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Staying relevant

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CHANGE is all around, and there is a need to both anticipate and respond to the changes taking place. This is true as much for the veterinary profession as for anyone else, and also for the organisation that represents it. The BVA’s annual report for 2004/05, copies of which are enclosed with this issue of The Veterinary Record, provides an indication of some of the challenges currently facing the profession, and of the steps being taken to address them.

In his introduction, the Association’s President, Dr Bob McCracken, describes the BVA as ‘an association of enthusiasts . . . who strive vigorously to improve our profession’, noting that members do so with ‘considerable skills, knowledge and experience, and also with passion, emotion and a caring mind’. The BVA is fortunate to have such a membership, but it is important that these attributes, and the combined expertise available within the profession, are used to best effect. Significant progress has been made over the past 12 months and there is no doubt that, through its Council and committees, the BVA is working more effectively, whether in developing policy or providing services for members. With the recent formation of the Policy Liaison Group, the intention is that the profession’s views will be promulgated more widely. The annual report gives details of these and other initiatives to ensure that, as the President puts it, the Association remains ‘vibrant and relevant’ in the future.

Despite its diverse range of activities, the veterinary profession is relatively small and, as the pace of change increases, it becomes all the more important that it speaks with one voice. The BVA’s role in coordinating that voice has been well demonstrated during the past year through its input into the draft Veterinary Medicines Regulations, which were published for consultation by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate at the beginning of January (VR, January 8, 2005, vol 156, pp 29-30, 30-31). The new regulations, which are due to come into force at the end of October, will change the legislative basis on which medicines are authorised, classified and distributed in the UK and, coupled with the implementation of the Competition Commission’s recommendations, will inevitably affect the way medicines are supplied. Through its Practitioners’Medicines Liaison Group, the Association was able to take account of the range of concerns within the profession and produce a consolidated response of the kind that is needed in areas where others outside the profession also have an interest in the outcome. The result will not be fully clear until the legislation is finalised, but, as the President remarks, the exercise has provided an excellent example of how the BVA and its divisions can work together effectively and in harmony. A similar approach is being applied in other areas, and the annual report includes examples of the many other issues on which the BVA is currently active in the interests of animal health and welfare and on behalf of its members.

Some of these issues will be considered at this year’s BVA Congress, to be held in London from September 30 to October 1. With its two main themes of biosecurity and coping with change in practice, the congress promises to be both pertinent and practical – all the more so, perhaps, given the heightened concern about the threat from avian influenza (see p 270 of this issue). The biosecurity programme, on the Friday, will consider animal disease controls in place across the species at European, national and local levels. Effective disease control depends on a sound veterinary infrastructure, and the Saturday of the congress will be more directly concerned with recent developments of practical relevance to UK practitioners. As well as the new medicines regulations, topics to be discussed include dealing with requirements to provide for 24-hour cover, proposals to change the Veterinary Surgeons Act and, reflecting the BVA’s interest in its younger and student members, challenges arising as a result of the changing demographics in the profession and government policies on higher education. In addition, as an alternative to the main programme, a one-day seminar will provide practical advice on meeting the requirements of the new RCVS Practice Standards Scheme, and introduce new web-based guidance that the BVA is providing for its members. Full details of the congress are available at www.bva.co.uk

The Association has significantly improved its websites over the past year, with the BVA, BVA Publications and BVA Animal Welfare Foundation websites all being relaunched. The new Publications website, at www.bvapublications.com, offers immediate online access to the entire content of The Veterinary Record and In Practice as soon as each new issue is published. It also includes a fully searchable archive, allowing quick and easy access to articles published previously. In the case of The Veterinary Record, the archive includes the full text of papers, articles and short communications published since 1996, and abstracts of articles going back to 1975. In the case of In Practice, it will soon include the whole back catalogue, giving access to all the clinical and practice management articles that have appeared since the first issue was published 26 years ago. Access to the archives is free to BVA members and journal subscribers and, along with other member services outlined in the annual report, represents a significant benefit of membership.

Whether in representing the profession or providing information and other services to members, the BVA relies on an input from members themselves. This is one of the great strengths of the Association and should help to ensure that, whatever challenges confront the profession, its vibrancy and relevance are maintained.

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