Pigeon Post: Ian Neville writes from the UK

February saw the status of veterinary nurses in the UK enhanced by a Royal Charter conferring professional recognition and requiring accountable regulation. From now on Registered Veterinary Nurses (RVNs) will be subject to rules similar to those governing their veterinary surgeon colleagues. The RVN’s will be overseen by the vet’s regulatory body the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). RVN’s will be permitted to carry out minor operations but will be required to abide by a code of professional conduct, declare any convictions, cautions or adverse findings and complete 45 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) over a rolling three year period – i.e. an average of 15 hours per annum. The annual registration fee for RVN’s is currently set at £61 (A$120), registration for veterinary surgeons is £299 ($587) p.a. and their compulsory CPD requirement is 105 hours over three years.

Another piece of news with more personal royal associations is the apparent decline in the popularity of the Pembroke Welsh Corgi in the UK – a breed long favoured by The Queen. The Kennel Club (KC) has reported that the breed’s popularity has been in decline since a peak of over 9,000 registrations in 1960. Only 274 Pembroke Welsh Corgis were registered in 2014 – a decline of 16 per cent since 2013. If less than 300 breed individuals are registered with the Kennel Club that breed is considered ‘at risk’ of being unable to sustain a healthy population and is placed on the KC’s Vulnerable Native Breeds list. There are currently 29 breeds on the vulnerable list which includes such once popular favourites as: the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Smooth Haired Fox Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Curly Coated Retriever and Irish Wolfhound. As some native breeds have fallen out of favour they have been replaced by trendier foreign breeds. The French Bulldog is now the fourth most popular breed in the UK with registrations rising from 350 in 2004 to more than 9,000 in 2014. British patriots can be reassured though that the top three spots are still comfortably held by native breeds: the Labrador Retriever (34,715 registrations), Cocker Spaniel (22,366 registrations) and English Springer Spaniel (10,616 registrations).

Further to the subject of dog breeds the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) analysed ten years of micro chipping records from the UK amounting to data from five million pet dogs. They also found that the Labrador Retriever is the most popular pedigree dog across most of the UK with over half a million being chipped. Correlating breed with postcode revealed some regional variations though. In large urban areas like London and the West Midlands the Staffordshire Bull Terrier was the predominant breed (356,000 chipped), in Cornwall, South Wales and Northern Ireland the Jack Russell Terrier was the most popular (376,300 chipped) while in Shetland and the Welsh Borders it was naturally enough the Border Collie (233,700 chipped).

Further potential threats to the viability, pay and conditions of vets working in the UK were contained in two recent, unrelated news items. The RCVS reported that in the 12 months ending March 2014, 701 (43 per cent) of new vets registering to practise in the UK graduated in European Union (EU) countries compared with only slightly more, 795 (51 per cent), who graduated from UK vet schools. The majority of the remaining 6 per cent of new registrants came from Commonwealth countries including Australia, and from the USA. The freedom of movement to work within the EU means that there is no control over the number of EU graduates wishing to come and work in the UK. A potential over supply of veterinary graduates is also being threatened by the increasing domestic production of vet graduates. Aberystwyth University in Wales is the latest to confirm an intention to eventually offer a veterinary degree course. There is currently no vet school in Wales, but Aberystwyth has announced that a three year BSc degree in veterinary biosciences will commence in September 2015; a step which is seen as a precursor to eventually establishing a veterinary degree course there. Those in support of more veterinary places argue that large numbers of EU graduates wouldn’t be coming to the UK if jobs weren’t available here. Opponents argue that they only come here because chronic graduate oversupply in their home nations has forced them to look abroad for opportunities.

While the UK may be proving a popular place to work, the RCVS has announced that its Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme trial, outlined in December’s Pigeon Post, is experiencing a sluggish initial uptake. The trial will now run until October 2015 instead of May and has also been extended to include equine claims up to £10,000 ($19,600) though the small animal claim threshold has been reduced from £10,000 to £3,000 ($5,890) per case. The trial scheme is an attempt to find a quicker way to resolve client dissatisfaction with veterinary services that do not raise serious disciplinary questions.

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