Pigeon Post: August 2011

What passes for summer on the Damp Isles is running its usual course: cool, cloudy days, unseasonable flu outbreaks and vague memories of a warm, dry spring fading into folklore. As usual we’re dreaming into autumn … part of the reverie is that as I write India are struggling to save the First Test at Lord’s! It’s the final day of the 2,000th test match in cricket history. The four match series has been billed as the decider for the ICC Test Ranking crown. Before the series began India topped the rankings with 125 points, followed by South Africa on 118 then England on 117. (Australia were fifth on 100 points). If England can get two clear wins over India this summer they will be propelled into the world no. 1 spot … and for a change some of us believe they might just be good enough to do it! It makes a refreshing change for England cricket fans wearied by match fixing allegations and Murdoch media monopolisation.

In the veterinary world the illegal importation of prescription only medicines into the UK has been the favoured criminal pursuit this summer. In the past few months 13 people have been convicted of illegally importing £6 million (A$9 million) worth of steroids, antibiotics, analgesics, sedatives and tranquillisers from France. The drugs were sold on the black market to around 4,000 UK customers, usually without any veterinary supervision or advice. One of those found guilty, Leonard French of Langworth, Lincolnshire had already received a 12 month prison sentence back in August 2007 for posing as a veterinary surgeon, supplying and administering veterinary medicines. It seems that as soon as he was released in July 2008 French went straight back to drug smuggling.

More positive news in June came with the final approval of the University of Nottingham’s new veterinary degree by The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). This was the first time that the university’s initial cohort of students, who graduated on July 22, knew for certain that they would actually be allowed to practise as veterinary surgeons in the UK. Nottingham is the first university to have a new veterinary degree approved in the UK in over 60 years. Before that the vet schools at the Universities of Cambridge and Bristol opened in 1949. The oldest institution in the UK is the Royal Veterinary College, London which was founded in 1791, followed by schools at Edinburgh (1823), Glasgow (1862) and Liverpool (1904). Incidentally the world’s very first veterinary training establishments were founded in France; at Lyon in 1761 and Paris in 1764.

There are currently 505 undergraduates and 75 postgraduates studying at Nottingham. The un-snappily titled new degree of Batchelor of Veterinary Medicine & Batchelor of Veterinary Surgery (BVMBVS) will take 5 years to complete, though there is an option to undertake a preliminary or ‘gateway’ year first. The teaching emphasis at the new school is ‘hands on’ and integrated to attain a ‘holistic understanding of the body’. Post graduate research at Nottingham focuses on: infection and immunity, population health and welfare, comparative medicine, reproductive biology and veterinary education. From 2012 home and European Union undergraduates will have to pay £9,000 (A$ 13,500) p.a. in tuition fees to study veterinary science.

June also saw the 50th anniversary of veterinary nurse training in the UK. Informal veterinary nursing has been going on in the UK since the early years of the 20th century. It wasn’t until 1961 that the RCVS approved the first Animal Nursing Assistant training scheme, which became the Registered Animal Nursing Assistant (RANA) scheme in 1962. The term Veterinary Nurse (VN) was introduced in 1984. The legal role of the VN was formally recognised in 1991 by the addition of Schedule 3 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966) at the same time as a VN list was established. A non-statutory VN register was opened in 2007. Currently 84 per cent (8,346) of VNs are registered and 98 per cent are female. To mark the anniversary the RCVS held a seminar at their London headquarters on 23rd June to celebrate what had been achieved by the nursing profession and to look at its future goals and challenges.

The challenge for England is clear-cut – keep winning! At 5.20pm during the final session of last day of the First Test. Sharma fell lbw to Broad and India were all out for 261 in their second innings. England won by 196 runs against the world’s top ranked test side to go 1-0 up in the series… maybe it isn’t going to be such a bad summer after all?

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