We are disappointed to hear that the RCVS are moving forward with the proposal for Limited Licensure for individuals with disabilities. Change is sorely needed in the way that vets with chronic illness and disability are viewed and supported within the profession, but the concept of creating different categories of vet is rife with issues, and unlikely to tackle the discrimination that already exists within the wider veterinary community.
A Problematic Proposal We believe that the RCVS have made this proposal with good intentions, but we are alarmed at the significant risk that this approach may result in more harm than good. Our chief concern is that it will likely result in the creation of a “two-tier” system, where vets with long-term health conditions are treated differently from those without. This will lead to those vets being de-valued, and may well facilitate further discrimination within the profession.
We are aware that, given this concept is still in its early stages, no details have been given as to how any system of limited licensure will be implemented. However, any execution is likely to be costly in terms of time, energy, and money. This burden will fall not only on the RCVS, but also upon those vets who are forced to navigate this additional bureaucracy, adding additional burdens to individuals who already face extra challenges as we navigate a world not designed for us.
Any system that is developed runs the significant risk of being simplistic and inflexible. Chronic illness and disability are extremely complex, and the experience of living with ill-health is never the same between two individuals. Any system that tries to assess vets to put them into categories of illness, and to decree who is permitted to carry out which kinds of procedures, will inevitably fail to capture this complexity. If the system relies on self-reporting, then it is simply redundant; our current legislation relies on self-regulation without the need for an additional layer of bureaucracy.
An Ill-Informed Proposal We are disappointed that as a community, we were not consulted directly by the RCVS regarding these significant changes. In a recent poll, more the three-quarter of our online community had no idea that this kind of proposal was being considered, and none of the remainder were aware that the proposal was being pushed through. We are grateful that the BVA gave us the opportunity to be part of their working group on this subject, but given that we are the ones who will be most affected by these changes, we would have hoped that the RCVS would consult with us directly.
A Simpler Solution We fail to see what failings are present in the current system for currently practicing vets. Self-regulation regarding scope of practice is already in place, and to our knowledge has worked well to date. We are not aware of any compelling reason why this would need to be changed.
We wholeheartedly acknowledge that there is a need for change regarding the admission of vet students, but we see no reason why this self-regulation cannot be extended to them, too. Self-awareness and the ability to within one’s own limits, are the very basis on which we allow students to graduate and go into the workplace as qualified vets. If we do not think an individual is capable of this self-regulation, we should not be admitting them into the profession at all.
There are alternative ways to demonstrate fulfilment of the “Day One Competencies”. Our medical colleagues are already leading the way by allowing disabled students to demonstrate knowledge through verbal description and direction of colleagues or innovative adjustments to how an assessment is designed such as using stimulatory models or changing something about the physicality of the task, like heights or weights of activities 1. There is no reason why the veterinary sector cannot follow this example.
BVCIS is calling upon the RCVS to drop the proposal for limited licensure of disabled veterinary surgeons, and to extend the current stance on self-regulation to veterinary students.