Be part of #TheBigPicture with Graduate Outcomes Consultation

On 15 November 2018 the RCVS launched one of its most ambitious consultations yet regarding the future of veterinary education and how the profession can better help support veterinary graduates through the transition into life in practice.

Launching at the London Vet Show 2018 with a call to be part of #TheBigPicturethe Graduate Outcomes Consultation asks for the views of all veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, veterinary students and other stakeholders in a broad range of areas related to how veterinary students are educated and trained, and how recent graduates are prepared and supported into life in practice.

Professor Stephen May (pictured), RCVS Senior Vice-President and Chair of the Graduate Outcomes Working Group which developed the consultation, said: “For some time it has been apparent that there is often a mismatch between the way that veterinary students are educated and their expectations of life in practice, and the realities which they encounter. This can often lead to problems with mental health and wellbeing and therefore recruitment and retention.

“This is not unique to the UK. Veterinary educators around the world are recognising the dangers of ‘knowledge overload’ as veterinary students are exposed to more and more advances in technical and scientific knowledge, in an ever-wider range of areas, which has made the development of crucial professional skills such as communication, decision-making, ethics and reflection more of a challenge within curricula where there is limited space.

“This impression was cemented by the research we conducted with the British Veterinary Association as part of our joint Vet Futures project in which there was a strong message from recent graduates that many of them were struggling with the transition into working life.

“One of the key actions of the Vet Futures Action Plan, published in 2016, was therefore to conduct a wide-ranging, root-and-branch review of outcomes for veterinary graduates and how they could be improved, encompassing the veterinary degree and the important first year in practice.

“Since 2016 we have been busy liaising with stakeholders, organisations, educators and others to work out where we think the key areas for potential change can be found and to develop a series of questions for the profession on how improvements can be made; in particular, how we rebalance curricular content to develop capable professionals. We are now proud to be able to launch this consultation to the profession at large.”

The consultation will encompass four core areas identified by the Working Group. These are:

  • Day One Competences – the skills and attributes required by veterinary graduates to work safely and independently upon entering practice. The consultation will be seeking feedback on a new overarching model for the Day One Competences, and some specific competences, encompassing a greater focus on those critically important ‘professional skills’ such as communication, collaboration, self-reflection and clinical reasoning.
  • The Professional Development Phase (PDP) – a period of structured learning and development for recent graduates that acts as a structured bridge between life as a veterinary student and clinical practice. The consultation builds on research conducted last year with the profession, which identified a need for a more structured PDP programme, and the consultation is now asking for feedback on what this could look like.
  • Extra-mural studies (EMS) – the consultation will be asking questions about how EMS placements should best be implemented, to achieve a more consistent quality and value for veterinary students. The consultation will also explore whether EMS could be revised to fall towards the end of the veterinary degree and act as a bridge between the degree and the Professional Development Phase.
  • Clinical education for General Practice – this element of the consultation will be looking at how the veterinary degree can ensure there is an appropriate balance of general practice and specialist experience so that students are prepared for as wide an array of clinical experiences as possible.

Promoting the consultation over the two days of the London Vet Show and throughout the nine-week consultation period, the RCVS will also be running a social media campaign under the hashtag #TheBigPicture, to help raise awareness of the scale and importance of this review and encourage all veterinary surgeons, nurses and students to take part, as well as those in the broader veterinary team.

Professor Susan Dawson, Chair of the RCVS Education Committee, at the Graduate Outcomes pre-launch in October 2018 “It is fair to say that this is one of the most ambitious consultations the College has carried out in at least the past 20 years,” said Professor Susan Dawson (pictured), Chair of  the RCVS Education Committee and member of the Graduate Outcomes Working Group, “but it will only succeed if we have the support and input of as many veterinary professionals as possible.

“Our ‘Big Picture’ campaign therefore refers not only to the sheer scale and importance of the areas under consultation, but also to the need to encourage everyone to submit their views, no matter what stage they are in their career, or in what sector of the profession they work. Their constructive feedback will be critical to ensure we get this right, as this will affect not just those qualifying in the next few years, but potentially the next generation of veterinary graduates.

