Anthony Roberts

RCVS launches online leadership programme

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has now launched the Edward Jenner Veterinary Leadership Programme to encourage everyday leadership skills within the veterinary professions.

This programme is part of the wider RCVS Leadership Initiative, launched in April at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress in Birmingham, and inspired by the Vet Futures project. The overall aim is to integrate development of leadership skills into veterinary professionals’ continuing education.

“I really enjoyed this course! I feel like my perspective on personal growth and self-awareness has been shifted. The learning models presented were new to me and I think they are invaluable tools. This is a wonderful course for vets at all stages of their career,” Audrey Ruple MRCVS, Assistant Professor of One Health Epidemiology, Purdue University

The Edward Jenner Veterinary Leadership Programme runs as a MOOC (massive open online course) and is hosted on the well-established FutureLearn digital education platform. The programme is now accepting registrations for a new cohort of learners to begin the first of three courses on 26 November. A ‘sign-up’ email has been sent out to all veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses ahead of the course starting.

This course is the result of a collaboration between the RCVS and the NHS Leadership Academy. By adopting a range of conventional and innovative teaching techniques, the course aims to emphasise the importance of leadership by helping to foster the range of skills that underpin it.

This includes building confidence around the everyday aspects of leadership, such as the active application of decision-making, growing resilience, implementing an inclusive culture and encouraging reflective learning approaches.

“This has been a great experience; I have looked forward to spending the time out to do it. It hasn’t felt like a course but an interactive learning exercise that has given me time to reflect on myself and how I can impact on others, it has also help me accept who I am and am how I am developing in my role. I would recommend this course to someone who really enjoys deep thinking and self-awareness,” Sally Coles RVN

One of the course’s most popular aspects is its audio drama, which follows the lives of veterinary professionals living in the fictional county of Glenvern. The stories that depict the characters’ working lives seek to reveal the diverse leadership challenges that veterinary professionals face on a day-to-day basis. This in turn prompts the listener to reflect, consider how they would respond, and learn from their own experiences as well as those of other people.

The programme comprises two free-to-access courses and an optional paid for assessment. The first course was piloted this summer, with over 550 veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, students and practice managers helping to develop and refine the material, whilst a group of learners are currently piloting the second course in the series.

Given the overwhelmingly positive feedback received on the first course (as shown by the feedback quotes shown throughout this page) the RCVS have now opened the programme to all veterinary professionals. The first course in the programme will begin on 26 November and the second course will open in January, once the second stage of piloting is complete.

“This course really highlighted leadership qualities that are often taken for granted. The course demonstrates that you do not need a status position in order to demonstrate effective leadership even though status positions are often where we look for leadership. I would recommend this course to both vets and nurses in clinical practice,” Simon Patchett, MRCVS, veterinary surgeon at Vets Now 24/7 Emergency and Specialty Hospital, Glasgow

Commenting on the roll out of the leadership programme, RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation, Anthony Roberts (pictured above), said: “I am very pleased to be able to announce the launch of this programme. I would urge anyone with an interest in developing their leadership skills, as well as those looking to refine their longstanding leadership skills, to take part.

The feedback we have received on the first course in this programme has shown us that this MOOC has a far-reaching application, and is both educational and enjoyable. Whether you are a vet, veterinary nurse, practice manager or student, this programme will be relevant and useful in your professional career.”

For more information you can email

Vet with stethoscope

More than 500 people register an interest in leadership course

More than 500 people have pre-registered for an online leadership course pilot being run as part of the new RCVS Leadership Initiative.

Some 550 people veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, students and practice managers have registered an interest in joining the first cohort of the Edward Jenner Veterinary Leadership Programme, a massive open online course (or MOOC) being run through the FutureLearn digital education platform.

The individuals who have registered an interest will, in due course, be sent an email providing them with details on how they can formally sign-up to the pilot version of the course.

The MOOC was developed in conjunction with the NHS Leadership Academy and aims to emphasise the importance of leadership and deliver information on the art of good leadership and decision-making, build confidence, develop an inclusive leadership culture and encourage active reflection and application of leadership skills.

