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Politics and practice

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BUILDING on the success of last year’s meeting, this year’s BVA Congress will again be held in London. The congress will take place from September 30 to October 1, and will have two main themes: biosecurity and coping with change in practice.

Biosecurity has yet to feature prominently in the main political parties’ election campaigns but, despite its low profile, it remains an important issue. The SARS epidemic in 2003 highlighted the speed at which new diseases can move around the world and the challenges of disease control in what must now be regarded as a global village. The foot-and-mouth disease epizootic of 2001 illustrated the havoc that diseases of livestock can cause within national boundaries. The challenges may differ but, in attempting to combat disease, it is inappropriate to consider animal and human diseases separately: as experience of West Nile fever and concerns about avian flu have demonstrated, the distinction is blurred. Prevention is the best line of defence against disease, and biosecurity is fundamental to prevention. The Friday of the congress will explore current challenges, the control measures in place and the contribution the veterinary profession can make.

Efforts to prevent disease must be made at every level and the first session – ‘Stretching the boundaries’ – will examine European safeguards and the measures applied nationally in the UK. Such measures become meaningless if they are not effectively applied in the field, and the next session will give a farming and a veterinary perspective on what needs to be done at farm level. Biosecurity, however, is not just an issue for farm animals, and further sessions will examine the issues relating to pets and horses. Topics to be considered include diseases of companion animals that are finding their way into the UK following the introduction of the Pet Travel Scheme, and the steps that can be taken to recognise and prevent them. In a session illustrating areas of overlap in the medical and veterinary fields, West Nile fever will be discussed in relation to humans and horses.

The challenges of disease control internationally will be discussed in the plenary Wooldridge Memorial Lecture,which will be given by Professor Paul Gibbs, of the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Florida,who will explain how increased movements of people, animals and produce, along with the effects of climate change and the ongoing threat of bioterrorism, are raising the stakes.

As at previous BVA congresses, there will be plenty of opportunity for debate, and for practitioner input into the discussions. The concerns of practice will feature even more prominently in the programme for the Saturday, on coping with change. Regulatory and other developments are already having an impact on practice and the aim will be to identify practical solutions to some of the problems arising as a result. First on the list of subjects to be discussed will be veterinary medicines. Proposals to recast Britain’s veterinary medicines regulations and to implement the Competition Commission’s recommendations on the supply of prescription-only medicines are currently the subject of consultation and the Government intends to introduce the new legislation by the end of October. Aspects of the proposals remain contentious, but there will inevitably be changes in the way in which medicines are classified and supplied. The congress debate will give an update on how things stand with the new legislation and the consequences for practitioners.

A date has yet to be fixed for updating the Veterinary Surgeons Act, but the effects, when it happens, could be profound. In preparing for a new Act, the RCVS has decided to press for a more inclusive approach to regulation, which will provide for ‘the regulation of the training and conduct of veterinary nurses and a range of other occupations providing veterinary services’ as well as veterinary surgeons. A congress debate will consider the implications of extending the veterinary team in this way, both for the regulators and for those being regulated. A further debate will consider practical approaches to meeting requirements to provide for 24-hour emergency cover, following recent changes to the RCVS guidance (VR,March 12, 2005, vol 156, p 333). The new Practice Standards Scheme – and BVA guidance on meeting the requirements – will be the subject of a one-day seminar on the Friday of the congress, which will be offered as an alternative to the programme on biosecurity.

Other sessions on the Saturday will be geared towards recent graduates. They include a debate on employment opportunities in the context of increasing numbers of graduates and the burden of student debt, as well as a presentation on personal finance. There will also be an opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at veterinary activity at London Zoo.

With its two main themes, the BVA Congress will highlight the pertinent and the practical. Those who like to think ahead should put a note in their diaries now.

  • The preliminary congress programme has been posted on the BVA website, www.bva.co.uk

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