Vet Futures: full steam ahead during first year of action phase

One year on from the Vet Futures Summit, and excellent progress has been made on key actions that are putting the veterinary profession in charge of its future, made possible through great engagement from the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions.

 Vet Futures, powered by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA), created a blueprint for the future of the veterinary profession, and over the past twelve months activity has been taking place across the professions to put the plan into action.

The Vet Futures Summit took place on 4 July 2016 at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden, and saw the launch of the Vet Futures Action Plan and the VN Futures Report and Action Plan in front of an assembled audience of vets, nurses, students and stakeholders from the UK and overseas.

The Vet Futures Action Plan included a series of 24 work-streams to be completed over five years (2016-2020), building on the six core themes of: 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.

Over the last twelve months, key activities have included:

  • The setting up of a UK One Health Coordination Group, which will meet for the first time later this year, bringing together representatives from the veterinary, medical and environmental professions to provide a focus for One Health activity in the UK, and delivering the actions in the BVA animal welfare strategy (Actions A and F).
  • The establishment of the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition, which aims to coordinate public communications on key animal welfare issues to amplify messages about the five welfare needs. The Coalition has launched the five welfare needs logo and undertaken PR and social media activity throughout National Pet Month (Action D).
  • The launch, by the Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) Research Committee, of a UK summer studentship programme that aims to increase the number of vets engaged in research – 16 students will start the programme this summer (Action E).
  • The planning stages for an online careers hub as a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in studying for, or progressing, their veterinary career (Action G).
  • The launch of a Graduate Outcomes project to consider the skills and competences of future veterinary professionals, including the viability and desirability of limited licensure, the behaviours and skills required of veterinary graduates and how the undergraduate course might be structured in the future (Actions H, I and J).
  • A survey amongst non-UK EU graduates to better understand the support required by this group (as well as their intentions with regard to working in the UK post-Brexit), which received a 55% response rate (Action K).
  • A collaborative research project on workforce issues with psychologists at the University of Exeter, as part of which researchers are currently undertaking a literature review and analysing existing data in preparation for further research into some of the major workforce trends and challenges (Action L).
  • Research towards the development of a leadership massive open online course (MOOC) and also a hub to promote and develop leadership skills at all levels within the veterinary profession (Action Q).
  • The creation of an Innovation Symposium, to be held at the Warwick Business School campus in the Shard on 20 September 2017, which will bring together thought-leaders and those involved in innovative veterinary technologies and business models, to lead discussions on how these can be embraced by the profession. The event will also see the launch of an online innovation hub (Action R).
  • A consultation across the professions and the public to gather views around how new veterinary technologies should be regulated, with a view to establishing a framework to encompass future innovations; around 1,500 views were received and the findings are being considered by the RCVS Standards Committee (Action S).
  • Agreement on options for a framework for the regulation of allied professionals by RCVS Council at its June 2017 meeting, which are now being progressed into more detailed proposals (Action U).
  • Following discussion with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), the Vet Futures model is now being embraced across Europe, with the FVE adopting aspects of it into their own strategy plan, and France, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark developing similar projects. Some of the European associations, such as the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations and the European Veterinarians in Education, Research and Industry, have now added Vet Futures Europe to their strategies (Action W).

VN Futures

The VN Futures project (Action X of Vet Futures) isolated six ambitions to achieve by 2020, with the shorter time-scale reflecting the faster rate of both turnover and training for veterinary nurses.

A number of development groups have been created, focusing on each of these ambitions and creating specific actions to ensure their completion. Of these:

  • The One Health Working Party has collaborated with the Royal College of Nursing on smoking cessation.
  • The Careers Progression Group has met twice and is planning four regional events, the first of which will take place at Hartpury College in Gloucester on 11 July, and will focus on veterinary nurses as managers.
  • The Schedule 3 Working Party has asked vets and nurses for their thoughts on, and experiences of, the role of the veterinary nurse. About 35% of veterinary nurses and 20% of veterinary surgeons responded, feeding into a wider analysis of whether Schedule 3 should be reformed.

“When we launched Vet Futures back in 2014, the scope of the project seemed daunting and some were sceptical of our ability to succeed. However, through a robust process of evidence-gathering, analysis, action planning and now taking action itself, we are starting to make an impact on some of those core areas that are so fundamental to the future of our profession, such as animal welfare, technology, veterinary skills and knowledge, and leadership,” says RCVS President, Chris Tufnell.

“Our Action Plan set out a five-year timeframe and we have made some really excellent progress in year one. This will form the foundation of work yet to come – although it remains important to ensure we scan the horizon for new issues that will have an impact on the profession, navigating our way through challenges as they arise.”

BVA President Gudrun Ravetz adds: “The excitement was palpable at the Vet Futures Summit last year and it spurred us on to roll up our sleeves immediately to start working on the Action Plan, and so a lot has been achieved already.

“Many of the actions are interlinked and so BVA, RCVS and the VSC are working closely together to oversee their delivery, but we have been particularly pleased at the high level of engagement and enthusiasm from others. The success of Vet Futures will be in the profession coming together to bring about the changes we need for a sustainable future.”

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