Industry Regulation Update

Over the past few years there have been a number of changes regarding regulation of the animal health professions. Katie Lawrence, board member of the Animal Health Professions’ Register (AHPR) answers some of the commonly asked questions around regulation and provides some guidance on how to become a regulated practitioner.

There are potential changes to the Law that could affect animal health professions
Currently, under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, only a registered veterinary surgeon is permitted to provide treatment to an animal; however there is an exception to this law which allows for non-veterinary surgeons (described as unqualified persons) to treat animals. This exception is the Veterinary Surgery (Exemption) Order 2015. One of the allowances under this exemption is treatment with “physiotherapy” which the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons interprets as all kinds of manipulative therapy. Therefore, all practitioners treating animals with manipulative therapies in the UK must comply with this law and must only work with the consent of the treating Veterinary Surgeon. However, this Exemption Order and laws relating to treatment of animals by ‘unqualified persons’ is under review.

In early 2016, the UK government department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) asked the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to take the lead on a review of exemptions; the Exemption Orders & Associates (EOA) working party was formed. This party has proposed a reform of the current law which would specify that those permitted to practice “physiotherapy” would be associate members of the RCVS. In a nutshell, that means in the future there is a high likelihood that to treat animals with “physiotherapy” (remembering the RCVS definition of this) the practitioner would need to be registered with the RCVS as an associate.

What does this have to do with AHPR and how are they involved?
As an industry grows there is a natural progression of regulation. Industry associations have, over the past 20 + years, developed and improved the standards of training, code of conduct, CPD requirements etc. The next logical step is voluntary independent regulation and ultimately full compulsory regulation. AHPR is an organisation which provides voluntary regulation in advance of compulsory regulation (in the form of the proposed RCVS associates register). AHPR are in discussion with the RCVS who are supportive of the idea of a voluntary regulatory body before the possible move to full regulation. AHPR has very rigorous policies and procedures in place which have been developed in alignment with the RCVS and Professional Standards Authority (PSA) models of regulation. AHPR represents its registrants and continues to liaise with the RCVS through forthcoming changes to the Law and regulation as it evolves.

Am I eligible to apply for registration?
The short answer is yes. If you are a working therapist and the definition of your therapy falls under one of our subgroup categories then you are eligible to apply. Depending on your training and experience there are different routes of application. Successful applicants will be fully assessed by AHPR as competent to practice. The extent of this assessment is dependent on your previous training and experience.

Should I still be part of my professional interest group?
Yes! The professional interest groups and associations have worked with the training organisations and have been the drivers for this change. They have represented you as members throughout the whole development process and continue to do so. AHPR is not a membership organisation but an independent voluntary regulator. It is important to recognise the difference. Your association provides the opportunity for you to be part of a supportive community of fellow professionals where you can network and share best practice with each other. AHPR regulates you as a practitioner and provides recognition and validation that you meet the highest standards of practice and conduct.

What are the subgroups and when do the grandfathering windows close?
Currently, there are AHPR subgroups for Animal Chiropractic and Manipulation, Animal/Veterinary Physiotherapy, Animal Sports Therapy and Massage and Small Animal Hydrotherapy. If you offer an evidence based practice which does not fall under any of these categories, you are welcome to apply to form a new subgroup. We guide new subgroups through the process of setting their industry standards and competencies. The grandfathering windows are open for two years from the launch of the subgroup. Please contact your relevant representative through the website for specific dates but the first window to close is the Veterinary Physiotherapy (VP) subgroup on the 1st April 2020. Therefore, if you are a VP who has not taken an AHPR accredited route of training and you want to apply for registration, you must do so before this cut off date. After this date the only way to access the register as a VP will be via one of the accredited training routes (unless you are from outside the UK).

For further information and contact details please visit www.ahpr.org.uk.

Alternatively, you can contact Katie directly on vetphysio@ahpr.org.uk

Animal Therapy Magazine