VN Futures project launched

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) have launched VN Futures, a companion project to Vet Futures, which aims to draw up a blueprint for the future of the veterinary nursing profession.

One of the recommendations of the Vet Futures report (Taking charge of our future: a vision for the veterinary profession for 2030), which was published in November 2015, was to “encourage veterinary nurse leaders to develop a report and recommendations which are directly relevant to veterinary nurses and their future…”.

Following a joint meeting between the RCVS VN Council and the Council of the BVNA in October 2015, it was decided that a ‘VN Futures’ project would provide the relevant leadership and engagement to achieve this.

An initial meeting with a broad range of stakeholders took place at the RCVS on 7 January 2016, and, following this, a VN Futures Action Group has now been established to take the project forward, with the aim of delivering an action plan at the Vet Futures Summit in the summer.

The Action Group includes a mix of individuals involved in the training, representation, regulation, employment and management of veterinary nurses.

The timeframe under consideration for Vet Futures is until 2030, however, it was considered that a five-year timeline may be more appropriate for veterinary nursing, given that it’s a younger profession, the retention rate is lower, and the training cycle is shorter.

The VN Futures project is running a series of evening meetings to engage with VNs and those involved in the profession, as follows:

  • 14 March, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU
  • 18 April, the College of Animal Welfare, Topcliffe Close, Capitol Park, Tingley, Leeds WF3 1DR
  • 11 May, Edinburgh Napier University, Sighthill Campus, Edinburgh EH11 4BN
  • 17 May, Nottingham Belfry Hotel, Mellors Way, Notts NG8 6PY, this will be a discussion stream within an RCVS Regional Question Time meeting
  • 31 May, SSE SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff CF11 9XR, this will be a discussion stream within an RCVS Regional Question Time meeting

The meetings are free to attend and will start at 6.30pm, with a buffet supper. To register visit the VN Futures Eventbrite page.

“The VN Futures project aims to deliver an action plan that will help take the veterinary nursing profession into its next phase of development. With the new Charter now in place, and a willingness from Defra to review Schedule 3, the time is ripe for us to take control of what happens next,” says Liz Cox, Chair of the RCVS VN Council.

“The key to VN Futures’ success will be collaboration – I am delighted that we are working with the BVNA on this, together with other representative bodies – and also engagement: we want to hear VNs’ aspirations for their profession to ensure our action plan is as relevant and far-reaching as possible. I look forward to seeing a good turn-out for our roadshow events,” she added.

Sam Morgan, BVNA President, says: “BVNA is delighted to be working alongside RCVS VN Council on this project. We fully believe in the importance of the veterinary nurse within practice and think this project can help shape the future of the profession. Being involved in the Vet Futures project, via BVA, was an eye-opener, and that only just touched on our own profession; we now have the chance to look at veterinary nursing specifically, and it is an opportunity not to be missed. Knowing where we want to take the profession will make it so much easier to reach the goal.”

BVA launches strategy to help vets speak up for animal welfare

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has launched its landmark animal welfare strategy at its annual London Dinner (3 February) highlighting the veterinary profession’s unique opportunity – and responsibility – to advocate animals’ best interests at individual, community and political levels.

Just over 50 years since The Brambell Report (1965), ten years on from the Animal Welfare Acts of 2006 and following 18 months’ consultation, BVA President Sean Wensley presented ‘Vets speaking up for animal welfare’ to a roomful of key influencers including Defra Minister George Eustice MP, other MPs and Peers, industry representatives, NGOs, journalists, retailers and animal welfare scientists.

BVA’s animal welfare strategy provides a framework to help the veterinary profession advocate good animal welfare outcomes for all animals, identifying six priority areas as building blocks for future action:

  • Animal welfare assessment
  • Ethics
  • Legislation
  • Education
  • Advocacy
  • International

Each priority area outlines its aim, evidence gathered through consultation and actions for BVA. Priority area ‘animal welfare assessment’ provides a consensus definition of animal welfare and ‘ethics’ emphasises veterinary professionals’ animal welfare-focus; with their principal duty being to animals, despite also having duties to their clients and the businesses that veterinary surgeons work for. Other priority areas, such as ‘international’, highlight veterinary responsibility in ensuring animal welfare is recognised as a key objective within sustainable development and in future systems of environmentally sustainable animal agriculture.

