Have you ever wondered how people who prescribe veterinary medicines keep up to date? Many professions need to carry out “continuous professional development”, or lifelong learning, to be able to practice. And professional prescribers such as SQPs/RAMAs are no exception!
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What is an SQP or a RAMA?
SQP is a legal term for a category of registered qualified person (RQP) allowed to prescribe POM-VPS and NFA-VPS medicines for animals in their category, under the veterinary medicines’ regulations. Some SQPs may also operate under the title “RAMA”; or Registered Animal Medicines Advisor, as it describes their role more clearly than SQP.
SQPs/RAMA’s can qualify to prescribe and supply medicines to companion animals, equines, farm animals, avians or any combination of these. Their qualification has a letter indicating which animals they can supply medicines for.
Most SQPs/RAMA’s work in veterinary practices, pet shops or farm merchants and must work from an approved registered premises inspected by the VMD inspections and investigations team. If SQPs work in a veterinary practice, it will be inspected by the VMD or RCVS Practice Standards Scheme assessors, should it be a member of that voluntary scheme.
How do you become an SQP/RAMA?
The SQP qualification is level four, so candidates must pass a base module covering legislation and further modules in companion animal, farm animal, equine or avian. SQPs and RAMA’s sit an oral exam that assesses their professional competence. Some veterinary nurses qualify with an SQP qualification, but this is relatively new.
Staying on the Register
Every SQP/RAMA must undertake CPD (Continuing Professional Development). This is crucial as if SQP’s/RAMAs do not accrue sufficient CPD points over a two-year period, they must retake the exam.
CPD is ongoing training and helps SQPs/ RAMA’s stay up to date in the ever-changing world of veterinary medicines. This process allows them to further develop skills and knowledge in animal health and welfare.
Additionally, The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) protects animal health, public health and the environment and sets the Code of Practice for SQPs. This must be followed.
The Code of Practice states that:
1. All SQPs/ RAMA’s undertake CPD
2. Approved regulators, such as Vetpol, VetSkill or AMTRA, operate a system to monitor CPD and ensure SQPs remain up to date.
Why is staying up to date so important?
SQPs/ RAMA’s advice animal owners and add value through ongoing training and experience. Their work helps to ensure that animals stay health;, are treated promptly when it is required; and that high standards of animal welfare are maintained. Everyone benefits when owners and the people who advise them, take a comprehensive approach to their care.
The threats to animal health are ongoing and dynamic
Parasite distribution can change, and new disease may emerge in new areas. Our understanding of health and disease can also change as new research becomes known. This is why ongoing CPD is important; so SQPs/ RAMA’s can have the most up to date picture and provide the best advice.
During CPD, SQPs are giving appropriate advice on the safe use of POM-VPS and NFA-VPS medicines at the point of supply. Through CPD, SQPs/ RAMA’s are made aware of the SPC/Product Data Sheet information on new POM-VPS and NFA-VPS, as well as AVM-GSL medicines. In addition, a lot of CPD includes updates on legal and professional information and any changes to the Veterinary Medicine Regulations or the latest version of the SQP Code of Practice such as additional requirements for pharmacovigilance, drug disposal and so on.
SQPs/ RAMA’s are at the front line in giving out sound and reliable advice to help in the prevention of parasite build-up on pasture. Along with vets and pharmacists they contribute equally to Responsible Use of Anthelmintics. SCOPS principles and, more recently, COWS principles form the basis of CPD sessions in this area.
Through CPD training, SQPs/RAMA’s learn how to select the safest, most appropriate veterinary medicine for the animal(s), together with the latest research in limiting development of parasite resistance. The function of the SQP is not often understood fully either by those within the profession or the public. SQPs have a key role in ensuring that the best advice on safety and usage is given to clients at the point of sale.
A large number of animal keepers go to their local animal health outlet for routine worming and de-fleaing treatments. SQPs provide reassurance that products and treatments are being administered properly for the benefit of the animals, and that the person supplying them with medicine is competent to do so.
From their own professional point of view, SQPs have been quick to understand the ‘added value’ they provide by way of advice to the animal owner. So next time you’re taking to one, remember their depth of knowledge is there to help you!