Council members voted to progress recommendations by the college’s specialisation working party to introduce a "middle tier" of vets.
Council members voted to progress recommendations by the college's specialisation working party to introduce a "middle tier" of vets between general practitioners and recognised specialists. The recommendations also enable practising clinicians who do not hold an RCVS or European diploma to enter on to the specialist list if they can demonstrate equivalent specialist experience.
The working party consulted on nomenclature between October and December last year. However, following the consultation, veterinary organisations including SPVS and BVA questioned whether the review would make the referral process more restrictive.
Touching on these concerns, working party head Kenneth Calman told RCVS council: "The key here is the referral process – the assumption is professional judgement is at the heart of this [issue] and would allow individual vets to decide who is appropriate to have the animal referred to."
Delivering the final recommendations to council, Prof Calman said client research showed how well trusted vets and veterinary judgement was by the public, while repeatedly stressing the importance of properly publicising the new specialist/advanced practitioner framework to owners, industry and the profession.
Staffordshire-based vet Richard Stevenson said: "On the issue of communicating these ideas to the profession, I think there is an ill-founded feeling we are trying to tell people who they can refer to and that it will be very restrictive – that you can only refer to an RCVS specialist. Actually, we're trying to make it easier. We need to be very clear in communicating this to the profession and there are a lot of misconceptions about what we are trying to do."
The working party has recommended the RCVS continues to publish and promote a list of specialists, accredited by either the RCVS or a European college. However, it has also said experienced individuals without the relevant level eight qualification should be allowed to present a portfolio of work to demonstrate parity with qualified colleagues. As now, specialists are asked to re-accredit their status every five years.
The suggested "advanced practitioner" tier would incorporate those accredited or experienced to a level seven standard, just below that of a specialist, and advanced practitioners would also need to re-accredit their status on a five-yearly basis.
According to the working party: "The purpose of the list will be to provide a clear indication to the profession and the public of those veterinary surgeons who have been accredited at postgraduate certificate level (Masters level seven) by the RCVS, by virtue of having demonstrated knowledge and experience in a particular area of veterinary practice (including general practice) beyond their initial veterinary degree."
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