The ultimate aim of BVA’s animal welfare strategy is for BVA, its members and specialist divisions to contribute to solutions for real-world animal welfare problems.

Launching the strategy BVA President Sean Wensley said:
“Brambell’s report set in motion the now thriving field of animal welfare science – determining how animals perceive the world, and what they need and want from their perspectives – and, in light of this new scientific understanding, society is increasingly examining how we ought to use and treat animals. Protecting and promoting animal welfare is the veterinary profession’s raison d’etre: it’s a declaration that each of us makes when we become members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

“As vets, we recognise that we are part of an interdisciplinary community seeking to promote the best interests of animals and improve their treatment, wherever they are used or impacted on by people. It’s a community that includes NGOs, retailers, politicians, scientists, philosophers, economists and all the organisations represented here this evening. Vets’ opportunity to be advocates for animals may be the greatest of all those who act in the interests of animals – and we have clear social, professional and legal responsibilities to do so.”

The Vet Futures report, launched last November as part of the ongoing project jointly led by BVA and RCVS, identified veterinary leadership in animal health and welfare as one of the six key ambitions in its 2030 vision for the veterinary profession.

The President concluded his launch of ‘Vets speaking up for animal welfare’, saying:
“The launch of BVA’s animal welfare strategy sends a clear signal that the veterinary profession is, and will continue to be, a considerable force for good, for animals and for an increasingly compassionate society, in the years to come.”

Download the Animal Welfare Strategy at

Vet Futures Action Group offers wealth of expertise to drive change

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are delighted to announce the formation of the Vet Futures Action Group to take forward the ambitions and recommendations in the Vet Futures report ‘Taking charge of our future: A vision for the veterinary profession for 2030’ launched in November 2015.

The call for applications attracted more than 80 candidates with many more expressing an interest in helping to take the project forward, demonstrating a fantastic level of engagement from the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions.

The Action Group will be tasked with working collectively to turn the report’s 34 recommendations into clear actions with buy-in from across the veterinary profession and a timetable for activity.

The Action Group is made up of the BVA and RCVS Presidents and Junior Vice-Presidents, seven veterinary surgeons, a veterinary nurse, and a co-opted veterinary student:

  • Dr Clare Allen MA VetMB PhD MRCVS – Senior Teaching Associate for curriculum and innovation in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge.
  • Helena Diffey – President of the Association of Veterinary Students UK and Ireland (AVS)
  • Simon Doherty BVMS MRCVS FRSB – Owner and Director of Blackwater Consultancy and animal science expert for the Agri-Tech Organisation of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).
  • Daniel Hogan RVN – Operations Manager at Dick White Referrals.
  • Dr Liz Mossop BVM&S PhD MRCVS – Associate Professor of Veterinary Education and Sub-Dean for Teaching, Learning and Assessment at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham.
  • Gudrun Ravetz BVSc MRCVS – BVA Junior Vice-President and Veterinary Consultant to Pet Health Plans from Denplan.
  • Dr Kimberley Schiller BVetMed MRCVS – Manager in Healthcare Practice at Accenture, the global consultancy.
  • Dr Huw Stacey BVetMed DipAS(CABC) MRCVS – Director of Clinical Services at the Pets at Home Vet Group (PAHVG).
  • Dr Mary Thomson BVMS MRCVS – small animal veterinary surgeon in Devon, Vetlife Board member and RCVS Postgraduate Dean.
  • Dr Chris Tufnell BSc (Hons) BVMS MRCVS – RCVS Vice-President and Director of Coach House Vets, a small animal and equine practice in Berkshire.
  • Dr Bradley Viner BVetMed MSc(VetGP) DProf MRCVS – RCVS President and Principal of Blythwood Vets, a group of small animal practices in North West London.
  • Sean Wensley BVSc MSc Grad DMS MRCVS – BVA President and Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Communication and Education at the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).
  • Dr James Yeates BVSc BSc DWEL DipECVS(AWBM) PhD MRCVS – RSPCA Chief Veterinary Officer, a visiting Fellow at the University of Surrey, an honorary lecturer at the University of Bristol and an active member of the animal welfare research community.

