Home Affairs Committee - Drugs: Breaking the CycleWritten evidence Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) (DP103)

1. The following evidence is provided on behalf of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK. The role of the RCVS is to safeguard the health and welfare of animals committed to veterinary care through the regulation of the educational, ethical and clinical standards of veterinary surgeons and nurses, thereby protecting the interests of those dependent on animals, and assuring public health. It also acts as an impartial source of informed opinion on relevant veterinary matters.

2. The RCVS commends the Home Affairs Committee for undertaking a comprehensive review of the UK drugs policy. The RCVS considers that it is essential for any such a review to take into account issues relating to veterinary controlled drugs and the level of veterinary expertise available to the Government in relation to the use and potential misuse of such medicines.

3. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 removed the statutory requirement for an expert in veterinary medicine to be part of the Government’s Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). Whilst, currently, one of the members of the ACMD is a veterinary surgeon, there is no certainty that such veterinary expertise will be maintained on the Committee when the current member leaves his post.

4. The RCVS considers that it is essential for the ACMD to house appropriate veterinary expertise, if the Committee is to provide high quality advice to the Government on the misuse of drugs. Without such expertise, there would appear to be the potential risk of a serious knowledge gap on the Committee, which could result in the misuse of certain veterinary drugs and the harm they may cause, being overlooked.

5. Such veterinary expertise currently assists the Committee to identify those veterinary medicines that could be subject to misuse, to advise on their potential to cause harm and to provide practical advice as to the measures that the veterinary profession could take to ensure that the legitimate veterinary use of such medicines does not contribute to their misuse. Furthermore, veterinary expertise on the ACMD ensures that the advice given by the Committee relating to the control of veterinary medicines, does not adversely impact upon the veterinary profession or restrict the profession’s ability to access medicines that are essential to the practice of veterinary medicine and to ensuring the health and welfare of animals in the UK.

6. As example of the importance of veterinary expertise on the ACMD, the RCVS would like to draw the attention of the Home Affairs Committee to the 2005 Home Office review of Ketamine, a drug used in hospitals for human pain management and widely used as an anaesthetic in veterinary practice. The ACMD took a central role in this review and set up a working group to consider the potential harm caused by the misuse of the drug and to hear evidence from a range of experts. This review led to the reclassification of Ketamine as a class C Schedule 4 controlled drug and ensured that doctors and veterinary surgeons could continue to access the drug, and subject to a series of recommendations made by the ACMD ensured that the potential for misuse was minimised.

7. If clarification on the above comments is required, please do not hesitate to contact the College.

January 2012

Prepared 8th December 2012