To do this the course includes a fictional audio drama featuring veterinary professionals living in the county of Glenvern, which provides a vehicle for reflection and learning about the diverse leadership challenges veterinary professionals face on a daily basis.

RCVS Vice-President Amanda Boag, who is heading up the Leadership Initiative, said: ‘It’s been wonderful to see such high levels of interest and high numbers of sign-ups for the MOOC, and we want to thank all those who have volunteered.

“We are particularly glad that the people who have registered are a diverse group with around a fifth of them being veterinary nurses and also including practice managers, students and non-clinical staff because the course aims to develop everyday leadership within the whole veterinary team, no matter what stage a person is at in their career.

“We very much look forward to receiving their feedback and making the necessary changes and improvements.”

The MOOC is a key part of the RCVS Leadership Initiative, launched on Thursday 5 April at the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress in Birmingham, and inspired by the joint Vet Futures project with the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

The initiative is also part of the RCVS Strategic Plan 2017-2019 which had as one of its ambitions ‘to become a Royal College with leadership and innovation at its heart, and support this creatively and with determination.’ The College is running it in parallel with its innovation project, ViVet, which was launched in September 2017.

The initiative’s goals include integrating leadership into veterinary professionals’ continuing education, in part by creating the MOOC, leading by example in the College by developing Council and staff members’ leadership skills, and highlighting more diverse leadership opportunities.

To listen to the first two episodes of the audio drama and preview content, as well as watch a video with further information about the programme, please visit the RCVS website or contact Oliver Glackin, RCVS Leadership Initiatives Manager, for more information at

VSGD logo

RCVS supports new veterinary career diversity event

Representatives and staff from the RCVS attended the inaugural Vets: Stay, Go, Diversity (VSGD) Live! event in April to showcase its work on leadership, innovation and mental health.

The VSGD event – inspired by the Vet Futures project – took place on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 April at CodeNode, a community events venue in the City of London, and with an estimated 250 delegates in attendance, as well as online delegates, to discuss veterinary career diversity.

Members of RCVS Council and the RCVS Officer Team took part in a number of talks and workshop/ panel discussions. On Saturday:

  • Niall ConnellRCVS Council member and Junior Vice-President elect Niall Connell (pictured right) gave a talk called ‘Discovering life after ill-health retirement’ about how he has continued to work in the veterinary sphere after his multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2010.
  • RCVS Senior Vice-President Chris Tufnell, who runs our ViVet innovation project, gave a presentation entitled ‘Playing our part in world progress through science, innovation and caring’.
    Rob Pettitt, Senior Lecturer in Small Animal Orthopaedics at the University of Liverpool, delivered a talk on behalf of our Mind Matters Initiative titled ‘Mind over surgical matter’ in which he spoke about his own experiences of mental ill-health.
  • Chris Tufnell joined RCVS Council member Danny Chambers and the BVA’s Simon Doherty and Gudrun Ravetz in a Q & A panel session titled ‘What have the RCVS and BVA ever done for us?’

On Sunday:

  • Professor Stuart Reid, Chair of the Mind Matters Initiative, joined RCVS Council member Jo Dyer in a workshop titled ‘We are all human: healthy minds for medics and vets’.
  • Chris Tufnell took part in a workshop called ‘Practice makes perfect: Starting a veterinary business’.
  • And finally, Chris and Danny held a panel discussion titled ‘Advocating for the profession in practice’.

Ian Holloway, RCVS Director of Communications, said: “We were delighted to be invited to attend this new event which has grown out of a very popular Facebook group in which vets of all stages of their careers gathered to share stories and ideas on how to make the best of their veterinary education and experience.

“As well as taking part in many of the talks and workshops the College we also had a stand at the event where we promoted our ViVet innovation programme which aims to ensure that the veterinary profession is at the forefront of technological and business innovation in the animal health space.

“Furthermore, we were very pleased to be promoting the new RCVS Leadership Initiative which aims to instil everyday leadership for veterinary professionals at all career stages through a massive open online course on leadership development inspired by the NHS Leadership Academy.”

For more information about the event, including recordings from the day, visit the VSGD LIVE website.

Vet with stethoscope

RCVS launches leadership initiative at BSAVA Congress

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons officially launched its new Leadership Initiative on Thursday 5 April, the first day of BSAVA Congress in Birmingham.