The members of the Group joining the BVA and RCVS officers were selected by the Vet Futures Project Board for their mix of experience and expertise across the Vet Futures ambitions and themes (Animal health and welfare; Veterinary professionals’ wider roles in society; The health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals; Diverse and rewarding veterinary careers; Sustainable businesses and user-focused services; and Leadership), as well as in veterinary education, veterinary regulation, and veterinary nursing.

Commenting, BVA President Sean Wensley said:

“We are delighted to announce the membership of the Vet Futures Action Group. The Group has a very important task ahead and we are confident that we have an excellent group of people with the right balance of skills, experience and expertise to take forward the Vet Futures recommendations and turn them into concrete actions.

“We have had an incredibly positive response from the profession to the launch of the report and we hope organisations and individuals will now step up to work with the Action Group and take ownership of the activity for the good of the whole profession.”

Commenting on the high number of applications, RCVS President Bradley Viner said:

“We were overwhelmed by the response from the professions with ten applications for every place, and many more offers of support. The Project Board was particularly impressed by the high quality of the applications and the breadth of experience demonstrated by the candidates from all parts of the profession.

“It was incredibly difficult to select the members of the Group from such a strong field but we are pleased that we have captured the variety within the profession as well as the enthusiasm to drive the project forward. We sincerely hope everyone who expressed an interest will remain engaged with the project as it progresses this year.”


View the Vet Futures Action Group member biographies



BVA and BVNA response to Defra statement about campaign to protect the title Veterinary Nurse

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) have been actively supporting the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) campaign to protect the title Veterinary Nurse. An online petition, launched by the RCVS, in support of legislative changes has currently received almost 22,000 signatures and has this week received an official response from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Responding to the Defra statement, BVA President Sean Wensley said:
“Veterinary Nurses are an essential part of the veterinary team and deserve full recognition for their roles. The VN Title campaign has received strong support from across the sector and with MPs, so it is disappointing that Defra has decided not to recommend that Parliament give legal protection to the hard-earned title.

“Given the current Government’s deregulatory agenda, this response does not come as a surprise yet nor does it signal the end of the campaign. Defra have stated that if this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Petitions Committee will consider it for a debate. We therefore ask anyone who supports the campaign but has not yet signed the online petition to do so now.

“In the meantime BVA and BVNA will continue to work with RCVS on the VN Futures project, taking a long-term view on the role of veterinary nurses and seeking to prepare for their future within the profession.”

BVNA President Sam Morgan said:
“The BVNA are very disappointed to read the Government’s response. We feel that they have overlooked the emotions of the British public towards animal welfare and maintenance of trust within the veterinary profession. With no restriction on the use of the title it is confusing for the general public and for the veterinary profession. We hope that this response increases public awareness of the issues faced. As the representative body for Veterinary Nurses, BVNA will continue to work alongside the RCVS and BVA to raise awareness of this campaign and to encourage anyone who is interested to sign the petition.”

RCVS and BVA presidents host webinar explaining the next steps for Vet Futures project

Next week the presidents of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and British Veterinary Association (BVA) will be hosting a free webinar to explain the next steps in the Vet Futures project, following the publication of its report in November.

During the webinar, which takes place at 1pm on Thursday 14 January 2016, Dr Bradley Viner, RCVS President, and Sean Wensley, BVA President, will discuss the extensive research undertaken throughout the course of 2015 and how this fed into the six ambitions and 34 recommendations contained in the Vet Futures report.

They will also discuss the next steps in the project, including the launch of a Vet Futures Action Group which will be tasked with turning the report’s ambitions and recommendations into coherent actions, and the upcoming Vet Futures Summit taking place over the coming summer (previously announced date of 20 June no longer applies) which will engage the wider profession in taking forward those actions.

