The British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) held a joint parliamentary drop-in session last week (Wednesday 13th December), to discuss the need for statutory protection of the ‘veterinary nurse’ title within proposals for wider reform of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

The session was sponsored by Dr Neil Hudson FRCVS, MP for Penrith and the Border, and attended by BVNA President Lyndsay Hughes RVN, BVNA Junior Vice President Craig Tessyman RVN, RCVS President Dr Sue Paterson FRCVS, and Chair of RCVS VN Council Belinda Andrews-Jones RVN.

Held at Portcullis House, Westminster, the session provided the opportunity for BVNA and RCVS to engage with Members of Parliament (MPs) and peers to discuss the need for legislative change. The event was held specifically to champion veterinary nurses within proposed future legislative reform, covering the impact of working under outdated legislation which currently allows unqualified and unregulated individuals to use the ‘veterinary nurse’ title. Progression of the VN role was also promoted, to better enable professional growth, job satisfaction, public recognition, and longevity within the profession.

BVNA and RCVS discussed the negative consequences of the current lack of protection for the ‘veterinary nurse’ title, including risk to animal health and welfare, alongside links to retention within the profession. The impact on public trust in the veterinary profession was also emphasised – underpinned by BVNA’s recent ‘Protect the Title’ survey, which found that 76% of public respondents did not know the ‘veterinary nurse’ title can currently be used by unqualified persons, yet 92% felt it was ‘very important’ that their pet was cared for by a qualified and regulated RVN.

BVNA President Lyndsay Hughes (pictured with Craig Tessyman and Patricia Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran) said: “BVNA were delighted to host this engagement session in Parliament alongside the RCVS – especially so because the veterinary nursing profession was its clear focus. Having the opportunity to hold a specific event for our profession to engage directly with parliamentarians represents a significant shift towards greater recognition of veterinary nurses, and their impact on both animal and human health. Our voices are being heard.

“We were able to highlight the vital role of veterinary nurses within the veterinary sector as a whole, currently being limited by outdated legislation. Within our discussions promoting legislative reform of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, we also drew politicians’ attention to the urgent need to protect the ‘veterinary nurse’ title. We’re looking forward to progressing this campaign with their support – and thank all those who kindly took the time to meet with us.

“Throughout 2023, BVNA have engaged positively with Defra, plus our partners within the veterinary profession such as the RCVS, to ensure statutory protection of our title remains on the political agenda. We’ll be continuing to spearhead ‘Protect the Title’ in 2024, and will be calling on the veterinary profession once again to be a driving force in our campaign.”

Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, said: “Veterinary nurses play a vital role in promoting animal health and welfare. Therefore it is imperative we take concrete steps to protect their title and uphold the standards of the profession.

“Thank you to the BVNA and the RCVS for helping bring this issue to the attention to my parliamentary colleagues from all sides of the political spectrum.”