopted the recommendations of the First Rate Regulator initiative, there’s good news about retention fees again, the appointments to the new veterinary and veterinary nursing disciplinary committees have been approved, and there has been some very positive discussion about the future of the Practice Standards Scheme.

Here’s a quick round up from me, this time in spoken form…

As ever, if you would like to contact me about anything I’ve mentioned here, or anything else to do with the RCVS, please do drop me a line (

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 ( 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!

Climbing down from our ‘Belgrivory Tower’

A common complaint levelled at the RCVS is that we all sit here in London, high up in our ‘Belgrivory Tower’, and never venture anywhere near normal veterinary practice to get our hands dirty and see what ‘real vetting’ is all about.

Whether or not this has been true in the past, I’ve been keen from day one in the CEO hot seat to get out and about, and have been making concerted efforts, when time permits, to visit veterinary practices, vet schools, VN Colleges and other veterinary work places up and down the country to listen to the views and concerns of the people who work there.

Last week, for instance, I spent a fascinating day visiting three practices in Harrogate and my thanks to Leigh-Anne Brown, Maurice Kelly and Bob Partridge MsRCVS for sparing me their valuable time. I also spent a few hours in Consett with my boss, President Jacqui Molyneux, watching her perform keyhole surgery. I was really pleased to witness an actual operation on an actual animal, as it’s surprising how few animals I get to see on my practice visits! Jacqui’s operating skills were very impressive; I say that genuinely and not just because I now know she’s a dab hand with a knife. (And I didn’t faint, in case you were wondering…)

Jacqui Molyneux

Watching a Presidential operation

In other news…

Our First Rate Regulator initiative continues apace, and I would like to record here my thanks again to the 5,000 or so veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and practice managers who took the trouble to respond  our survey, as well as all the members of the public, RCVS Council and staff, plus additional stakeholders who also shared their views with us.

Our external consultants have since analysed this mountain of feedback and presented us with a series of formal recommendations to consider. At a meeting last Monday, RCVS Officers lent their support to these recommendations, which will now be presented to RCVS Council in June.  I hope that a workshop approach will allow all Council members to really get their teeth into the issues.

We held our first ever RCVS virtual Question Time last Wednesday evening and, technical challenges notwithstanding, it was well received. We asked the 80 people listening in to tell us whether they thought it was worthwhile and we had an extraordinary 100 per cent approval rating! Don’t worry if you missed it, the discussions were recorded, and should be available via The Webinar Vet soon.

On Friday, I headed over to WhiteCity with our new Head of Registration and Customer Experience Manager, Nicola South, to talk to what’s left of the BBC on that site about how they handle complaints, and how they interact with the public as licence fee payers and audiences to their programmes. Although on the surface a very different organisation to the RCVS, I often find observing how others do things can provide a very useful opportunity to learn.

Coming up this week, we have a Senior Team away day on Monday, where we will be starting the process of putting together a strategic plan for the next three years. I’ll be asking all staff for their input in June, and our new Operational Board in July, before then presenting draft proposals for Council to consider in September.

We also have a joint Officers meeting with the BVA, an Audit and Risk Committee meeting and our Legislation Working Party will be considering our Charter activities. Jacqui and Registrar Gordon Hockey will be heading to Cambridge to talk to their vet students about the role of the RCVS, plus giving them the opportunity to play Disciplinary Committee member through a fictitious case, and I shall need to don my best whistle-and-flute, for a NOAH black-tie event to round off the week.

That’s it for this week, and the first of what I hope will become a regular blog to help shed a little more light on my day-to-day activities both in, and, whenever I get chance, away from, the office.