Legislation to tighten the rules surrounding veterinary practices have been put on to the back burner by Defra until at least 2011.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) wants to modernise the Veterinary Surgeons’ Act 1966, which both it and Defra have described as being out of step with changes in the veterinary world (news, 18 July 2005).

It was anticipated that parliamentary time would be put aside this year to debate changes to the Act put forward by the RCVS in 2003.

But in a surprise move, Lord Rooker, minister responsible for animal health and welfare, told a select committee meeting on 3 March that Defra is too understaffed to consider drawing up the legislation and will bid for resources to update the Act in the next spending review round, in 2011.

Jeff Gill of the RCVS said: “It is obviously a disappointment. We operate under regulations that were old-fashioned when they were introduced in 1966.”

Mr Gill said there were four areas the RCVS particularly wants updating: the separation of function between those who make the rules and those who police them; the recognition of veterinary nurses and making them subject to the same regulations as vets; requiring vets to undergo continual professional development, and broadening the RCVS’s powers to allow it to discipline practices, as well as individual vets.

A spokesman for Defra said: “Defra acknowledges that the Veterinary Surgeons Act needs to be updated and while we do not plan to replace the Act during the coming three-year period we will continue to work closely with the RCVS and consider any further proposals they put forward.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (27 March, ’08)