The initiative was introduced by RCVS Vice-Presidents Amanda Boag and Chris Tufnell, and RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation, Anthony Roberts, at a session titled ‘New initiatives to support veterinary leadership and innovation’.

Inspired by the Vet Futures and VN Futures projects, the initiative is part of the RCVS Strategic Plan 2017-2019 which had as one of its ambitions “to become a Royal College with leadership and innovation at its heart, and support this creatively and with determination,” and will be run in parallel with the College’s innovation project, Vivet, which was launched in September 2017.

The initiative’s goals include integrating leadership into veterinary professionals’ continuing education, in part by creating a Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC), leading by example in the College by developing Council and staff members’ leadership skills, and highlighting more diverse leadership opportunities.

We are now taking registrations for a pilot version of the MOOC starting in late June, for which preview materials are available on the RCVS website. The MOOC, called the Edward Jenner Veterinary Leadership Programme, was developed in conjunction with the NHS Leadership Academy and also includes an audio drama featuring veterinary professionals living in the fictional county of Glenvern, which provides a substrate for reflection and learning about the diverse leadership challenges veterinary professionals face on a daily basis.

Anthony commented: “Leadership isn’t just about grand, heroic actions – it’s about exercising judgement, and leading yourself and your team on a daily basis. Many members of the veterinary team will be doing this already without necessarily thinking of it as leadership, and with this programme we hope to help people to identify and build upon their own abilities.”

Amanda added: “Having strong veterinary leaders is ultimately all about animal welfare. We know that practices with well-supported, confident staff are often the ones that are best-equipped to respond to both the expected stresses of the job and the unexpected emergencies, allowing the team to provide the best care for the animal.”

To be part of the first pilot group for the MOOC, listen to the first two episodes of the audio drama, and preview content please visit the leadership page, or contact Anthony Roberts, RCVS Director of Leadership and Innovation, for more information.

Vet Futures: full steam ahead during first year of action phase

One year on from the Vet Futures Summit, and excellent progress has been made on key actions that are putting the veterinary profession in charge of its future, made possible through great engagement from the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions.

 Vet Futures, powered by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA), created a blueprint for the future of the veterinary profession, and over the past twelve months activity has been taking place across the professions to put the plan into action.

The Vet Futures Summit took place on 4 July 2016 at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden, and saw the launch of the Vet Futures Action Plan and the VN Futures Report and Action Plan in front of an assembled audience of vets, nurses, students and stakeholders from the UK and overseas.

The Vet Futures Action Plan included a series of 24 work-streams to be completed over five years (2016-2020), building on the six core themes of: animal health and welfare; veterinary professionals’ wider roles in society; the health and wellbeing of veterinary professionals; diverse and rewarding veterinary careers; sustainable businesses and user-focused services; and leadership.

Over the last twelve months, key activities have included:

  • The setting up of a UK One Health Coordination Group, which will meet for the first time later this year, bringing together representatives from the veterinary, medical and environmental professions to provide a focus for One Health activity in the UK, and delivering the actions in the BVA animal welfare strategy (Actions A and F).
  • The establishment of the Veterinary Animal Welfare Coalition, which aims to coordinate public communications on key animal welfare issues to amplify messages about the five welfare needs. The Coalition has launched the five welfare needs logo and undertaken PR and social media activity throughout National Pet Month (Action D).
  • The launch, by the Veterinary Schools Council (VSC) Research Committee, of a UK summer studentship programme that aims to increase the number of vets engaged in research – 16 students will start the programme this summer (Action E).
  • The planning stages for an online careers hub as a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in studying for, or progressing, their veterinary career (Action G).
  • The launch of a Graduate Outcomes project to consider the skills and competences of future veterinary professionals, including the viability and desirability of limited licensure, the behaviours and skills required of veterinary graduates and how the undergraduate course might be structured in the future (Actions H, I and J).
  • A survey amongst non-UK EU graduates to better understand the support required by this group (as well as their intentions with regard to working in the UK post-Brexit), which received a 55% response rate (Action K).
  • A collaborative research project on workforce issues with psychologists at the University of Exeter, as part of which researchers are currently undertaking a literature review and analysing existing data in preparation for further research into some of the major workforce trends and challenges (Action L).
  • Research towards the development of a leadership massive open online course (MOOC) and also a hub to promote and develop leadership skills at all levels within the veterinary profession (Action Q).
  • The creation of an Innovation Symposium, to be held at the Warwick Business School campus in the Shard on 20 September 2017, which will bring together thought-leaders and those involved in innovative veterinary technologies and business models, to lead discussions on how these can be embraced by the profession. The event will also see the launch of an online innovation hub (Action R).
  • A consultation across the professions and the public to gather views around how new veterinary technologies should be regulated, with a view to establishing a framework to encompass future innovations; around 1,500 views were received and the findings are being considered by the RCVS Standards Committee (Action S).
  • Agreement on options for a framework for the regulation of allied professionals by RCVS Council at its June 2017 meeting, which are now being progressed into more detailed proposals (Action U).
  • Following discussion with the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), the Vet Futures model is now being embraced across Europe, with the FVE adopting aspects of it into their own strategy plan, and France, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark developing similar projects. Some of the European associations, such as the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations and the European Veterinarians in Education, Research and Industry, have now added Vet Futures Europe to their strategies (Action W).

