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New codes of conduct for vets and veterinary nurses
  1. Claire Millington
  1. Communications Department, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF
  1. e-mail: c.millington{at}

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New codes of conduct for vets and veterinary nurses were launched last month, replacing the previous Guides to Professional Conduct. Claire Millington, of the RCVS Communications Department, explains the thinking behind the codes and highlights some key features.

FOLLOWING a great deal of consideration, revision and consultation with the profession and the public, and having been agreed by the RCVS Council at its meeting in March (VR, March 24, 2012, vol 170, p 304), the Codes of Professional Conduct for veterinary surgeons and for veterinary nurses (VNs) have now been launched. Vets and VNs who visited the RCVS stand at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) congress in April were among the first to see the final versions of the new Codes – which will shortly be winging their way through the post to all veterinary surgeons and registered VNs (RVNs). These are also online at and

The Codes are principles-based documents that describe the professional responsibilities fundamental to veterinary surgeons' and VNs' practice, and have replaced the Guides to Professional Conduct. The five principles of practice that they set out are:

  • Professional competence;

  • Honesty and integrity;

  • Independence and impartiality;

  • Client confidentiality and trust; and

  • Professional accountability.

This is followed by a description of professional responsibilities, with the annexes and advice notes from the old Guides consolidated into 27 chapters of supporting guidance. Both the new format of Code-plus-supporting-guidance, and the revised language, aim to clarify the distinction between what must be done and what is advised. At 16 pages long (compared with 50 pages in the Guides), the Codes are also concise.

‘It's over 10 years since the Guide to Professional Conduct was last reviewed and expectations have changed about what is best practice for professional conduct guidance – as …

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