“With such a big picture to consider, we sincerely hope that they can set aside some time to send us their views, and I can assuredly say it will be time very well spent.”

The consultation exercise is being carried out on behalf of the RCVS by the independent research consultancy, Work Psychology Group (WPG).

In mid-November, WPG emailed every RCVS-registered veterinary surgeon and veterinary nurse with a unique link to the online consultation. It is expected that respondents will need to set some time aside to answer the consultation in full, so this personalised link will enable them to submit their views in stages, and pick up where they left off.

The RCVS is also hoping that veterinary students, veterinary organisations and all those in the wider veterinary team will also be able to submit their views via a general link to the online consultation.

The deadline for responding to this first stage of the Graduate Outcomes Consultation is Friday 18 January 2019. The second stage of the consultation, in the first quarter of 2019, will consist of focus groups and interviews with selected respondents.

Lady with dog

Vet bodies call on profession to highlight benefits of registering pets

With figures suggesting that 85% of pet owners have registered their pet with a vet but an estimated 3.1 million pet dogs, cats and rabbits in the UK are still not registered, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has joined forces with the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to launch a social media campaign during National Pet Month (1 April to 7 May) to highlight the benefits of registering pets with veterinary practices.

The joint ‘Pets Need Vets’ campaign shares 11 reasons why pet owners should register their animals with a vet, including easier access to treatment during emergencies, regular health checks for pets and tailored nutritional advice, and encourages them to use our Find a Vet service to find the right vet practice for them and their pet.

Figures released in the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report in 2017 revealed that 85% of animal owners in the UK had already registered their pets with a vet, so this campaign aims to raise awareness amongst the remaining 15% of the value of doing the same.

Speaking about the campaign, British Veterinary Association President John Fishwick said: “Pets need vets to ensure their lifelong wellbeing, which is why it is concerning that a large number of pet owners in the country have not registered their animals with a practice. It is important that owners have access to reliable advice and veterinary care to be able to best look after their pets, and so we are calling on the profession to get involved in promoting the wealth of benefits that registering with a vet practice provides.”

RCVS President Professor Stephen May added: “Owning an animal is a huge responsibility, which is why access to professional veterinary advice is vital. With this campaign we aim to highlight some of the very considerable benefits of registering pets with a veterinary practice, and raise awareness amongst pet owners who have not yet registered of the value of having access to professional veterinary advice, expertise and treatment to keep their animals healthy. We would be delighted if practices across the country would help share these messages on their own social media accounts.”

Vets, vet nurses and veterinary practices can help spread the word on the value of registering pets by sharing campaign resources on social media using the hashtag ‘#petsneedvets’, downloading campaign resources and using the opportunity to encourage local pet owners to register with their practice.

To further highlight the value of veterinary care and the special bond between a veterinary professional and the animals under their care, BVA is also encouraging existing clients to share pictures of their pets at the vets online using the hashtags #lovemyvet and #lovemyvetnurse.

The Pets Need Vets campaign stems from the aim of the joint BVA and RCVS Vet Futures Action Plan to develop communications tools to assist the public’s understanding of veterinary costs and fees, and promote the value of veterinary care.

View more information on the campaign and shareable resources.

Christoph Kiefer

SWISS VETFUTURES 2030 – visions – ambitions – action plan

First of all I would like to congratulate the UK Vet Futures team on the great work they are doing. I really appreciate the work of the UK  project. As a guest of the summit on the 4th July 2016 in London I brought this idea back to Switzerland and immediately started a similar project for my own country. After having discussed the project with the board of the Swiss Veterinary Association (GST) we organized a workshop in October 2016 with all the important stakeholders of veterinary medicine in Switzerland: the Vetsuisse Faculty, the Central Veterinary Office (CVO), the state veterinarians and the GST. We could achieve a commitment to work together on this issue – the lead stays with the GST. This is a major milestone in the history of Swiss veterinary medicine.

