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PUBLISHING its latest strategic plan last week, the RCVS highlighted its emphasis on ‘leadership, innovation and culture change’. The three-year plan, for 2017 to 2019,1 builds on the RCVS's first strategic plan published in 2014 and is, the College says, the product of many hours of meetings and consultations with a range of stakeholders. It has also been informed by work done as part of the Vet Futures and VN Futures projects.
The RCVS describes the hallmark of its 2014 to 2016 strategic plan as ‘getting the basics right’ and, having achieved 34 of the 35 objectives it set itself three years ago, it believes that it now has the firm foundation and improved levels of confidence from stakeholders that it needs to be more ambitious and outward-looking. Accordingly, in its new plan, it has set itself ‘challenging ambitions and stretching objectives’ to address what it sees as the ‘big issues’ affecting the veterinary team. The five ambitions cover learning culture, leadership and innovation, regulation, global reach, and the College's service agenda, and, for each ambition, a range of actions is set out to achieve it.
Regarding the ambition covering learning culture, the RCVS wishes to establish the extent to which a ‘blame culture’ exists in the veterinary professions, the role that the College might play in this, the impact it might have on the welfare of vets, veterinary nurses, owners and their animals, and how the profession might move towards a culture that has greater focus on learning and personal development. It intends to set a baseline against which any change can be measured and develop evidence-based actions that the veterinary team can take to reduce a blame culture and establish a culture of continual learning. The College also makes clear that it intends to continue to consult on and implement ‘as appropriate’ an outcomes-based approach to CPD and, ‘if appropriate’, to introduce an alternative dispute resolution service.
Under the ambition regarding regulation (which states ‘Continuing to build on the foundations that have already been laid, we will work to ensure that the legislation and regulations that support us are not only fit for purpose today, but enable us to make the UK veterinary professions, and those allied professionals who work alongside them, the best that they can be into the future’), of particular interest to practitioners may be actions to explore the compulsory inspection of veterinary practices and to review outcomes for graduates, considering what the profession and the public are likely to need from vets in the future. Another notable action under this ambition is to develop a strategy for regulating allied professionals, either via Associate status or updated Exemption Orders.
However, it is the section discussing the College's global reach that makes for particularly interesting reading. The ambition here states that the RCVS aims ‘to improve animal health and welfare on an international basis by raising veterinary standards overseas, contributing to the improvement of the One Health agenda and ensuring that our regulation keeps pace in a global market’. The College sets out 10 actions that it intends to take to achieve the ambition, including developing a strategy to make sure that the profession is in charge of its future by maximising the opportunities and minimising the risks of Brexit. Given the current uncertainty surrounding the implications of Brexit for the profession, it is worthwhile exploring possible opportunities by building new relationships with countries outside of the EU and re-establishing relationships with countries with which the UK has previously had strong ties.
Among the other actions set out, though, are a number that indicate how the College is looking to influence veterinary standards beyond the UK. It intends to ‘investigate the global market for RCVS qualifications and Advanced Practitioner and Specialist status’. It also intends to ‘consider the global market for the RCVS accreditation of undergraduate veterinary education, particularly in the light of Brexit’ and ‘investigate the global market for the RCVS accreditation of veterinary practices’.
An idea of how things might begin to develop in this area is given in a blog by Nick Stace, the RCVS's chief executive,2 in which he describes a recent visit that he, and the RCVS President Chris Tufnell, made to India. Noting that India is on track to become the world's most populous country by 2030, he points out that there are some 90,000 names on the Veterinary Council of India's Register and that the country has 44 veterinary schools. India, he says, must be one of the College's key targets, not only because of the size of its population, but also because of its long-standing historical ties to the UK: ‘In terms of what we want to do in India, we will be looking build on the links forged during our visit and, over time, possibly look to the country as a potential source of veterinary graduates, as the medical profession does in this country.’ The College also sees opportunities for UK students and graduates, and for the sharing of knowledge and best practice with India.
Mr Stace goes on to say that, over the course of this year, the RCVS will seek to better understand the veterinary regulatory and educational systems operating in India and how a framework for a pilot project around the accreditation of Indian veterinary schools might be developed. This could be no small task and details of how the College intends to achieve this will no doubt emerge in time.
There is nothing wrong with having ambition; indeed, ambitions are needed for development in all aspects of life, as is a plan for achieving them. The UK veterinary profession undoubtedly has much to offer globally, and over the next three years, it will be interesting to see how the College goes about achieving its latest set of ambitions, particularly those relating to its global reach.