VN Futures

The VN Futures project (Action X of Vet Futures) isolated six ambitions to achieve by 2020, with the shorter time-scale reflecting the faster rate of both turnover and training for veterinary nurses.

A number of development groups have been created, focusing on each of these ambitions and creating specific actions to ensure their completion. Of these:

  • The One Health Working Party has collaborated with the Royal College of Nursing on smoking cessation.
  • The Careers Progression Group has met twice and is planning four regional events, the first of which will take place at Hartpury College in Gloucester on 11 July, and will focus on veterinary nurses as managers.
  • The Schedule 3 Working Party has asked vets and nurses for their thoughts on, and experiences of, the role of the veterinary nurse. About 35% of veterinary nurses and 20% of veterinary surgeons responded, feeding into a wider analysis of whether Schedule 3 should be reformed.

“When we launched Vet Futures back in 2014, the scope of the project seemed daunting and some were sceptical of our ability to succeed. However, through a robust process of evidence-gathering, analysis, action planning and now taking action itself, we are starting to make an impact on some of those core areas that are so fundamental to the future of our profession, such as animal welfare, technology, veterinary skills and knowledge, and leadership,” says RCVS President, Chris Tufnell.

“Our Action Plan set out a five-year timeframe and we have made some really excellent progress in year one. This will form the foundation of work yet to come – although it remains important to ensure we scan the horizon for new issues that will have an impact on the profession, navigating our way through challenges as they arise.”

BVA President Gudrun Ravetz adds: “The excitement was palpable at the Vet Futures Summit last year and it spurred us on to roll up our sleeves immediately to start working on the Action Plan, and so a lot has been achieved already.

“Many of the actions are interlinked and so BVA, RCVS and the VSC are working closely together to oversee their delivery, but we have been particularly pleased at the high level of engagement and enthusiasm from others. The success of Vet Futures will be in the profession coming together to bring about the changes we need for a sustainable future.”


Huw is the Director of Clinical Services at The Pets at Home Vet Group (PAHVG), a role he took up in 2015 having been Head of Clinical Services since 2013. Huw graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2000 and went into mixed first opinion practice in Devon and then small animal practice in Swindon. Whilst in practice Huw completed a postgraduate diploma in companion animal behaviour counselling at the University of Southampton.

In 2010 Huw moved into industry as a Technical Advisor with VetPlus, and joined Companion Care Services as Commercial Manager in 2011. At PAHVG Huw worked on the integration of Vets4Pets into the Pets at Home Vet Group alongside Companion Care, and led the team that developed The Vet Report, providing an annual overview of pet health and welfare issues. Huw is a founding member of the Major Employers Group, a member of BVA’s Veterinary Policy Group, and a Veterinary Advisor to the RCVS alternative dispute resolution trial.

Huw Stacey

Huw Stacey

As a keen supporter of the Vet Futures project, I was delighted to be selected to join the Action Group tasked with transforming the vision and ambitions of the report into ideas and initiatives that could be actioned in the real world. The report had identified gaps in the way our profession approaches the issue of leadership, so I knew that taking on this ambition would be a particular challenge.