In a working group, we defined our six ambitions for the veterinary profession in the future:

  • A leading driving force for the promotion of animal health
  • Perception by society
  • Exuding self-confidence
  • Diversity of career paths
  • Future-oriented, innovative and productive businesses
  • Competent and well-organised

Back on the board of the GST we took these ambitions as a template for the five-year plan for our association. At the general assembly in June 2017 our delegates approved our VETFUTURE project and our five-year plan. We continued our work with the definition of the recommendations. We established a total of 21 recommendations. All of them can be attributed to our ambitions.

Now we are going from theory into practice. For the VETFUTURE project, we have put together a diverse action plan and I am going to describe some of the actions in more detail below:

– We have created forums to be able to cultivate an intensive exchange within our profession, like the podium at our annual congress in Switzerland or institutionalized talks at the “Castle of Habsburg”, where we invite important people to contribute to a discussion about a current topic of interest.

– Together with the Vetsuisse Faculty, we are creating a new system to enter the profession after studying with so-called teaching practices. Together with a university of applied sciences, we have developed a course for future teaching practices with the aim of improving the career advancement for the graduate students. A first course called “Fit for Entrepreneurship” has already taken place.

– The GST office has been professionalised. We have recruited experts in the fields of animal health, education and communication. This helps us to develop well-supported positions in the fields of animal health and animal welfare. With such positions our influence in politics is much bigger and at the same time we receive much more media requests.

– We are trying to develop a new line with a marketing concept in order to continue to be attractive for younger veterinarians.

– We have carried out a career study. We wanted to know from Swiss veterinarians in which veterinary fields they had worked at the age of 25, 30, 35 …. up to 65 years and, if they had changed the direction of their career, why they have changed (eg family, income, emergency service etc.) The final report is going to be published this autumn.

– We intensified our cross-border cooperation, especially with our neighbours in Germany and Austria. With France, first contacts have been made and, of course, we are strongly involved in the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE).

– Our veterinary journal “Schweizer Archiv für Tierheilkunde” (SAT), by the way, the world`s oldest still existing veterinary journal, is being developed further and further, with new open access so we can reach a broader readership around the world.

– We have improved the cooperation between official and practical veterinarians with regular meetings of both groups.

For me the most important goal remains that we talk with one voice within the veterinarian business, so that we can improve our public profile and are able to increase our influence in politics.

With great passion for our profession,

Christoph Kiefer, President GST

Delegates engaged with shaping the future of the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions

The first Vet Futures Summit saw around 120 people gather at the Royal Veterinary College in Camden, London, to hear how the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), British Veterinary Association (BVA) and British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) have set out a blueprint for the future of the veterinary surgeon and veterinary nursing professions.

The event, which took place on Monday 4 July, saw the release of the Vet Futures Action Plan 2016-2020, developed by the Vet Futures Action Group, which details how the RCVS and BVA intend to meet the 34 recommendations set out in last year’s Vet Futures Report.

Vet Futures summit photosThroughout the course of the Summit, many of the Action Group members reported to delegates on the specific areas that they were championing, covering topics such as technology and innovation, the future of veterinary education, career diversity, One Health, ethics and animal welfare, leadership, mental health and communicating the value of the profession.

Bradley Viner, RCVS President, said: “It was great to see such a wide range of delegates attending this event, including veterinary surgeons from a range of different areas, such as clinical practice, academia and industry, as well as veterinary students, veterinary nurses, other allied professionals and even people from very different backgrounds, such as psychologists and lawyers.

“The range of speakers and topics they covered were equally diverse – ranging from specialists in the psychology of relationships between clients and professionals, to graduate outcomes, to how we can better value the services offered by veterinary surgeons.

“Delegates were clearly very engaged, as demonstrated by the sheer amount of tweeting that took place over the course of the day and the amount of pledges of support they made and uploaded on Twitter as well.”

Every delegate was asked to vote for the seven priorities from the Action Plan that they thought were the most important. The three priorities that received the most votes were supporting the Mind Matters Initiative; developing a veterinary leadership programme; and starting a UK One Health coordination group.

Sean Wensley, BVA President, said: “We are committed to delivering all of the actions in the Vet Futures Action Plan but it was interesting and useful to obtain views from delegates on what their main priorities are.

