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VETERINARY education and veterinary employment are increasingly international. While debate continues in the UK about the impact of rising numbers of UK veterinary graduates on future employment, the number of overseas graduates being registered in the UK exceeds the number of UK graduates. The RCVS reported last month that it had registered 939 overseas graduates in the year to March 31, 2015, compared with 813 UK graduates; the ‘top five’ countries from which these veterinary surgeons graduated were Spain (199), Australia (94), Italy (93), Romania (74) and Ireland (73).

For a vet new to the country, working in the UK can present new challenges, just as it can for UK graduates working abroad. Later this month, the RCVS, in conjunction with the BVA and the Veterinary Defence Society, will again be holding a CPD event to help support overseas graduates and provide them with the information they need to practise in the UK.1 The event, called ‘Introduction to the UK veterinary profession – an essential CPD course for overseas vets’ – will be held in Manchester on May 28 and 29. The first day, ‘Key information and skills needed to practise as a vet in the UK’, is free and will cover how the UK profession is organised, including information on jobs, employment rights and the support available if things go wrong. The second day, ‘A masterclass in communication skills’, costs £160 and will consider challenges that might arise during consultations and how to handle them. The course is aimed at overseas vets in their first two years in the UK or those considering working in the UK. The RCVS explains that the three organisations want to ‘reduce the risk that such veterinary surgeons may become the subject of a complaint, and to improve their UK experience and advance their communication skills’. The course also aims to ‘help them understand their legal duties as a veterinary surgeon in the UK, which can vary significantly from their own country.’

That professional, as well as legal, requirements can vary from country to country is apparent from a study recently published online in Veterinary Record, evaluating codes of professional conduct in different European countries. This found that, although there were various common themes in the codes of professional conduct, the attention given to each of these themes varied greatly.2

With regard to the situation in Europe, the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has recently produced guidelines for employers aimed at helping UK vets ‘employ overseas veterinary graduates successfully’. In its guidelines, BEVA notes that, under EU law, EU nationals (or Community entitled persons) holding a recognised EU veterinary qualification are eligible to register with the RCVS to work as a veterinary surgeon in the UK. At the same time, it draws attention to ‘potential differences’ between veterinary graduates in terms of language skills, clinical experience through extramural studies and independent accreditation of veterinary training through the European Association of Establishments for Veterinary Education (EAEVE). The guidelines emphasise that employers must not discriminate among job applicants on the basis of nationality, language or place of graduation, while also offering advice on ensuring that applicants have the necessary language skills to practise in the UK and on understanding the European veterinary educational landscape.3

Progress continues to be made in harmonising standards of veterinary education in Europe. However, as indicated by the list of European veterinary schools approved or accredited under the EAEVE's voluntary evaluation scheme,4 there is still some way to go. This is also clear from a recent position statement from the European Coordinating Committee on Veterinary Training (ECCVT), of which the EAEVE is a member. The position paper notes that the veterinary profession is unique in Europe in having created a Europe-wide, profession-specific system for evaluating training, and that, so far, of 77 veterinary schools and faculties in EU member states, Norway and Switzerland, 73 per cent are approved or conditionally approved under the EAEVE scheme and eight schools have been accredited. It points out that the free European market requires the same quality of veterinary services in all EU member states, which inevitably requires the same minimum level of training, and calls for the evaluation scheme to be made compulsory.5

The ECCVT's position paper also argues that harmonisation of veterinary education is fundamental to establishing EU citizens' trust in veterinary services. Clearly, it will be important to maintain and strengthen that trust as international movement of veterinarians increases. In the meantime, it will always be important for professional bodies and employers to support new graduates, wherever they qualify or come from.

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