The webinar is hosted by The Webinar Vet and those who are interested can register for free on The Webinar Vet website.

For those who are not able to listen live, a recording of the webinar will be made available in the ‘Resources’ section of this website shortly after the event.

New Vet Futures Action Group seeks members

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are inviting applications from members of the veterinary professions for the new Vet Futures Action Group, set up to drive forward the ambitions identified in the Vet Futures report launched at BVA Congress at the London Vet Show on 20 November.

The Vet Futures report, Taking charge of our future: A vision for the veterinary profession for 2030, was the culmination of a year-long joint project by BVA and RCVS designed to help the veterinary profession prepare for, and shape, its own future. The Action Group is a vital next step in the Vet Futures project, ensuring the delivery of the report’s six ambitions and 34 recommendations.

We are seeking seven veterinary surgeons and one veterinary nurse to join the Action Group to ensure there is buy-in from across the professions and to drive forward workstreams of activity. The group will be co-chaired by the BVA and RCVS Presidents, and both Junior Vice-Presidents will sit on the group. Action Group members will be independent and will not represent, or be required to report back to, any particular organisation.

Veterinary surgeons or nurses keen to apply for an Action Group role should have experience of working as an active member of a group or committee and the ability to deliver, engage and inspire others. The veterinary surgeon members should have specific expertise, knowledge and experience in relation to at least one of the Vet Futures ambitions or the cross-cutting issue of veterinary education. The ambitions cover:

  • Animal health and welfare
  • Veterinary professionals’ wider roles in society
  • The health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals
  • Diverse and rewarding veterinary careers
  • Sustainable businesses and user-focused services
  • Leadership

Successful applicants must be able to attend three all-day meetings in London (9 February, 17 March and 12 May) and an all-day Vet Futures Summit (20 June), with a time commitment totalling approximately seven days between February and June 2016. The group will be supported by BVA and RCVS staff.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon, 31 December 2015.

Download the full Vet Futures Action Group role profile and terms of reference.

What role might patient safety play in the veterinary profession?

What role might patient safety play in the veterinary profession? is the question posed by our Vet Futures blogger, Mark Turner, this month in considering what the profession could learn from the NHS.

Mark graduated from Liverpool Veterinary School in 1996. His career has included spells as a veterinary surgeon and as a business owner. During this period he has developed an interest in patient safety and a profound belief that risk management, properly implemented, can improve many aspects of care. Mark is currently undertaking an MRes on veterinary patient safety at the Royal Veterinary College.

In his blog, Mark outlines the major impact that a move to a more patient-safety-centred approach has had within human medicine, and also the aviation industry, noting that adopting a culture that does not blame individuals was key: “Human medicine has discovered that real improvements start when people understand that mistakes are inevitable in complex industries, and everyone will make them. This shift in perspective allows hospitals to start framing accidents, and near misses, as opportunities to improve the system. Accident auditing, then, rather elegantly, becomes another arm of evidence-based practice,” he says.

He exhorts the veterinary profession to take note, and consider integrating patient safety into its systems, concluding: “Perhaps all we need to do is learn this single, yet potentially transformative, lesson, in order to start our own safety revolution.”

This month’s our poll will therefore be asking website visitors if they feel that patient safety features high enough on the profession’s agenda.

In last month’s poll we asked “Do you feel that you were given adequate business training at vet school?” Of the 70 respondents, 96% said ‘no’, with 3% saying ‘to some extent’ and only one voter saying ‘yes’.

This theme is picked up in the Vet Futures report, launched at the BVA Congress at the London Vet Show on 20 November, with one of its recommendations being: “Enhance business and finance skills amongst veterinary professionals through education, extra-mural studies and continuing professional development” (recommendation 25).

To read the blog, comment on the issues it raises and to take part in this month’s poll please visit

In addition, a recent research paper in Veterinary Record by Oxtoby et al from the University of Nottingham discussed error in veterinary practice: “We need to talk about error: causes and types of error in veterinary practice” (Veterinary Record 2015; 177:438).

