Updates to Practice Standards Scheme requirements set to lead the way in creating a more environmentally and socially sustainable profession

On 5th July, the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) published new environmental sustainability requirements, updates to current standards to incorporate sustainability, and a new Environmental Sustainability Award, that aims to encourage and support the professions to lead the way in addressing the global climate crisis. These changes were agreed upon by RCVS Council at its 9 June meeting, and they will be introduced in the following phases to give veterinary practices time to implement them:

  • The new Environmental Sustainability Award is available to apply for now, with assessments starting from January 2023
  • The social sustainability changes and other minor clarifications are effective immediately and will be assessed from October 2022
  • The new and amended Core Standards and General Practice level environmental sustainability standards will be effective from June 2023

The changes to the standards are the College’s response to the wide-spread interest from across the professions to learn more about what the sector can do to address the climate crisis and make day-to-day practice life more sustainable. A project to produce the standards was initiated in September 2021 after a recommendation by the RCVS Environment and Sustainability working party that the best-placed avenue for implementing sustainability was through the PSS. The new and amended standards were developed by the Practice Standards Group (PSG) in collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH), a charitable organisation with extensive experience of supporting human healthcare services to implement sustainable practices.

The new Environmental Sustainability Award is the first additional Award to be introduced since the launch of the PSS Awards in 2015. The Award allows practices to demonstrate that they have embedded environmentally sustainable behaviours and are excelling with their sustainability goals. The Award includes points for reducing waste, consolidating medicines orders and minimising drug wastage, and calculating the practice’s carbon footprint and setting reduction targets.

The changes and additions to the standards at Core Standards and General Practice level cover the sustainability of a wide range of practice areas, including requiring a sustainability policy, communicating sustainability achievements, and minimising anaesthetic gas usage. As well as improving environmental sustainability, the new and amended standards also include requirements to help make practices more socially sustainable, through measures including increasing diversity and inclusion.      

The PSS has produced a list of useful resources to support veterinary practices in meeting the new environmental sustainability standards and implementing sustainable practices in general.

Dr. Mandisa Greene, Chair of the Practice Standards Group, said: “It’s never been more pertinent that we review the sustainability of veterinary practice, and the introduction of these standards is a first, but vital, step in ensuring that the veterinary professions are doing all they can to manage their carbon footprint.

“PSS-accredited practices often go above and beyond to ensure they provide high-quality care for their clients, and we’re aware of how much time and energy goes into meeting the PSS standards. We want to assure PSS-accredited practices that the new standards won’t mean an overhaul of ways of working or result in expensive investment in resources. Instead, the standards explain ways that practices can increase their sustainability by putting in place new measures gradually over the next 12 months, in time for them becoming mandatory. As with all standards updates, the PSS team is always available to answer any questions that practices have and anyone who is unsure about how to apply them is encouraged to get in touch with the PSS team.”

During the last Standards Committee meeting, held on 9 May, there were also several approved clarifications to the standards in the form of guidance notes and minor changes across a range of accreditation levels. These include updates to the guidance notes for requirements on sterilisation of dental instruments, environmental swabbing of clinical areas, and anaesthetic monitoring.

The new version of the standards that includes all the latest changes, and a separate document listing all the updates, are available to download here.

Any questions from practices about the updates can be sent to the PSS team at pss@rcvs.org.uk

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