In July 2013 the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) announced plans to improve the quality and accessibility of training for Official Veterinarians (OVs) through the introduction of a modern, flexible approach to training, which reflects current business needs and changes to the veterinary sector.
Why have changes been made?
The previous system for training OVs reflected a historic concept of veterinary practice structure and, with a variety of business models for veterinary practices now developing, the APHA has reviewed the system of training and authorisation to ensure it is relevant to this changing landscape.
In addition, all state veterinary functions are now subject to audit by international organisations such as the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission. In order to meet this scrutiny and to safeguard our ability to trade internationally, it is necessary to meet reasonable expectations for governance of our entire national veterinary service.
Finally, as government services are now required to be provided ‘digital by default’, the APHA wanted to explore new ways of working, including electronic systems for export certification and reporting test results, and these require additional training and retraining.
An organisation with proven success in veterinary education and continuous professional development (CPD), Improve International, has been appointed to deliver this training on behalf of the APHA.
What is the qualification?
The APHA introduced a qualification that you are required to hold in order to act as an OV. This qualification, which replaces previous OV Panels, is called the Official Controls Qualification (Veterinary), or OCQ(V). The term OCQ(V) is followed by two letters, which indicate the work area covered by the specific qualification.
Further details on the work areas covered by each OCQ(V) can be found here.
You can train for and hold any OCQ(V)s, irrespective of whether you currently work in the field covered by the qualification, as they form part of your CPD. For example, if you are a small animal practitioner, you can hold an OCQ(V) that relates to large animals. (Non-RCVS members please check here.)
What training is required to achieve the new qualification?
Training for each OCQ(V) consists of a series of online courses that can be taken in more than one session. You must, however, complete the courses in sequence and a record is maintained by Improve International, showing your progress.
Each OCQ(V) has reflective exercises throughout and is completed with a final online examination. You have the opportunity to retake the examination if you are initially unsuccessful. Among the advantages of the new system are that delays in the availability of training courses can be avoided as all training is available on-demand. You can also minimise time spent away from the workplace, sometimes at distant locations, as you can take the courses either out-of-hours or during the working day. The OCQ(V) - TT (Tuberculin Testing), also requires assessment of practical skills.
All qualifications are accredited by the International School of Veterinary Postgraduate Studies (ISVPS) and validated by Harper Adams University (HAU). On registration, you can elect to gain university credits on achieving the selected OCQ(V)s. There is a small additional fee for this and each OCQ(V) carries 5 credits at Level 5 within the QAA Framework, which can also be upgraded to Level 7.
What is the registration process?
If you wish to become an OV, please register on this site, then enrol for the relevant OCQ(V)s. You must pass the appropriate OCQ(V)s, hold current RCVS membership and tick the relevant box to apply to the APHA to be awarded OV status. You will be required to revalidate at the appropriate revalidation cycle.
Improve International, together with ESPVS and HAU, is responsible for issuing the accredited qualification. Once you have successfully completed the OCQ(V), Improve International notifies the APHA of your qualification and relevant MRCVS number. The APHA will then authorise you as an OV.
Who provides OV authorisation?
APHA continues to provide the final authorisation on behalf of Defra and the Scottish and Welsh Governments, which applies for the duration of the validity of the Certificate of Competence. APHA can also withdraw authorisation. Should you lose your RCVS membership, your authority to act as an OV is automatically revoked and must be reinstated by APHA, along with any appropriate terms, before you may operate as an OV again.
Whilst APHA is responsible for granting authorisation, the application is made through this registration website.
In respect of OCQ(V) - TT only, the passing of the online exam must be followed by the nomination of a Supervisor and completion of a Sam declaration form. APHA will then grant conditional authorisation to conduct TB skin tests. Such tests can only be undertaken under the supervision or direction of a fully qualified OV tester. Full OV status will only be conferred on completion of the OCQ(V) - TT Practical Assessment, which will be arranged with Improve International.
OVs are not obliged to undertake OV work and no commitment is made by APHA in relation to the availability of government funded OV work. An OCQ(V) is taken by you and becomes part of your CPD record. The qualification is portable between employers. Please ensure that changes to your main employer details are updated on your registration record in order that payments can be processed. Improve International will provide you with up-to-date information on CPD opportunities appropriate to your OCQ(V), as well as revalidation reminders.
To enable checks to be carried out, for example on Export Health Certificates, APHA require an electronic signature for your registration record. You will be asked to upload a scanned or photographed signature as part of the initial registration process. It will not be possible to download a certificate of authority without a signature. If it is not possible for you to scan or photograph your signature, please contact Improve International.
Data held is protected in accordance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but, as part of the registration process, you are required to agree to data provided being shared between Improve International and the APHA in order that you can be authorised to work as an OV. It is also your responsibility to ensure that your address and contact details are kept up to date.
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