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A Division of the British Veterinary Association

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Minutes of a General Meeting of the Society held on Tuesday 11th May 2004, at the Athenaeum Club, 107 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5ER.

Present:  the President Mr. A. P. Muckle and 25 Fellows and guests.

Apologies for absence had been received from 20 Fellows.

Minutes of the meeting held on 2nd March 2004 had been circulated and were approved.

Matters arising:  none.

Correspondence:  none

Any Other Business:  none.

The President welcomed a new Fellow of the Society, Mr. Rupert Holmes.

The meeting was then addressed by Miss Jane Hern, MA, RCVS Registrar, on the subject of "Opening the Veterinary Surgeons Act".

Miss Hern pointed out that the impetus for a new Act had come from DEFRA, and that it was not something the RCVS had been pushing for.  However, there had been changes in public expectations since the 1966 Act, and while that had been drafted with a view to reacting to problems, the aim now was to frame legislation so as to avoid complaints arising in the first place.  To this end there would be an emphasis on revalidation rather than registration for life.  Points covered would be licences to practice (which may be restricted for example in cases of disability), CPD and the development of modular certificates, and a framework for paraprofessionals.  Attention must also be paid to the terms of the Human Rights Act.  It was proposed to extend the scope of the VSA to cover all animals including fish, and that the RCVS should regulate VNs and other paraprofessionals.  The Guide to Professional Conduct would be given formal status and there would be provision for the setting up of a Specialist register.

The question of the powers of the Disciplinary Committee was addressed.  At present only the major sanction of suspension or removal from the Register was available, and the gravity of this was such that very strong evidence of a very serious fault was necessary before it could be invoked.  It was suggested that wider powers to impose less harsh penalties for minor matters should be available, though any shift from the requirement of proof "beyond reasonable doubt" to "the balance of probabilities" was strenuously opposed.  There was also a suggestion that the Preliminary Investigation Committee should have powers of sanction, for example to warn in minor matters, but this created the problem of potentially imposing penalties without the right of a full hearing.  There was also concern about fines and suspensions.  If a suspension were to be overturned, would the RCVS be liable to that individual for lost income?

Miss Hern drew attention to the fact that the existing (1966) Act and Charter were now posted on the RCVS web site for members to refer to.

There was considerable discussion, including much criticism of the amateurish quality of the DEFRA document, and of the fact that the RCVS was moving very late in this matter, and paying little attention to previous work and consultations which had been carried out.  Professor Michell remarked that while a simple Act may find parliamentary time available, a complex document may actually prevent any progress being made.

At the end of the meeting Mr. Muckle passed the President's chain of office on to the newly-elected President Mr. Brian Hoskin, and thanked both the Hon. Secretary and the retiring Hon Treasurer Mr. Tribe with a gift of flowers.

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