Is there enough guidance for the profession on ethnic and cultural diversity?

With the majority of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses coming from a white British background, this month we ask if there is enough information, guidance and support with regards to ethnic and cultural diversity in the veterinary profession.

In the first meeting of the Vet Futures Group, a consultative group which includes representatives from a range of veterinary and veterinary nursing organisations, encouraging greater diversity was identified as one of the priorities that the profession should aim to meet by 2030.

In this month’s blog the writer, who wishes to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the subject, recounts his mainly positive experience of being one of the few vets from an ethnic minority background in a profession that is otherwise overwhelmingly white.

However, he also cites an occasion where he felt that a client was hostile to him on the basis of his ethnicity and he was not adequately supported by his practice. The position he found himself in damaged his confidence, affected him mentally, had a negative impact on his personal life and left him feeling isolated.

He writes: “I know we can’t change clients’ attitudes towards ethnicity and culture overnight but we must be united and an example of a forward-thinking profession to the public.

“For example, the NHS, dentists and lawyers all have committees, advice and guidance for colleagues in my position and I feel the veterinary profession should also go forward in this way.

“In my opinion there should be more education at undergraduate level which is supported with further guidance, training and support for qualified veterinary surgeons.”

He argues for ‘ethno-cultural empathy’ on the grounds that more tolerance and understanding between professional colleagues will help avoid bigotry and discrimination.

So, with this month’s poll we want to know if you feel that vets, vet nurses and other members of the practice team are given adequate information, guidance and support regarding ethnic and cultural diversity.

Last month’s poll asked if vets working in non-clinical settings were considered ‘second-class’. Over half of the 151 respondents (57%) did not agree.

Vet Futures roadshows – join the debate where you live

Vet Futures will be hitting the road over April, May and June with a series of regional events in which vets, veterinary nurses and other members of the practice team are encouraged to give their views about where the profession is heading.

The initiative, which is run jointly by the RCVS and the BVA, aims to help the profession prepare for and shape its future and we would like you to come along and share your hopes and fears for the future of the veterinary team.

There will be a total of six free events taking place across the country. These are:

  • Belfast, Dunadry Hotel, 16 April, 6.30pm – 10pm
  • Exeter, The Devon Hotel, 20 April, 6.30pm – 10pm
  • Cambridge, Menzies Cambridge Hotel and Golf Club, 21 April, 6.30pm – 10pm
  • Manchester, Novotel Manchester West, 18 May, 6.30pm – 10pm
  • Edinburgh, Scottish Parliament, 5 June, 8am – 10am
  • Swansea, Village Hotel, 17 June, 6.30pm – 10pm

If you attend the event you can hear about the latest Vet Futures research as well as having the opportunity to discuss your ambitions for the profession with colleagues from across your region.

All the events, with the exception of Edinburgh, start at 6.30pm with a buffet meal; the Edinburgh meeting includes breakfast. All the meetings are free to attend but please make sure to confirm attendance at least a week in advance for planning and security reasons.

Please make sure to visit our events page to register.


Guest blogger asks if vets not working in clinical practice are viewed as ‘second class’ vets?

In this month’s Vet Futures guest blog Javier Dominguez Orive, the Food Standard’s Agency’s Veterinary Director and Head of Foodborne Diseases Control Unit, asks if veterinary surgeons working outside clinical practice are considered ‘second class’ vets by the rest of the profession.

To tie in with the blog, this month Vet Futures is asking members of the profession whether vets are considered to be ‘second class’ vets if they work outside of clinical practice.

Javier Dominguez Orive suggests that veterinary surgeons in the UK can add value to society by using their skills and knowledge in non-clinical work, such as in the food processing industry or for the Government working on food safety policy.

He writes that veterinary surgeons, for instance, are best placed with their understanding of animal physiology, health and production to help prevent and control diseases by maintaining high standards of food and animal safety.

He says, however, that vets in other regions of the world, such as continental Europe, the USA, South America and Australia, are valued and recognised more for their non-clinical work than vets in the UK. He says it is widely accepted and encouraged in these regions that many veterinary graduates will pursue a career outside of clinical practice.

“Are we preparing the next generation of vets for these possible roles? Or are we creating yet another generation of veterinary surgeons who won’t consider these careers because they will be viewed as ‘second class vets’?,” he asks.

This month’s poll asks: Would you agree that vets working in non-clinical roles are considered ‘second-class’ vets? We encourage members of the veterinary team and the public to take part in the poll so that we can generate debate on the issue of non-clinical veterinary careers.

February’s poll asked members of the profession whether they agree that VAT should no longer be levelled on vet fees? A majority – 62% of the 107 respondents – thought that VAT should no longer be levelled on vet fees. Leaving 38% or 41 respondents believing that VAT should still be charged on vet fees.


Should VAT on vet fees for pets be dropped?

Charging VAT on vet fees is a barrier to owners registering their pets with a veterinary surgery. This is the view of Stuart Winter, the Sunday Express small animal columnist and a campaigner to end VAT on pet fees.

