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BVA Congress is fast approaching and already promises to be bigger than congresses of recent years, in terms of attendance and breadth of content. To be held in Belfast from September 27 to 29, the congress follows a new format this year in that, as well as dealing with current political concerns in a series of ‘contentious issues' debates, it also includes a substantial cpd programme. The meeting is being held in Belfast to mark the centenary of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association. With contributions from the bva's specialist divisions, the programme offers depth as well as breadth. By pulling together and highlighting some of the expertise that exists in different branches of the profession, the event should cater for a wide range of interests in a way which does the profession proud.

bva Congress is always topical and this year's meeting will be no exception. Following last month's outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (fmd), a session organised by the Association for Veterinary Teaching and Research Work, entitled ‘Containing national disease outbreaks: latest issues’, could hardly be more pertinent. A session organised by the British Cattle Veterinary Association on ‘Managing biosecurity risks and the tools currently available’ is equally relevant, particularly in view of a recent survey by Farmers Weekly which found that, by their own assessment, more than 80 per cent of farmers felt their on-farm biosecurity arrangements could be improved (see p 324 of this issue). On the matter of bovine tuberculosis, the Government has still to respond to the final report from the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle tb, which was published in June, although it is on record as saying that it wants ‘a more mature debate’ on the issue — ‘one which goes beyond an either/or debate about a national badger cull or farmer biosecurity’. A contentious issues debate at the congress will examine the issues and different approaches being taken to the problem in different parts of the British Isles, including Ireland, and seek to identify appropriate solutions.

The Government has attributed its prompt response to the recent fmd outbreak to working effectively in partnership with the industry and other stakeholders, on the lines set out in the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy. There is no doubt that ‘working in partnership’, and all that implies in terms of a redistribution of responsibilities and costs, will play a greater role in animal disease control in the future, not just in Britain but throughout the eu. A further session at the congress will consider the Community Animal Health Policy that is currently being developed in Brussels and some of the approaches being taken by other eu member states. Decisions made in Europe continue to determine animal health policies in the uk. In the bva plenary Wooldridge Memorial Lecture, mep Avril Doyle, who has taken a particular interest in animal health and welfare matters, will consider issues of current concern, highlighting areas where action is needed and what can be done to influence the outcome.

Other divisions and organisations involved in the congress include the Association of Veterinary Surgeons Practising in Northern Ireland, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (Northern Ireland), the bva Overseas Group, the Sheep Veterinary Society, the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons, the Veterinary Benevolent Fund (vbf) and the Veterinary Public Health Association (vpha). Their expertise has been combined in a programme consisting of four lecture streams over two days, and delegates will be able to pick and choose sessions to match their particular interests.

Small animal topics include approaches to the cancer case, management of osteoarthritis, and diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. Equine topics include periparturient emergencies in the mare and foal, and assessment and management of wounds of the lower limb. More generally, the new Animal Welfare Act will be the subject of a contentious issues debate which will examine the role that vets and others might play in helping to ensure that the good intentions of the Act are realised.

As well as disease prevention and biosecurity, the cattle programme includes specific presentations on bovine viral diarrhoea virus, Johne's disease and infectious bovine rhinotracheitis. Presentations on sheep and goats will focus on parasitic gastroenteritis, caseous lymphadenitis and scrapie, while sessions organised by the vpha will consider changing approaches to food hygiene and veterinary public health. A series of presentations organised by the bva Overseas Group will consider the role vets can play in helping communities in the developing world, as well as the profession's role in disaster management.

Speakers on practice management will give advice on consultation skills, complying with health and safety requirements, and meeting the demands of modern consumers. There will also be discussion of the new system of modular certificates being introduced by the rcvs. To mark the launch of the vbf's ‘vetlife’ website, which aims to provide answers to some of the problems vets might face in their personal and professional lives, consultant psychiatrist Professor Raj Persaud will give a talk on improving mental wellbeing in the veterinary profession, while a further session will consider how to achieve an appropriate work-life balance.

The various social events that are planned mean that the congress itself provides opportunities in terms of work-life balance, and to catch up with colleagues across the profession. There is still time to register. Details are available at www.bva.co.uk/congress

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