It was accompanied by a research editorial by Dr Mickey Tivers of the University of Bristol: “Reducing error and improving patient safety”.

Taking charge of our future: Launch of the Vet Futures report

Vet Futures report

Click to download the report

In 2030 vets should be a leading force for animal health and welfare and valued for their wider roles in society. They should be confident, resilient, healthy and well supported, and benefit from exceptional leadership. And there should be a broad range of diverse and rewarding veterinary careers, as well as thriving, innovative and user-focused businesses.

These are the ambitions set out in our new report, which is published today [20 November] by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), under the overarching ambition for 2030 of ‘a profession in charge of its future’.

The report, launched at BVA Congress at the London Vet Show, is the culmination of a year of engagement, consultation and research with the veterinary profession, veterinary nurses, members of the wider veterinary team, key stakeholders, animal owners, and the general public.

At every step of the journey we have reached out to the veterinary profession through news, guest blogs, polls, surveys and roadshow events to capture the issues of today and consider the issues for the future.

Our surveys, roadshow events and meetings engaged hundreds of vet students, and thousands of vets and members of the general public and gave us some very useful insights, which all fed into the Vet Futures project and the development of the six major themes. The resulting 64-page report sets out a clear vision and ambitions and makes 34 recommendations for change.

We engaged with the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council and British Veterinary Nursing Association, as well as individual veterinary nurses throughout the project and many of the ambitions should resonate with members of both professions. While the focus has been on veterinary surgeons, the report recommends that the veterinary nursing profession should build on our work to develop its own clear vision and ambitions.

With the launch of the Vet Futures report RCVS and BVA are calling on the whole profession, as well as others with an interest in its future, to help take forward the recommendations, which include:

  • Explore and consult on a sustainable structure for the veterinary degree, including the viability of limited licensure, allowing veterinary students to focus their studies and specialise during the veterinary degree [rec 16];
  • Review the regulatory framework for veterinary businesses to ensure a level playing field, enable a range of business models to coexist, ensure professionalism in commercial settings, and explore the implications for regulation of new technologies (eg telemedicine) [rec 23];
  • Deliver a coordinated, well-funded and evidence-based approach to mental health and wellbeing for the veterinary team [rec 10];
  • Undertake a veterinary workforce study to assess the rewards, recognition and working conditions of vets and veterinary nurses, and the drivers of low and unequal pay [rec 18];
  • Develop a public-facing awareness campaign to raise the profile of wider veterinary roles (including public health, research, government, industry and academia) [rec 22];
  • Strengthen leadership for the profession by exploring options for bringing greater coherence to the support and representation of the veterinary profession [rec 30] and exploring ways to develop the next generation of veterinary leaders including by identifying and nurturing talent, and providing them with the skills and opportunities to succeed [rec 31];
  • Explore options to develop an online animal welfare hub to better disseminate animal welfare research, evidence and tools, including the critical appraisal of common practices in the light of emerging evidence [rec 3].

Other recommendations include developing an animal welfare strategy for the profession, increasing collaboration with medical professionals and environmental organisations, adopting a more strategic long-term outlook for research funding, and exploring how to encourage a more diverse profession.

Commenting, RCVS President Bradley Viner said:

“The Vet Futures report is the culmination of a year of research and engagement with thousands of members of the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions, which has given us a very firm foundation on which to build our ambitions and recommendations. We are extremely grateful to every individual who has contributed in some way to the project, and helped us to seize the initiative.

“Over the years the veterinary profession has proved itself to be adaptable and able to face challenges head on, and we have no doubt that by working together we will realise our joint vision of a profession in charge of its future. Ultimately, we all want a profession that is confident in itself and one in which members are proud to call themselves veterinary surgeons.”

Sean Wensley, BVA President, added:

“Vet Futures has proved to be an exciting, engaging and truly ambitious project for the veterinary profession and it has created a fantastic level of debate and engagement.