This month we are asking you to consider whether VAT should be removed from vet fees. Owning a pet, argues Stuart Winter in our third guest blog, is not a luxury to be taxed when they need medical intervention but owning a companion improves the health and wellbeing of its owner.

Stuart Winter writes that removing VAT on vets’ fees for domestic animals, or at least reducing it to five pence in the pound, would improve the nation’s animal welfare. It would allow low-income families to seek medical attention earlier, he argues, while allowing more owners to afford and take out pet insurance.

He says that shifting Government thinking on the subject might be a Herculean task, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t campaign for its removal. “No Chancellor delights in losing revenue.  Treating, curing and caring for sick and injured animals is nothing more than a service and services are ripe to be harvested.

“It is time for a counter argument. Pet ownership is not a luxury. It is more than a privilege. Is it not a human right? Welcoming animals into our lives makes our lives more fulfilled and more civilised.”

This month’s poll asks: Would you agree that VAT should no longer be levelled on vet fees? We encourage members of the veterinary team and the public to take part in the poll so that we can generate debate on the issue of VAT and better understand the full consequences if it was removed.

NB the views expressed in the blog are Stuart’s own, and not necessarily those of the RCVS or the BVA.

Ambitions for the profession take shape after first Vet Futures Group meeting

Greater diversity, a truly integrated One Health approach and zero veterinary suicides were just some of ambitions for the profession discussed at the first meeting of the Vet Futures Group, which took place on 26 January 2015.

The first meeting of the Group included veterinary surgeons from a range of backgrounds, including small animal, equine and farm animal practice, food hygiene, research, education and industry, as well as members of the veterinary nursing profession and animal owner groups.

The purpose of the day was to discuss the first tranche of research carried out by the project team – based on interviews and focus groups with vets and vet nurses, BVA and RCVS Council members, animal owners and other users of veterinary services, and also a literature review.  This has provided a snapshot of the issues facing the profession in the UK today and what is known about their likely future impact.

The literature review identified possible drivers for change, including demographic factors; economic forces; the increasingly competitive market; client behaviour; food supply and global imperatives; and, mental wellbeing.

Both research reports are available in the Resources section.

The Vet Futures team challenged delegates to identify goals for the profession to achieve by 2030. Discussion was wide ranging, with suggestions including:

  • The veterinary profession providing a one-stop shop for all information, advice and support on animal welfare issues, and adapting the community care approach of human healthcare to animal welfare
  • A more structured profession with clearer entry requirements and career development opportunities
  • Vets and VNs active and effective in a wider range of activities
  • A ‘green’ profession
  • Less stress and improved work-life balance
  • Practice to be less focused on margins from medicines sales
  • A portfolio career to become the norm
  • Zero veterinary suicides
  • A valued role for the vet and VN in owner education
  • A truly integrated One Health approach with parity for the veterinary and human medical professions
  • Omnipotential not omnicompetence
  • The most trusted profession in the country
  • Playing a key role in food security
  • A significant improvement in the ‘if you had your time again, would you still be a vet/VN’ score on the RCVS Surveys of the Professions
  • Eradication of rabies
  • Greater diversity
  • Less anthropomorphism – treating as far as we should, not as far as we can

The two pieces of research discussed at the meeting, together with feedback from the delegates, will inform the next phase of the Vet Futures project, which will include a survey amongst BVA Voice of the Veterinary Profession Panel members, a larger survey amongst the whole of the veterinary and veterinary nursing profession, and a series of roadshow meetings across the UK.

The third and final phase of the project will be the development of a report and action plan to be launched towards the end of this year.

Guest blogger urges the profession to be more open about mental ill-health


This month, we are asking members of the profession whether they would recognise mental health problems in their colleagues.

The question is posed in relation to our second guest blog which, this month, is written by Rosie Allister, the Chair of the Vet Helpline and a Director of the Veterinary Benevolent Fund. She argues that members of the profession need to be more open about the mental health challenges they experience and not be afraid to seek help.

Rosie, who is also a researcher at the University of Edinburgh specialising in veterinary wellbeing, writes that members of the profession should be more willing to open up about their own mental health problems and intervene by talking and listening to colleagues who may be suffering from mental ill-health.

For example, she says: “Looking to the future, we need to better understand who is most at risk, how to reach out to them, and how we can start to change our culture so that it is OK to ask for help.”

She also proposes that, due to the caring nature of the occupation and high client expectations, members of the profession routinely put work and animal welfare ahead of their own needs and that, in order for there to be wider cultural change, individuals need to change their own attitudes towards asking for help. This includes the discussion of ‘taboo subjects’ such as suicide.

“Perhaps all of us have to start trying to change our culture to one that is more accepting and supportive and looks out for those in need even when they aren’t able to reach out themselves”, she writes.

She writes following the December 2014 launch of the RCVS Mind Matters Initiative, which aims to change the culture of the profession by reducing stigma surrounding mental ill-health and encouraging more open discussion.