The first question I needed to answer for myself was ‘What is leadership?’ This in itself is difficult to answer, since, while there is a wealth of material written on the subject, there is no clear definition. Some authors highlight the personal traits of successful leaders, while others look at positions, behaviours or social processes.

Leadership is like the abominable snowman whose footprints are everywhere but who is nowhere to be seen” – Bennis & Nanus (1985)

The model that has been widely adopted in human healthcare is that of distributed leadership. In this model, leadership is recognised as a dynamic situational behaviour that anybody can exhibit independent of job title, rank, prior experience or qualifications. In a given situation any individual can act as a leader, and there is no one individual who is suited to assuming the role in all situations.

Leadership may be considered as the process (act) of influencing the activities of an organised group in its efforts towards goal setting and goal achievement” – Stogdill (1950)

There are a few well-established veterinary leadership programmes, such as the Veterinary Leadership Institute in the United States, but we have also looked to the medical profession where extensive research and development has already taken place.

Vets have, as a sweeping generalisation, a pretty clear idea of what constitutes professional development and unsurprisingly it stems from the vocational nature of our work – CPD is about gaining more knowledge or more skills to enhance our ability to look after the animals entrusted to our care.

The idea of spending valuable development time and budget on something as vague and nebulous as ‘leadership’ would undoubtedly be alien to many, in the past myself included. This is a great shame, as effective leadership has been shown in human medicine to improve wellbeing, morale, engagement and clinical service provision.

The NHS Leadership Academy has developed a researchbased Healthcare Leadership Model, which the Action Group suggests is a good place to start when thinking about a veterinary leadership programme. This type of course could be delivered as a MOOC so that it is freely available to all in the profession whether they are business owners, assistants, students, vets or nurses.

If the profession is to fulfil its stated ambitions of being confident, resilient, healthy, valued, influential and in control of its own destiny, then it will be essential to instil in all of its members an awareness of the importance of effective leadership, and to provide them with the resources and opportunities to develop these skills.

Vet Futures guest blogger says women are less prepared to take on veterinary leadership roles

In our first guest blog Professor Colette Henry, Head of Department of Business Studies, Dundalk Institute of Technology, argues that women are “simply less prepared to come forward to take on business leadership roles” and states that, as the veterinary profession becomes increasingly female, this raises serious concerns.

Professor Henry joined former RCVS President Jacqui Molyneux in a debate at BVA Congress at the London Vet Show last month “Setting the A-gender” which explored women as veterinary leaders and entrepreneurs. The lively discussion concluded that doing nothing to address the gender inequality that exists within the veterinary profession is not an option, and Professor Henry echoes that sentiment in her blog.

Vet Futures is a jointly powered project from the BVA and RCVS, which was launched at BVA Congress in November. The project aims to help the veterinary profession shape its own future by identifying trends and exploring actions for the whole profession.

We are encouraging veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, and the wider veterinary sector to get involved with the debate via this website by responding to the blog, posting comments on the priority issues for the profession’s future, and taking part in our regular polls.

Professor Henry’s blog suggests that veterinary schools could do more to develop young women’s business leadership potential and so this month’s online poll asks all vets (male and female): “Do you think your veterinary education prepared you for running a business?”

November’s poll asked “Are you optimistic about the future of the veterinary profession?” with a very mixed response: 44% said ‘yes’, 32% said ‘sometimes’ and 24% said ‘no’. Professor Henry’s blog states:

“Surveys also suggest that female vets are disillusioned with their future career trajectory, and that they may be planning to leave the profession.

“This raises serious concerns, which become even more pronounced when we start to consider general trends in women’s business leadership/ownership across other sectors.”

Professor Henry calls on private practitioners, the corporates, professional bodies and those in the wider veterinary business landscape to share their views on the future of veterinary business: “If we want to avoid a drastic reduction in the number of private practices and a significant increase in corporatisation, then we need to stop talking about the ‘problem’ and start implementing solutions. In this regard, I don’t believe there is a single big solution; rather, in my view, it’s going to take several small solutions being implemented across the sector.”