Hannah Jordan, parliamentary intern to Lord Trees, has been in post for six months and has discovered that she is one of over 500 interns working in the Palace of Westminster.
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It was during the process of flicking through my diary to write this article that it dawned on me that I have been in the role for six whole months. Where on earth has the time gone? I'm delighted to be able to say that I'll be continuing in the role for one further year, which is brilliant, not least because I'm only just finding my feet.
It has been a rather eventful month in Parliament – I discovered that there are 500 or more other keen interns hidden away in Westminster who also wanted to see Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, address Parliament. Mrs Merkel's speech might seem peripheral to the veterinary profession and agricultural industry, but the UK's relationship with the EU impacts upon free trade, immigration and infectious disease control, among many other things.
Protection of our freedom to trade is a driving force behind the Government's policy to reduce bovine TB in the UK. It is a strategy that vets are intimately involved with and it is intrinsically linked to the potential development of a vaccinated national herd.
The recent success of the General Medical Council in legislating for language testing of EU-qualified medical practitioners has prompted the veterinary profession to consider whether it would be prudent for the RCVS to acquire similar powers.
Infectious disease control is perhaps more of an obvious veterinary consideration. Although we are an island apart from Europe, risks include potential abuse of the Pet Travel Scheme, the threat of rabies incursion and the introduction of new arboviruses, as well as the terrifying prospect of African swine fever lurking on the periphery.
The last point on infectious disease control is particularly concerning in the face of AHVLA changes that appear to be diminishing the role of the clinical pathologist. During the pathology teaching at vet school I distinctly remember the feeling that it barely scraped the surface of the field, and I am quite sure that my postmortem examination skills would be basic at best. While an increased role for the practitioner in disease surveillance might increase the perceived value of pathology, it is worrying in the context of mounting a swift response to disease outbreaks and identification of novel diseases into the UK.
In other news, parts of the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report on the pilot culls were leaked to the BBC at the beginning of the month and it seems that the full report will soon materialise officially. While it is impossible to predict the ministerial response to the report, it seems unlikely that the culls will be deemed a success. It will be interesting to see what direction the Government's strategy will take in light of the IEP findings – I don't envy them the task!
Last, but not least, my RCVS Council election ballot paper arrived a few days ago. The longer I work here, the more I realise you can only effect change if you get involved. Good luck to all those standing for election to council.
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