Ultrasound Scanning and the Importance of Proper Training in Light of Recent RCVS Announcement


This article is a summary of a conversation between myself and a regulations representative at the RCVS. It reflects the personal speculations of the individual I spoke to in addition to the official views of the RCVS.

In a recent announcement, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) emphasised that the intravaginal artificial insemination (AI) of dogs is classified as an act of veterinary surgery. The RCVS stated that this procedure should only be performed by a qualified veterinary surgeon or a registered veterinary nurse under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon. Violation of these regulations is a criminal act.

It is important to note that the current announcement regarding AI and its classification as an act of veterinary surgery is a consequence of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) not implementing legislation for regulation. Due to the lack of guidelines, the RCVS was compelled to declare that all AI performed by lay-professionals is illegal. This declaration serves as a precautionary measure until DEFRA establishes legal guidelines and licensing laws that may create exemptions, allowing paraprofessionals to practice AI. However, it is unlikely that these regulations will be introduced in the near future, thus prompting the recent announcement by the RCVS.

This announcement has sparked concerns within the ultrasound scanning community, particularly among those operating scanning businesses. There are fears that future legislation may pose a threat to their operations. However, it is highly unlikely that ultrasound scanning itself will ever be made illegal. Instead, it is possible that canine fertility services, including AI, will undergo scrutiny and regulation during the review of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, which was enacted in 1966 and is overdue for an update. However, it is clear that ultrasound scanning is not on the agenda for discussion right now and is never likely to be.

It is important for professionals in the ultrasound scanning community to be aware of these developments and to prioritise acquiring the necessary training to comply with existing regulations. The evolving landscape of AI and veterinary surgery highlights the need for proper education and qualifications within the field. The Animal Ultrasound Association (AUA), under the guidance of Catherine Stowell, offers pioneering and comprehensive training in the area of ultrasound scanning. Stowell’s credentials, including her MSc in Medical Ultrasound from Imperial College and accreditation in transthoracic echocardiography from the British Society of Echocardiography, attest to her expertise in the field. As the founder and primary instructor of the AUA, Stowell ensures that all courses are designed and taught by herself and Yvette Lovis (clinical specialist obstetric sonographer) with an unwavering focus on safety.

It is worth noting that future developments in regulation may occur in the coming months or years, as DEFRA may establish legal guidelines and licensing laws that allow paraprofessionals to engage in AI under specific exemptions. However, the timing of such changes remains uncertain.

The AUA encourages individuals and businesses within the ultrasound scanning community to reach out if they have any questions or concerns. The association aims to provide reassurance and long-term support, offering resources and guidance to navigate the evolving regulatory landscape. The AUA values the thoughts and feedback from industry professionals and seeks to tailor its offerings to meet the needs of businesses and individuals.

As the industry adapts to potential future changes, it is essential for ultrasound scanning businesses to prioritise proper training and association memberships. By staying informed, investing in education, and aligning with reputable organizations like the AUA, businesses can ensure they are well-prepared for any regulatory developments. Proactively future-proofing operations will not only safeguard the legality of their practices but also contribute to maintaining the trust and confidence of clients within the veterinary community.

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