Joined-up approach helps animal medicines advisors become a bigger part of the solution

Over the last year AMTRA has been embracing an on-going campaign geared towards farmers, the companion animal industry and the equine sector to raise awareness of the role of the SQP, and the qualified advice and expertise the SQP can provide ahead of and during the supply and prescription of animal medicines.

But what is AMTRA? What does it do, who does it represent, how is it regulated and how does it deliver value added services across the entire chain? We gain a closer insight into AMTRA’s role, its day to day activities and how it engages across the sector.

Put simply, the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority, or AMTRA, is the professional regulator for SQPs and it operates under the auspices of the VMD. First and foremost, this means AMTRA’s main remit is to ensure its SQPs prescribe and supply animal medicines in accordance with the legal responsibilities set out under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations.

The DEFRA Code of Practice is issued by the Secretary of State under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations. It sets down the standards that must be complied with not only by AMTRA, but also SQPs and retail businesses with premises that are registered to be able to hold and supply veterinary medicinal products.

Fundamental therefore to AMTRA’s activities, is its work alongside training centres to support course provision, and disseminating information and advice to AMTRA SQPs. AMTRA works closely alongside Harper Adams University to develop and maintain a qualification syllabus at Higher Education Level 4, meeting the needs of SQPs and the requirements of the Secretary of State.

“This is very much a two-way role”, explains Philip Sketchley, AMTRA chairman. “We are here to support the SQP and to demonstrate the high level of qualification all AMTRA SQPs hold before they are able to first prescribe and then supply medicines.

“Conversely, SQPs must be aware of their own responsibilities and requirements, and this includes keeping up to date with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) made available through AMTRA.”

AMTRA’s secretariat team, led by secretary general Stephen Dawson, has been instrumental in organising CPD events and training roadshows across the country, many in collaboration with industry partners such as AHDA and the veterinary advisors within the pharmaceutical sector.

Crucially, AMTRA prides itself on a joined-up approach, and indeed this is reflected in the AMTRA Board and Council, made up of industry bodies from across the sector, also including elected SQP representatives.

This solid platform enables AMTRA to take a proactive stance on issues relating to animal medicines. For example, AMTRA is a member of both SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep – www.scops.org.uk) and COWS (Control of Worms Sustainably – www.cattleparasites.org.uk), the two industry stakeholder groups representing the sheep and cattle industries.

Both SCOPS and COWS were formed to develop sustainable strategies for parasite control, to facilitate and deliver on ‘best–practice’ recommendations and to ensure new research and development continues. The SQP is a crucial channel in the dissemination of information, and plays an increasingly important and professional role as a prescriber of animal medicines, particularly in the farm-animal sector.

The challenge, and one AMTRA has focused on with its latest awareness campaign, has been to encourage farmers to seek the advice of the SQP, as their Animal Medicines Advisor but equally to be aware that the SQP must establish key facts before any treatment for their animals is prescribed or medicines supplied.

There has perhaps been a perception, maybe more so in the farm-animal sector, that the SQP is viewed by some as little more than a shop assistant. It is AMTRA’s role to help break-down these barriers and ensure AMTRA SQPs are given the credibility they deserve as professional Animal Medicine Advisors.

“We need to improve the understanding of the role of the SQP among all animal owners, whether for livestock, horses or pets,” says Mr Dawson.

“Underlining their role as animal medicines advisors supports the rigorous qualifications they hold, promotes the fact they are fully qualified professionals, and raises awareness of the skills and free and impartial advice they can offer.”

Conversely, it is crucial to support the SQP and make sure they are asking questions and challenging the animal owner ahead of prescribing any treatment. Not only is this a legal requirement, but it also establishes the best course of treatment for the animal.

Ultimately this ensures the animal, flock or herd gets the right treatment to maximise health, wealth and profitability. Surely that is a win-win for all involved and an important and reassuring message for consumer confidence in the provenance of high quality, safe food produced from UK livestock.