3 August 2001

Nurse plan may reduce farmer veterinary bills

CHEAPER vet bills may be on the way if a plan to let veterinary nurses carry out procedures is approved.

The government is proposing that vet nurses should be allowed to carry out medical treatment or minor surgery on all species of animals. At the moment they are only allowed to do this type of work on companion animals like cats and dogs.

The proposals fulfil a pledge made by the government in its Action Plan for Farming, which it released after a farm summit at Downing Street in March 2000.

Mirroring arguments more commonly used with doctors and nurses in human medicine, the government claims that the ability to delegate tasks would improve efficiency and allow vets to spend more of their time reaching a diagnosis.

It also says the use of a nurse to undertake specific treatments should result in reduced fees.

Peter Rudman, NFU animal health and welfare adviser, said the union would be backing the move because it would help to increase the workforce.

The issue of cost was also important. "If a fully qualified vet is not needed then an auxiliary worker would help to reduce costs," he said.

But Jeff Gill, spokesman for the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, said while the RCVS backed the proposals it expected them to be of limited benefit to the farm sector.

Mr Gill said many farm procedures would have a strong diagnostic element which nurses would still be unqualified to carry out. &#42

. Under the new rules, nurses would also be prevented from carrying out any surgery that involved going into a body cavity. &#42