“It is no surprise that support for the Mind Matters Initiative emerged as the number one priority. We are extremely ambitious for our professions with a clear desire to improve the health and wellbeing of animals, people and our environment through expanded One Health working, but we can only achieve everything we hope to if we are happy, healthy and fulfilled ourselves.

“The Summit also heard from international colleagues in the USA and Europe congratulating the UK on taking forward the Vet Futures initiative, a timely reminder of the need to maintain our outward-looking perspective and relationships with colleagues from across the globe.

“There was a fantastic forward-looking atmosphere at the Summit and a real sense of commitment to take things forward. It was particularly exciting to see the excellent progress made by the veterinary nursing profession in developing a clear action plan, which we fully support.”

The Summit also saw the launch of the VN Futures Report and Action Plan, the culmination of six months’ work from the VN Futures project, which sets out six broad ambitions with 31 recommendations for the veterinary nursing profession over the next five years. These ambitions are to create a sustainable workforce; develop structured and rewarding career paths; support a confident, resilient, healthy and well-supported workforce; take a proactive role in One Health; maximise the potential of nurses; and have a clarified and bolstered role for veterinary nurses via reform of Schedule 3 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act.

Liz Cox, Chair of RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council, launched the report alongside Sam Morgan, President of the BVNA. Liz said: “Our session certainly generated a lot of discussion amongst delegates who seemed very keen on our specific key recommendations such as forming a VN Schools Council, developing an advanced practitioner qualification and status for VNs and bolstering links with human-centred nursing under the One Health umbrella.”

Sam Morgan added: “I would recommend that every veterinary nurse reads the report and its recommendations and has a think about how they can help both the RCVS and the BVNA make them a reality. Now is the time for the profession to make its voice heard and take charge of its future.”

A specially-made animation about the VN Futures project was also launched during the sessions, along with the Vet Futures Action Plan and VN Futures Report and Action Plan.

Delegates made pledges on how they would support the Vet Futures and VN Futures projects throughout the course of the day and were encouraged to upload these to Twitter. To find these pledges, and more information from the day, please search for the hashtags #VetFutures and #VNFutures.

Videos from the day are available to view, along with pictures which can be downloaded from the RCVS Flickr account.

Vet Futures Action Group offers wealth of expertise to drive change

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are delighted to announce the formation of the Vet Futures Action Group to take forward the ambitions and recommendations in the Vet Futures report ‘Taking charge of our future: A vision for the veterinary profession for 2030’ launched in November 2015.

The call for applications attracted more than 80 candidates with many more expressing an interest in helping to take the project forward, demonstrating a fantastic level of engagement from the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions.

The Action Group will be tasked with working collectively to turn the report’s 34 recommendations into clear actions with buy-in from across the veterinary profession and a timetable for activity.

The Action Group is made up of the BVA and RCVS Presidents and Junior Vice-Presidents, seven veterinary surgeons, a veterinary nurse, and a co-opted veterinary student:

  • Dr Clare Allen MA VetMB PhD MRCVS – Senior Teaching Associate for curriculum and innovation in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge.
  • Helena Diffey – President of the Association of Veterinary Students UK and Ireland (AVS)
  • Simon Doherty BVMS MRCVS FRSB – Owner and Director of Blackwater Consultancy and animal science expert for the Agri-Tech Organisation of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI).
  • Daniel Hogan RVN – Operations Manager at Dick White Referrals.
  • Dr Liz Mossop BVM&S PhD MRCVS – Associate Professor of Veterinary Education and Sub-Dean for Teaching, Learning and Assessment at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham.
  • Gudrun Ravetz BVSc MRCVS – BVA Junior Vice-President and Veterinary Consultant to Pet Health Plans from Denplan.
  • Dr Kimberley Schiller BVetMed MRCVS – Manager in Healthcare Practice at Accenture, the global consultancy.
  • Dr Huw Stacey BVetMed DipAS(CABC) MRCVS – Director of Clinical Services at the Pets at Home Vet Group (PAHVG).
  • Dr Mary Thomson BVMS MRCVS – small animal veterinary surgeon in Devon, Vetlife Board member and RCVS Postgraduate Dean.
  • Dr Chris Tufnell BSc (Hons) BVMS MRCVS – RCVS Vice-President and Director of Coach House Vets, a small animal and equine practice in Berkshire.
  • Dr Bradley Viner BVetMed MSc(VetGP) DProf MRCVS – RCVS President and Principal of Blythwood Vets, a group of small animal practices in North West London.
  • Sean Wensley BVSc MSc Grad DMS MRCVS – BVA President and Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Communication and Education at the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA).
  • Dr James Yeates BVSc BSc DWEL DipECVS(AWBM) PhD MRCVS – RSPCA Chief Veterinary Officer, a visiting Fellow at the University of Surrey, an honorary lecturer at the University of Bristol and an active member of the animal welfare research community.

