Vet Futures – helping the profession prepare for and shape its future

Vet Futures, a major new initiative that aims to help the profession prepare for and shape its own future, was launched at the British Veterinary Association (BVA) Congress at the London Vet Show on 20 November.

The project is jointly funded and led by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and the BVA, and will be a collaborative venture, drawing on the experience and insight of a wide range of individuals and organisations, including veterinary surgeons and nurses, veterinary bodies, farmers, pet owners and other key stakeholders.

The project will help understand where the provision of veterinary services is currently heading, whether this is in the best interests of the profession, animal owners and the public at large, and what might be done to shape an optimal future for the veterinary team, keeping animal health and welfare at its heart.

In the project’s first phase, independent researchers will gather evidence via focus groups, phone interviews and desk-based research, in addition to the gauging of opinion through events, the internet and social media.

The project will be a collaborative venture, drawing on the experience and insight of a wide range of individuals and organisations

This evidence gathering will be followed by an engagement phase, where the profession will be asked for their feedback on initial thoughts; a period of analysis, where a report will be written by the independent researchers; and, finally, there will be an action phase, where key strategic issues will be identified, together with a clear plan for action from the BVA and the RCVS, as well as other organisations and individuals.

“The RCVS is implementing a programme of reform to make it a first-rate regulator, but how do we also make ours a first-rate profession, that is resilient and agile enough to meet future demands?” asks Professor Stuart Reid, RCVS President. “The Vet Futures project will not just be about horizon-scanning, but getting a fix on those issues over the horizon that we may not yet have considered, such as the use of emerging technologies.

“It’s an exciting challenge and I am looking forward to members of the veterinary team getting involved so that, together, we can develop an action plan that will deliver a sustainable future for the profession.”

John Blackwell, BVA President, says: “It is no secret that the veterinary profession is changing rapidly and that is why the theme for my presidential year is ‘driving change and shaping the future’. It is essential that we come together to map out where we want to be as a strong and trusted profession and identify how we can make that happen.

“On such cross-cutting issues it is appropriate that the two leading professional bodies come together to provide joint leadership for the profession, but we are keen to engage as many individuals and stakeholders as possible. It is designed to be a hugely collaborative project and we want to hear voices from across the whole profession and the whole veterinary team.”

  1. John Dennis
    John Dennis says:

    Hello to both John Blackwell and Stuart Reid
    I do not wish to be pessimistic but should any review involving mixed and large animal veterinary futures be delayed until the impact of the new TB Testing Contracts has been assessed? The system does not impact until after April 2014.
    I have expressed my opinion previously in the press that there is a chance of nearly a thousand vets on the job market and an influx of vets from abroad should the Contracts be awarded to “a company” quoting at a low economic value to General Practice. Rural Practice will alter considerably with reduced on call availability etc.
    Happy to enlarge my thoughts if wished .
    Will follow
    John Dennis

  2. John Dennis
    John Dennis says:

    TB Testing Tendering and Challenges to Mixed Practice.
    Following my earlier comment on Vetfutures I would encourage everyone
    to read the excellently written argument by Periscope in the
    Veterinary Practice Paper (Volume 46 Number 10 December 2014 p8). Once
    again I exhort the Review to be delayed until the impact of tendering
    and its consequences have been fully appreciated, otherwise it will be
    rendered completely invalid and an expensive exercise.

  3. JGWray
    JGWray says:

    The list of stakeholders for this exercise has a glaring omission – employers, whether from independent or Corporate practice, whatever that is. If the future of the profession is shaped and the product isn’t employable then….

  4. Sally Burnell
    Sally Burnell says:

    Dear John Dennis,
    Thank you for raising your concerns around these issues. As I hope you know BVA argued strongly against the move towards tendering for OV services including for the reasons you have outlined. While we didn’t manage to stop the process we secured some reassurances around ensuring that work was devolved to a local level via the delivery partnerships. As you say, we are currently awaiting the outcome of the tendering process and will see what shape it will take before commenting further.
    I understand your suggestion to hold off on the Vet Futures project until we know more, but please be assured that discussions around the relationship between the government and private veterinary surgeons was identified at the start of the project as one of the key issues that we need to look at. Although we don’t yet know the outcome or the impact of the Veterinary Delivery Partnership we wanted to get started on the Vet Futures project to start to grapple with the many issues that the profession is facing.
    Please keep feeding in your thoughts on all aspects and please be assured that we will be giving a lot of consideration to the outcomes following tendering, the awarding of contracts to the delivery partners and the impact on the sustainability of practice.
    With best wishes,
    (BVA Director of Policy, Media and Strategy)

  5. John Dennis
    John Dennis says:

    So the cat is out of the bag. Lucky Scottish OV’s get a 10% increase in fees for TB testing but English vets get a Monopoly Provider who is cutting fees by at least 10%. Time for the BVA to act and prepare for the changes in Rural Practice structure.

  6. Dave Cuffe
    Dave Cuffe says:

    I am a small animal vet and have spent my entire career in small animal practice and so my comments may come as a surprise to those of us who have worked in large animal practice all along.

    I think that with all that is known today we (the profession) should be prepared to initiate change in the culture. I do think the the Veterinary Futures initiative, before it gets bogged down on specifics like non-stun slaughter (I did not sign the petition) should take a broad look at the future and consider whether or not general intensive farming and slaughter is ethically justified.

    If we are going to put animal welfare first and central (as the public suppose we do) then we should be prepared to make value judgements about what we do now and suggest a more welfare considered methodology, which I suggest might mean considering a veterinary future with no place in it for intensive farming. If this, or any other paradigm, for the future is wished or justified, then all other specifics will be decided, and much more easily decided, within this welfare orientated concept.

    I have argued (privately) that in the current paradigm – large dairy farms producing milk sold at a loss in many cases and against a background of less cow’s milk being consumed – then to do that as currently worked, you must exterminate the badgers. It’s a no-brainer. However, my argument is not that we exterminate the badger. It is that we re-consider whether we should support a system whereby such an extermination is necessary.

    One of the bigger problems with food animal production is the slaughter, especially massed slaughter. Slaughtering animals is a brutalising business, and in turn the unfortunate animals are brutalised. It is piece work, after all. Not all abattoirs are bad, but not all are good. Of course CCTV in every abattoir is a good idea, but if we have a system that relies on CCTV to prevent brutalism, perhaps we have the wrong system.

    I do not seriously expect Veterinary Futures to suddenly ask the Profession for a Volte Face. But to put welfare before profit, that is what is needed. I think that this should be discussed, at least in principle. There are lots of opinions on this (including mine) but little hard evidence. We now know that birds and fish are sentient and more. There is good evidence that best practice is not always followed, and current best practice is defined by profitability. We could do better.


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