Over the last year, as chair of the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council Legislation Working Party (VN LWP), I’ve been immersed in the issues relating to how the profession might be regulated most effectively. I was frustrated, therefore, to read in the April issue of VNJ that the editor felt VN Council was obsessed with simply protecting the title of Registered Veterinary Nurse’ and should ‘start focusing on protecting the role’.

The VN LWP was set up by the VN Council in 2011 and charged with developing detailed proposals for the statutory regulation of veterinary nurses, so as to safeguard the health and welfare of animals. To this end, the working party was asked to define the role and activities of the veterinary nurse and to consider how best the profession might be regulated, whether by protection of role or title.

It is actually untrue that the VN Council or my working group has been obsessed’ with the protection of title. Indeed, the VN LWP began its programme of work by seeking to define the role and activities of the veterinary nurse and to outline the ethos of the profession. We considered that only by setting out the role and activities of veterinary nurses would it be possible to design an effective and future-proof regime for the regulation of the profession.

Early on, however, it became clear that a statutory regime to protect the role of veterinary nurses presented almost insurmountable practical difficulties, as it would not be appropriate to restrict many of the activities performed by VNs, solely to VNs.

Moreover, research by the VN LWP showed that any proposal to protect the area of work would be highly unlikely to win the support of the Government as it would not be in keeping with the modern approach to the regulation of professions, which focuses on the protection of titles. The LWP, therefore, took a deliberate decision to pursue a regulatory regime that would protect the title Veterinary Nurse.

It is vital to note that the VN LWP is not being protectionist in seeking to restrict the use of title Veterinary Nurse. Rather, protection of the title will provide the basis for a regulatory regime that will allow the College to take action against veterinary nurses found guilty of serious professional misconduct and to remove them from any new statutory list. This will prevent them from undertaking Schedule 3 activities or calling themselves veterinary nurses.

The VN LWP has made great progress over the last year, and I’m delighted by the positive contributions made by the BVNA representative on the working party. These have helped enormously in the process of developing proposals for a statutory regime for the regulation of nurses that will serve the public interest by better protecting the health and welfare of animals.


Hilary Orpet

BSc Dip AVN(Surgical) CertEd FHEA DipCABT RVN MBVNA 


• VOL 27 • July 2012 • Veterinary Nursing Journal