The members of the Group joining the BVA and RCVS officers were selected by the Vet Futures Project Board for their mix of experience and expertise across the Vet Futures ambitions and themes (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), as well as in veterinary education, veterinary regulation, and veterinary nursing.

Commenting, BVA President Sean Wensley said:

“We are delighted to announce the membership of the Vet Futures Action Group. The Group has a very important task ahead and we are confident that we have an excellent group of people with the right balance of skills, experience and expertise to take forward the Vet Futures recommendations and turn them into concrete actions.

“We have had an incredibly positive response from the profession to the launch of the report and we hope organisations and individuals will now step up to work with the Action Group and take ownership of the activity for the good of the whole profession.”

Commenting on the high number of applications, RCVS President Bradley Viner said:

“We were overwhelmed by the response from the professions with ten applications for every place, and many more offers of support. The Project Board was particularly impressed by the high quality of the applications and the breadth of experience demonstrated by the candidates from all parts of the profession.

“It was incredibly difficult to select the members of the Group from such a strong field but we are pleased that we have captured the variety within the profession as well as the enthusiasm to drive the project forward. We sincerely hope everyone who expressed an interest will remain engaged with the project as it progresses this year.”


View the Vet Futures Action Group member biographies



New Vet Futures Action Group seeks members

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) are inviting applications from members of the veterinary professions for the new Vet Futures Action Group, set up to drive forward the ambitions identified in the Vet Futures report launched at BVA Congress at the London Vet Show on 20 November.

The Vet Futures report, Taking charge of our future: A vision for the veterinary profession for 2030, was the culmination of a year-long joint project by BVA and RCVS designed to help the veterinary profession prepare for, and shape, its own future. The Action Group is a vital next step in the Vet Futures project, ensuring the delivery of the report’s six ambitions and 34 recommendations.

We are seeking seven veterinary surgeons and one veterinary nurse to join the Action Group to ensure there is buy-in from across the professions and to drive forward workstreams of activity. The group will be co-chaired by the BVA and RCVS Presidents, and both Junior Vice-Presidents will sit on the group. Action Group members will be independent and will not represent, or be required to report back to, any particular organisation.

Veterinary surgeons or nurses keen to apply for an Action Group role should have experience of working as an active member of a group or committee and the ability to deliver, engage and inspire others. The veterinary surgeon members should have specific expertise, knowledge and experience in relation to at least one of the Vet Futures ambitions or the cross-cutting issue of veterinary education. The ambitions cover:

  • 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
  • Leadership

Successful applicants must be able to attend three all-day meetings in London (9 February, 17 March and 12 May) and an all-day Vet Futures Summit (20 June), with a time commitment totalling approximately seven days between February and June 2016. The group will be supported by BVA and RCVS staff.

The deadline for applications is 12 noon, 31 December 2015.

Download the full Vet Futures Action Group role profile and terms of reference.

What role might patient safety play in the veterinary profession?

What role might patient safety play in the veterinary profession? is the question posed by our Vet Futures blogger, Mark Turner, this month in considering what the profession could learn from the NHS.

Mark graduated from Liverpool Veterinary School in 1996. His career has included spells as a veterinary surgeon and as a business owner. During this period he has developed an interest in patient safety and a profound belief that risk management, properly implemented, can improve many aspects of care. Mark is currently undertaking an MRes on veterinary patient safety at the Royal Veterinary College.

