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Despite the constraints of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, the RCVS has done much to meet present-day requirements for regulating the profession, says Patricia Gail Saluja, who nevertheless believes that new legislation is needed
THE veterinary profession in the UK is regulated by a statute enacted over 40 years ago, namely, the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (VSA). Since that date vast changes have taken place in the nature of veterinary practice and in societal attitudes towards animals and the professions. Given these developments, it is not surprising to find that there has been concern that the VSA has been overtaken by events and should be replaced by new legislation. Unfortunately, in 2008, the government of the day announced that it could not spare the necessary resources for drafting a Bill until at least 2011 (EFRA 2008). Now, in 2011, it seems doubtful whether the current government, faced with the present economic problems, would be able to take matters further in the near future.
However, focusing purely on this impasse tends to distort perceptions of the current regulatory regime. This is because it leads to a false impression that the profession's regulator, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), is unable to move towards meeting the requirements of the present-day profession within the constraints of the 1966 Act. The reality, however, is quite different. A broader examination of the matter shows that the RCVS has engaged with the issue of reform by using its existing powers in an imaginative way to introduce substantial change despite the constraints of the Act. While these measures do not eliminate the need for new legislation, they do go a considerable way to meeting current expectations of professional regulation. This article identifies four examples of problems or new developments that the College has been able to …