This month’s poll asks: “Could you recognise the signs of mental ill-health in a colleague?” and we would encourage members of the profession to take part in the poll so that we can better understand attitudes towards and experiences of mental health issues.

Meanwhile, December’s poll had asked “Do you think your veterinary education prepared you for running a business?” for which the majority (84%) said “no”, with just 3% saying “yes” and 13% saying “partially”.

For confidential support members of the profession can call the Vet Helpline on 0303 040 2551 where calls are answered 24-hours a day by trained volunteers who have experience of the profession. Alternatively, they can use a confidential email service which can be accessed through the Vet Helpline website.


Vet Futures guest blogger says women are less prepared to take on veterinary leadership roles

In our first guest blog Professor Colette Henry, Head of Department of Business Studies, Dundalk Institute of Technology, argues that women are “simply less prepared to come forward to take on business leadership roles” and states that, as the veterinary profession becomes increasingly female, this raises serious concerns.

Professor Henry joined former RCVS President Jacqui Molyneux in a debate at BVA Congress at the London Vet Show last month “Setting the A-gender” which explored women as veterinary leaders and entrepreneurs. The lively discussion concluded that doing nothing to address the gender inequality that exists within the veterinary profession is not an option, and Professor Henry echoes that sentiment in her blog.

Vet Futures is a jointly powered project from the BVA and RCVS, which was launched at BVA Congress in November. The project aims to help the veterinary profession shape its own future by identifying trends and exploring actions for the whole profession.

We are encouraging veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, and the wider veterinary sector to get involved with the debate via this website by responding to the blog, posting comments on the priority issues for the profession’s future, and taking part in our regular polls.

Professor Henry’s blog suggests that veterinary schools could do more to develop young women’s business leadership potential and so this month’s online poll asks all vets (male and female): “Do you think your veterinary education prepared you for running a business?”

November’s poll asked “Are you optimistic about the future of the veterinary profession?” with a very mixed response: 44% said ‘yes’, 32% said ‘sometimes’ and 24% said ‘no’. Professor Henry’s blog states:

“Surveys also suggest that female vets are disillusioned with their future career trajectory, and that they may be planning to leave the profession.

“This raises serious concerns, which become even more pronounced when we start to consider general trends in women’s business leadership/ownership across other sectors.”

Professor Henry calls on private practitioners, the corporates, professional bodies and those in the wider veterinary business landscape to share their views on the future of veterinary business: “If we want to avoid a drastic reduction in the number of private practices and a significant increase in corporatisation, then we need to stop talking about the ‘problem’ and start implementing solutions. In this regard, I don’t believe there is a single big solution; rather, in my view, it’s going to take several small solutions being implemented across the sector.”

Vet Futures – helping the profession prepare for and shape its future

Vet Futures, a major new initiative that aims to help the profession prepare for and shape its own future, was launched at the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Congress at the London Vet Show on 20 November.

The project is jointly funded and led by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the BVA, and will be a collaborative venture, drawing on the experience and insight of a wide range of individuals and organisations, including veterinary surgeons and nurses, veterinary bodies, farmers, pet owners and other key stakeholders.

The project will help understand where the provision of veterinary services is currently heading, whether this is in the best interests of the profession, animal owners and the public at large, and what might be done to shape an optimal future for the veterinary team, keeping animal health and welfare at its heart.

In the project’s first phase, independent researchers will gather evidence via focus groups, phone interviews and desk-based research, in addition to the gauging of opinion through events, the internet and social media.

The project will be a collaborative venture, drawing on the experience and insight of a wide range of individuals and organisations

This evidence gathering will be followed by an engagement phase, where the profession will be asked for their feedback on initial thoughts; a period of analysis, where a report will be written by the independent researchers; and, finally, there will be an action phase, where key strategic issues will be identified, together with a clear plan for action from the BVA and the RCVS, as well as other organisations and individuals.

“The RCVS is implementing a programme of reform to make it a first-rate regulator, but how do we also make ours a first-rate profession, that is resilient and agile enough to meet future demands?” asks Professor Stuart Reid, RCVS President. “The Vet Futures project will not just be about horizon-scanning, but getting a fix on those issues over the horizon that we may not yet have considered, such as the use of emerging technologies.

“It’s an exciting challenge and I am looking forward to members of the veterinary team getting involved so that, together, we can develop an action plan that will deliver a sustainable future for the profession.”

John Blackwell, BVA President, says: “It is no secret that the veterinary profession is changing rapidly and that is why the theme for my presidential year is ‘driving change and shaping the future’. It is essential that we come together to map out where we want to be as a strong and trusted profession and identify how we can make that happen.

“On such cross-cutting issues it is appropriate that the two leading professional bodies come together to provide joint leadership for the profession, but we are keen to engage as many individuals and stakeholders as possible. It is designed to be a hugely collaborative project and we want to hear voices from across the whole profession and the whole veterinary team.”