In his blog, Mark outlines the major impact that a move to a more patient-safety-centred approach has had within human medicine, and also the aviation industry, noting that adopting a culture that does not blame individuals was key: “Human medicine has discovered that real improvements start when people understand that mistakes are inevitable in complex industries, and everyone will make them. This shift in perspective allows hospitals to start framing accidents, and near misses, as opportunities to improve the system. Accident auditing, then, rather elegantly, becomes another arm of evidence-based practice,” he says.

He exhorts the veterinary profession to take note, and consider integrating patient safety into its systems, concluding: “Perhaps all we need to do is learn this single, yet potentially transformative, lesson, in order to start our own safety revolution.”

This month’s our poll will therefore be asking website visitors if they feel that patient safety features high enough on the profession’s agenda.

In last month’s poll we asked “Do you feel that you were given adequate business training at vet school?” Of the 70 respondents, 96% said ‘no’, with 3% saying ‘to some extent’ and only one voter saying ‘yes’.

This theme is picked up in the Vet Futures report, launched at the BVA Congress at the London Vet Show on 20 November, with one of its recommendations being: “Enhance business and finance skills amongst veterinary professionals through education, extra-mural studies and continuing professional development” (recommendation 25).

To read the blog, comment on the issues it raises and to take part in this month’s poll please visit

In addition, a recent research paper in Veterinary Record by Oxtoby et al from the University of Nottingham discussed error in veterinary practice: “We need to talk about error: causes and types of error in veterinary practice” (Veterinary Record 2015; 177:438).

It was accompanied by a research editorial by Dr Mickey Tivers of the University of Bristol: “Reducing error and improving patient safety”.

What role might patient safety play in the veterinary profession?

Mark Turner graduated from Liverpool Veterinary School in 1996. His career has included spells as a veterinary surgeon and as a business owner. During this period he has developed an interest in patient safety and a profound belief that risk management properly implemented can improve many aspects of care. Mark is currently undertaking an MRes on veterinary patient safety at the Royal Veterinary College.

He has written for the Veterinary Times and Veterinary Practice, presented at the RCVS Knowledge first international EBVM Conference and at BSAVA Congress 2015 on the subject of Risk Management.

At the beginning of the new millennia, the report into the Bristol heart scandal was published (Department of Health, 2001). It established why the mortality rate after paediatric cardiac surgery (PCS) at Bristol hospital was twice the national average. In many respects it can now be seen as an important turning point in the history of the NHS. The report identified a host of risk factors at work at the time. But as the document went on to say, “professionals working in Bristol… were victims of a combination of circumstances which owed as much to general failings in the NHS at the time,” as to any individual short-comings (Department of Health 2001, p 11).

The report made almost 200 recommendations. Some of these were specific to PCS provision, but many more were generic proposals for a superior health service: one in which care quality was a central aim.

Since then the NHS has embarked on a quiet revolution of clinical services management, which has placed the discipline of ‘patient safety’ centre stage.

Mark Turner

Mark Turner

Patient safety, or risk management, recognises that high quality health provision relies upon an institution-wide commitment to safety. Integral to this is a culture of openness: this allows workers to report accidents, allowing valuable lessons to be learnt for the ‘system.’

A good example of how this ‘systems’ approach can benefit a complex industry is aviation. The airline industry embarked on a well-documented drive to improve its safety record in response to accidents like the Tenerife airport disaster in which 583 people died. (Interestingly, in common with many other accidents of the time, mechanical failure was not the dominant cause.)

It was understood that safety would only improve if the industry learnt lessons from every single incident in which the ‘system’ broke down. The understanding of these accidents and near misses, in all their complexity, could then be incorporated into modifications to work practices. To this end, a culture that exulted pilots made of ‘the right stuff’ was deconstructed, and behaviours, including error reporting, high functioning team work and cross-checking, were encouraged (Gordon, Mendenhall and O’Connor, 2012). Each played an important role in the startling reduction of air accidents.

