The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warmly welcomed plans for substantial reforms to the training and revalidation system for Official Veterinarians (OVs), after spearheading a campaign to make the process more user-friendly and relevant for the profession across Great Britain.
Under the new plans announced on 31 January by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), OVs carrying out critical animal health and welfare, and public health work in areas such as tuberculin testing, surveillance and exports will be asked to revalidate their qualifications every four years, and be offered a six-month window in which to complete this process. The current system requires OVs holding different qualifications to renew these at anything between two-yearly and five-yearly intervals, and only offers a short window of time for revalidation to be completed – a situation that was leading many vets to walk away from this important work.
BVA led the drive for reform of the revalidation process, informed by the experiences of members in an unprecedented response to a BVA survey in July 2018. The survey captured the Official Controls Qualifications (OCQ) held by members and reasons for dropping previous modules or choosing not to renew them. Over 1,000 members responded to the survey, with many airing frustrations about the current training and revalidation process. Factors, including time, the cumulative cost of renewing each module at frequent intervals, a lack of relevance, and duplication of learning across different modules, were cited as primary reasons for choosing not to revalidate. As well as standardising the intervals for revalidating qualifications and giving OVs a longer window of time to complete this, APHA has also agreed to introduce more flexible requirements around invigilation, to reduce the burden of time and costs for OVs sitting exams and to facilitate the process for those who work alone or in remote areas.
APHA has also acted on BVA member feedback around the relevance of some modules, following concerns from vets specialising in particular practice areas that some course content was irrelevant to them or duplicated other training materials. As part of the new proposals, APHA has also made a commitment to work with BVA and species divisions to explore ways of providing courses specific to species such as zoo and laboratory animals, as well as introducing a separate farm animal course for vets who do not cover equine practice.
Simon Doherty, BVA President, said: “We’re delighted that APHA has taken on board our members’ concerns with the current system and proposed improvements that should make the process much more fair and consistent while continuing to maintain high standards. This is a really crucial time for ensuring that the workforce retains skilled professionals and is at full strength to keep animal welfare standards high, protect public health and meet demand for export certification after Brexit.
“This piece of work is a shining example of what can be achieved when vets pull together to air concerns and make the case for change. We will continue to work closely with APHA to explore and put in place ways of making the revalidation process as fit for purpose as possible for this critical section of the workforce.”