The need for a register of qualified animal health professionals more important than ever!
The Animal Health Professions Register (AHPR) have highlighted how vital it is for all qualified practitioners to belong to a register of professionals following the increase in unqualified therapists offering treatment to animals.
This issue was raised by qualified animal health paraprofessionals after becoming aware of therapy centers and individuals prescribing treatments/remedial exercise programmes for animals without holding appropriate qualifications, nor having a veterinary referral to carry out such treatments.
The musculoskeletal therapy disciplines covered include animal / veterinary physiotherapy, Chiropractic and manipulation, animal sports therapy and massage, and animal hydrotherapy. Any treatment should be carried out by a qualified professional, following a veterinary referral, with veterinary permission, or with the knowledge of the consulting veterinary surgeon.
Qualified practitioners and vets share the AHPR’s worries about the impact of unqualified treatments on patient safety and welfare as well as that of the owners who are paying for treatment for their pets by an unqualified person. At the very least these treatments may be ineffective and therefore a waste of money, at worst, they may be detrimental to health and well-being, and ultimately welfare.
Sarah Keith is an AHPR board member and holds an MSc in Veterinary Physiotherapy from Harper Adams University. Sarah told us “This issue is becoming increasingly more troubling to myself and my colleagues. There are examples of practitioners in both small animal and equine therapy, performing veterinary physiotherapy treatments/prescribing remedial exercise programmes without holding the appropriate qualifications nor having a veterinary referral. We feel it is not appropriate for someone to offer any kind of remedial exercise for a dog or horse (and this includes the various “canine conditioning” clinics and other equine clinics) unless they have the appropriate qualifications. Anyone offering any electrophysical agent treatment, including pulsed magnetic field therapy, LASER etc., should be appropriately qualified and trained to do so. For example, in veterinary physiotherapy, students of our AHPR-accredited courses all undergo specific training on the calculation of dosage, and contraindications of such modalities, but also have a fundamental understanding of the disease and tissue healing process, and so are able to accurately prescribe treatments”.
Sarah adds “At present, the title “veterinary physiotherapist” is not protected in law, and so anyone is able to use it (or a variation of) to refer to themselves regardless of their qualifications. It is possible to “qualify” as an equine massage therapist after just one week’s worth of training! I personally end up seeing a lot of horses that come to me for ongoing issues that have not been resolved nor referred on to a vet by the previous inappropriately qualified / unqualified therapist, either because they do not understand their scope of practice, and / or don’t have the relevant training to be able to recognise the requirement for onward referral”.
All AHPR registrants have achieved an industry-recognised appropriate standard of training through externally accredited courses, comply with Continuing Professional Development requirements and hold full, valid professional indemnity insurance as required by the wider industry. At present there is no legal requirement for a person to be on one of the two voluntary registers, so the AHPR believes this shows a great deal of accountability from our registrants, who want to see industry standards raised.
Liz Troman MSc RVN, Chair of the AHPR said “In all professions there are increased demand for animal owners looking for supportive treatments to maintain the wellbeing and health issues of their animals. It is even more important in today’s world that standards are upheld and people use recognised professionals to deliver their needs”.
For more information about the Animal Health Professions’ Register, accredited courses or to find an AHPR professional visit: www.ahpr.org.uk