A similar culture of error reporting and collective learning is taking root in healthcare, not just in the UK but throughout the world. A report published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in the US in 2000 had this to say about healthcare: “The focus must shift from blaming individuals for past errors to preventing future errors by designing safety into the system. This does not mean that individuals can be careless. People must still be vigilant and held responsible for their actions. But when an error occurs, blaming an individual does little to make the system safer and prevent someone else from committing the same error.” (Kohn et al, 2000, p 5.)

This year it was revealed that in a decade the complication rate from paediatric cardiac surgery in the UK has almost halved, from 4.3% in 2000 to 2.6% in 2009. Could patient safety be partly responsible? It seems reasonable to assume as much.

So what role might patient safety play in the veterinary profession? Rates of veterinary error remain opaque, and the safety of our systems is a legitimate subject of debate. Are we anywhere near as unsafe as the US medical system, which may kill 98,000 of its patients a year according to the IOM report quoted earlier? There are many unanswered questions but what is beyond doubt is that we in the veterinary profession have not yet widely adopted the philosophy of care quality that exists in the human health sector. What effect could this social science have on veterinary patient safety? Human medicine has discovered that real improvements start when people understand that mistakes are inevitable in complex industries, and everyone will make them. This shift in perspective allows hospitals to start framing accidents, and near misses, as opportunities to improve the system. Accident auditing, then, rather elegantly, becomes another arm of evidence-based practice. Perhaps all we need to do is learn this single, yet potentially transformative, lesson, in order to start our own safety revolution.



Kohn LT, Corrigan JM, and Donaldson MS, (eds) (2000) To Err is Human. Building a Safer Health System. Washington: National Academy Press.

Gordon S, Mendenhall P, O’Connor B (2012) Beyond the Checklist. What Else Health Care Can Learn from Aviation Teamwork and Safety. London: IRL Press.

Department of Health (2001) The Report of the Public Inquiry into children’s heart surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary 1984–1995. Learning from Bristol. Available at: (Accessed: 20 October 2015)

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of either the RCVS or the BVA.

Taking charge of our future: Launch of the Vet Futures report

Vet Futures report

Click to download the report

In 2030 vets should be a leading force for animal health and welfare and valued for their wider roles in society. They should be confident, resilient, healthy and well supported, and benefit from exceptional leadership. And there should be a broad range of diverse and rewarding veterinary careers, as well as thriving, innovative and user-focused businesses.

These are the ambitions set out in our new report, which is published today [20 November] by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), under the overarching ambition for 2030 of ‘a profession in charge of its future’.

The report, launched at BVA Congress at the London Vet Show, is the culmination of a year of engagement, consultation and research with the veterinary profession, veterinary nurses, members of the wider veterinary team, key stakeholders, animal owners, and the general public.

At every step of the journey we have reached out to the veterinary profession through news, guest blogs, polls, surveys and roadshow events to capture the issues of today and consider the issues for the future.

Our surveys, roadshow events and meetings engaged hundreds of vet students, and thousands of vets and members of the general public and gave us some very useful insights, which all fed into the Vet Futures project and the development of the six major themes. The resulting 64-page report sets out a clear vision and ambitions and makes 34 recommendations for change.

We engaged with the RCVS Veterinary Nurses Council and British Veterinary Nursing Association, as well as individual veterinary nurses throughout the project and many of the ambitions should resonate with members of both professions. While the focus has been on veterinary surgeons, the report recommends that the veterinary nursing profession should build on our work to develop its own clear vision and ambitions.