“The report we are launching today is not the end of the story; it is the beginning of the next chapter. It is crucial that we maintain the momentum of the project so we will be inviting members of the veterinary professions to step forward and join a new Vet Futures Action Group to help us turn the recommendations into actions and drive forward activity.”

Jennifer Rowland

Student’s wearable tech vision wins Vet Futures essay competition

Fourth-year University of Edinburgh veterinary student Jennifer Rowland (pictured left) has won our Veterinary Vision essay competition, with her entry on wearable healthcare technology for animals.

The competition was run over the summer and Jennifer, who grew up on a dairy farm in rural Northumberland, was the only veterinary student to enter the competition; all essays were judged anonymously.

In her essay, Jennifer argues that: “Wearable technology that is designed to organise our daily lives, monitor our body functions and revolutionise our medical care already exists, and is likely to become an integral part of medical and veterinary sciences.”

Benefits of this, she suggests, will include instant assessment of basic health parameters, freeing up more time for diagnosis and treatment; less invasive gathering of data; access to a more detailed history; recording accurate baselines of, for example, temperature and heart rate, for each patient; the ability to detect the onset of disease; and an accurate way of monitoring response to long-term medication.

Jennifer concludes her 1,000-word essay by saying that: “The ‘art’ of veterinary medicine is unlikely to be radicalised in the next fifteen years, but the advancement of wearable day-to-day health monitors is one way that the ‘science’ will change dramatically.”

Jennifer’s win was recognised at the launch of the Vet Futures report at the London Vet Show on Friday 20 November, and the essay is being published in Veterinary Record (Volume 177, Issue 20, Saturday, 21 November 2015).

“This winning essay concerned a subject that came up often at our Vet Futures roadshow meetings – the role of technology in the future of the profession. Jennifer’s essay tackled the subject in an engaging and stimulating way that brought the subject alive,” says Sean Wensley, BVA President.

“Jennifer’s essay was a clear winner and it’s very fitting that a competition that challenged people to consider the future of the profession should have been won by someone who represents that very future,” said Bradley Viner, RCVS President.

Topics covered by other entrants included mental health and wellbeing, a National Animal Health Service (or, in another essay, a Veterinary Health Service), a future where all equine practitioners wear a helmet while examining horses to reduce accidents, and a system to support pet ownership for older people, among others.

The winning essay can be read in full here.

Nazrene Moosa

Should vets be as comfortable reading balance sheets as blood results? asks guest blogger

Although the rise in employment within corporate practices has enabled young vets to focus on the veterinary science aspects of practice life, our latest guest blog argues that business training should still be an integral and encouraged part of undergraduate vet training.

The blog is written by Nazrene Moosa, a small animal vet who works in a busy practice in West Sussex. In the last 20 years, she has worked as a sole practitioner and owner, as well as for independent and corporate-owned practices.

Nazrene argues that through offering an environment that concentrates on hands-on work instead of involvement in practice finances and management, young vets working in the corporate sector might be missing out on developing vital business skills. She argues that such skills are essential if they want to leave the corporate world and move into an independent practice or even strike out on their own.

“The usual mantra from the corporates is that they allow vets to be vets rather than managers, they enable them to concentrate on the stuff that matters, rather than the humdrum financial and management issues that many vets have little or no interest in,” says Nazrene, arguing that while such business issues may not be “the sexy end of the job” they require skills that are “sadly lacking in many vets today.”

Nazrene believes a shift in attitude is required, to ensure that gaining greater knowledge and insight into the running of a successful practice is seen as a positive opportunity to make the practice the best it can be both for staff and clients. She concludes: “Ideally vets would be as comfortable reading balance sheets as blood results.”

This month’s poll asks visitors ‘Do you feel that you were given adequate business training at vet school?’ If you have a view on this topic, please make sure to take part in the poll and leave a comment on the blog.

Last month’s poll asked readers if there is a need for another veterinary nurse training option. This was in response to the guest blog by Laura Kidd, who discussed how more vet nurses can be encouraged into the profession and how practices can keep those nurses they have already. Over 100 people took part in the poll, with 57% agreeing that there should be another option to train to become a veterinary nurse.