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Practice and politics

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POLITICS have always impinged on veterinary practice but, over the past few years, the two seem to have become more closely intertwined. With programmes providing practical CPD and careers advice, as well as a forum for discussing current key issues, this year's BVA Congress, to be held in London from November 20 to 21, will allow delegates to indulge in both at a single event. Building on the success of last year's joint venture, the congress will again be held in conjunction with the London Vet Show which, with its combination of a large commercial exhibition and CPD, has over the past five years quickly established itself as an important part of the veterinary calendar. Once again, the BVA will be providing equine and farm animal CPD streams, adding to the small animal and other CPD already available at the event, as well as a careers fair aimed at BVA members at all stages of their careers. Meanwhile, a series of ‘key issues’ debates will allow delegates to participate in discussion of some currently hot topics, as will a ‘question time’ debate involving the UK's chief veterinary officers. At a time when the nature and structure of practice seems to be changing particularly rapidly, a panel discussion on ‘The state of the profession – where are we now?’ could provide some useful pointers for the future.

The equine and farm animal streams will be aimed at general practitioners who may not be treating these animals exclusively. Topics in the equine stream include, for example, working with the emergency services in handling accidents and emergencies, treating equine colic when referral is not an option, and managing sick neonatal foals. Speakers in the farm animal stream will consider topics ranging from veterinary care of camelids, goats, pet pigs and hens, to using medicines responsibly and integrating nutrition into routine veterinary services. A session on conducting field postmortem examinations seems pertinent in light of the Government's plans for disease surveillance, which will involve practitioners carrying out more routine postmortem examinations. Plans for surveillance will also be the subject of a debate in the key issues stream, involving Chris Hadkiss, chief executive of the AHVLA, and Dirk Pfeiffer, of the Royal Veterinary College, who will consider the implications of recent changes at the AHVLA for future surveillance activity.

Antimicrobial resistance, too, will feature in the key issues stream, in a debate involving Dame Sally Davies, England's Chief Medical Officer, and Christophe Buhot, president of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe. Ways in which doctors and vets can contribute to limiting the spread and impact of resistance seem barely to have been out of the news over the past 12 months, and the debate could be made all the more topical by the fact that the EU is expected shortly to publish proposals for replacing existing legislation on veterinary medicines and medicated feed. Plans for new EU legislation have in part been prompted by concerns about resistance and, once it is agreed, it could affect veterinary prescribing for years to come.

Unintended consequences to changes in the UK's pet travel rules in 2012, to bring them into line with those applying in the rest of Europe, proved to be a hot topic for debate at last year's BVA congress (VR, November 30, 2013, vol 173, pp 508, 509-511). Some changes to the EU rules are due to come into force in December this year (VR, August 9, 2014, vol 175, p 130), and it will be interesting to see whether delegates at this year's congress feel that these will be enough to alleviate the concerns that have been raised. Discussion of the pet travel rules will form part of a wider debate on rabies control, called ‘Rabies – no reason for neglect’, which will consider what needs to be done to eliminate a disease that currently kills an estimated 60,000 people each year, mainly in Africa and Asia.

Other topics to be covered in the key issues stream include dangerous dogs – in particular, whether the dogs concerned should be regarded as culprits or victims; and links between animal and human abuse. A debate called ‘Overseas projects: veterinary tourism or long-term aid?’ will consider whether short-term projects or placements abroad really benefit local communities. Meanwhile, a debate on One Health and wildlife will, through specific case examples, illustrate the close interdependence of people, animals and their environment.

At a time when understanding risk and uncertainty seems to play an increasingly important part in everyday life, the subject of the plenary Wooldridge Memorial Lecture at the congress is particularly pertinent. In a talk entitled ‘How to admit we can't know or don't know: communicating risk to policymakers and the public’, statistician David Speigelhalter, of the University of Cambridge, will consider examples of successes and failures in communicating risk on topics ranging from fracking to BSE, and try to draw some lessons.

The One Health concept has been gaining traction over the past 12 months and many of the congress debates will reflect this. In combining political discussion with practical CPD across a variety of species, the BVA Congress at the London Vet Show is probably unique in providing such a broad range of CPD opportunities at one event.

■ The BVA Congress takes place at the London Vet Show at Olympia in London on November 20 and 21. More information is available at

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