With the launch of the Vet Futures report RCVS and BVA are calling on the whole profession, as well as others with an interest in its future, to help take forward the recommendations, which include:

  • Explore and consult on a sustainable structure for the veterinary degree, including the viability of limited licensure, allowing veterinary students to focus their studies and specialise during the veterinary degree [rec 16];
  • Review the regulatory framework for veterinary businesses to ensure a level playing field, enable a range of business models to coexist, ensure professionalism in commercial settings, and explore the implications for regulation of new technologies (eg telemedicine) [rec 23];
  • Deliver a coordinated, well-funded and evidence-based approach to mental health and wellbeing for the veterinary team [rec 10];
  • Undertake a veterinary workforce study to assess the rewards, recognition and working conditions of vets and veterinary nurses, and the drivers of low and unequal pay [rec 18];
  • Develop a public-facing awareness campaign to raise the profile of wider veterinary roles (including public health, research, government, industry and academia) [rec 22];
  • Strengthen leadership for the profession by exploring options for bringing greater coherence to the support and representation of the veterinary profession [rec 30] and exploring ways to develop the next generation of veterinary leaders including by identifying and nurturing talent, and providing them with the skills and opportunities to succeed [rec 31];
  • Explore options to develop an online animal welfare hub to better disseminate animal welfare research, evidence and tools, including the critical appraisal of common practices in the light of emerging evidence [rec 3].

Other recommendations include developing an animal welfare strategy for the profession, increasing collaboration with medical professionals and environmental organisations, adopting a more strategic long-term outlook for research funding, and exploring how to encourage a more diverse profession.

Commenting, RCVS President Bradley Viner said:

“The Vet Futures report is the culmination of a year of research and engagement with thousands of members of the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions, which has given us a very firm foundation on which to build our ambitions and recommendations. We are extremely grateful to every individual who has contributed in some way to the project, and helped us to seize the initiative.

“Over the years the veterinary profession has proved itself to be adaptable and able to face challenges head on, and we have no doubt that by working together we will realise our joint vision of a profession in charge of its future. Ultimately, we all want a profession that is confident in itself and one in which members are proud to call themselves veterinary surgeons.”

Sean Wensley, BVA President, added:

“Vet Futures has proved to be an exciting, engaging and truly ambitious project for the veterinary profession and it has created a fantastic level of debate and engagement.

“The report we are launching today is not the end of the story; it is the beginning of the next chapter. It is crucial that we maintain the momentum of the project so we will be inviting members of the veterinary professions to step forward and join a new Vet Futures Action Group to help us turn the recommendations into actions and drive forward activity.”

Jennifer Rowland

Student’s wearable tech vision wins Vet Futures essay competition

Fourth-year University of Edinburgh veterinary student Jennifer Rowland (pictured left) has won our Veterinary Vision essay competition, with her entry on wearable healthcare technology for animals.

The competition was run over the summer and Jennifer, who grew up on a dairy farm in rural Northumberland, was the only veterinary student to enter the competition; all essays were judged anonymously.

In her essay, Jennifer argues that: “Wearable technology that is designed to organise our daily lives, monitor our body functions and revolutionise our medical care already exists, and is likely to become an integral part of medical and veterinary sciences.”

Benefits of this, she suggests, will include instant assessment of basic health parameters, freeing up more time for diagnosis and treatment; less invasive gathering of data; access to a more detailed history; recording accurate baselines of, for example, temperature and heart rate, for each patient; the ability to detect the onset of disease; and an accurate way of monitoring response to long-term medication.

Jennifer concludes her 1,000-word essay by saying that: “The ‘art’ of veterinary medicine is unlikely to be radicalised in the next fifteen years, but the advancement of wearable day-to-day health monitors is one way that the ‘science’ will change dramatically.”

Jennifer’s win was recognised at the launch of the Vet Futures report at the London Vet Show on Friday 20 November, and the essay is being published in Veterinary Record (Volume 177, Issue 20, Saturday, 21 November 2015).

“This winning essay concerned a subject that came up often at our Vet Futures roadshow meetings – the role of technology in the future of the profession. Jennifer’s essay tackled the subject in an engaging and stimulating way that brought the subject alive,” says Sean Wensley, BVA President.

“Jennifer’s essay was a clear winner and it’s very fitting that a competition that challenged people to consider the future of the profession should have been won by someone who represents that very future,” said Bradley Viner, RCVS President.

Topics covered by other entrants included mental health and wellbeing, a National Animal Health Service (or, in another essay, a Veterinary Health Service), a future where all equine practitioners wear a helmet while examining horses to reduce accidents, and a system to support pet ownership for older people, among others.

The winning essay can be read in full here.

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