What Is An SQP?

A Suitably Qualified Person (SQP) is an animal medicines advisor, a legal category of professionally qualified persons who are entitled to prescribe and/or supply certain veterinary medicines under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations.

It is the duty of an SQP to ensure that the statutory requirements in respect of the prescription and/or supply of certain veterinary medicines are respected, advising animal owners on choice of medicine and their safe and effective use, as well as other strategies, contributing to the health and welfare of their animals. The SQP is responsible for ensuring this irrespective of how the product is supplied, e.g. supply from a registered retail premises, postal supply, from a website, etc.

What sort of people are SQPs?

As of July 2017 there are about 7000 SQPs. They include almost 900 working in veterinary practices, increasing numbers of registered pet shop staff, suppliers of equine products, and those working in agricultural merchants and country stores.

AMTRA provides a list of all the AMTRA SQPs on the current year’s Register, which is published by VMD together with a list of the approved SQP Retailers’ Premises.

What medicines can SQPs prescribe and/or supply?

An SQP is entitled to prescribe and/or supply the categories of product that fall within the scope of the qualification they have obtained and the registration they hold – see table later.

The range of veterinary medicines available to SQPs fall within the follow distribution classifications:

  • POM-VPS (Prescription Only Medicine – Veterinarian, Pharmacist, SQP)
  • NFA-VPS (Non-Food Animal – Veterinarian, Pharmacist, SQP)
  • AVM-GSL (Authorised Veterinary Medicine – General Sales List)

In broad terms, the POM-VPS medicines are those in farm animals and horses used to reduce or prevent effects of endemic disease in herds, flocks or individual animals (e.g. internal and external parasites in farm animals and horses, and some vaccines), where there are risks for the user/animal/consumer/environment but these can be moderated by oral or written advice from professional non-vets.

Similarly, the NFA-VPS medicines are only for use in non-food animals where they may be used routinely to prevent or limit the effects of endemic disease (e.g. internal and external parasites), where there are risks for the user/animal/consumer/environment but these can be moderated by oral or written advice, and where the animal keeper can be given sufficient practical advice to permit effective and safe usage.

Details of which medicines fall into which categories can be found in the VMD’s Product Information Database and the NOAH Compendium.

What’s necessary to become an AMTRA SQP?

To qualify as an AMTRA SQP a person must undertake relevant training and pass examinations approved by AMTRA at Higher Education Level 4 or higher, and pass a viva (oral exam) conducted by an AMTRA Assessor.

  • Most AMTRA SQPs become qualified via a modular approach (see below);
  • qualified Veterinary Nurses can become AMTRA SQPs via a top-up exam that recognises their existing qualification;
  • there is also a route for pharmacy professionals via the Veterinary Pharmacy Education Programme;

For more information see the syllabus and academic qualifications required; the process is given in more detail under Becoming an SQP.

For those student SQPs enrolling via the most common, modular approach, all must pass the Base module and between one and three additional species modules: these determine the category of SQP qualification obtained. The species modules are:

  • FAM – Farm Animal Module
  • EQM – Equine Module
  • CAM – Companion Animal Module
  • AVM – Avian Module

There are therefore a variety of categories of SQP:

R-SQP FAM + EQM + CAM All VPS Medicines
G-SQP FAM + EQM VPS – farm animals & equines
K-SQP FAM + CAM VPS – farm & companion animals
E-SQP EQM + CAM VPS – equines & companion animals only
L-SQP FAM VPS – farm animals only
J-SQP EQM VPS – equines only
C-SQP CAM VPS – companion animals only
A-SQP AVM VPS – avians only
CA-SQP CAM + AVM VPS – companion & avian
JA-SQP EQM + AVM VPS – equine & avian
EA-SQP CAM + EQM + AVM VPS – companion, equine & avian

What about after becoming an SQP?

All SQPs are obliged to undertake CPD – Continuing Professional Development. The amount of CPD required depends on the category of SQP registration (see above).

All CPD is accredited by AMTRA in advance, and a proportion is subject to an audit visit by an AMTRA CPD auditor. All CPD points are then recorded by AMTRA to keep track of how each individual is progressing.

All supply by SQPs of POM-VPS or NFA-VPS medicines must be done from registered premises.

Doesn’t AMTRA deal with pharmaceutical company reps too?

Until November 2010, AMTRA also managed a separate register of pharmaceutical company representatives, originally known as the Manufacturers’ Reps qualification and more latterly as the Marketing Authorisation Holder (MAH) Reps qualification. Occasionally, the dual roles performed by AMTRA led to these individuals being incorrectly called SQPs, though the syllabus and training were quite distinct.

In 1991, NOAH members decided that an independent industry qualification should be established to reassure their customers, regulatory authorities and the government that animal medicines were being sold in a responsible way. NOAH and AMTRA launched the qualification, drawn up to ensure that all manufacturing companies’ representatives undergo thorough training and possess sufficient veterinary and technical knowledge to present information on the company’s products in an accurate and responsible manner.

In 2010, NOAH decided to bring management of this system in-house, and from November 2010 maintenance of the register of animal health representatives previously registered with AMTRA under the MAH scheme switched to NOAH. NOAH now co-ordinates the register and arrangements for training courses and examinations. The AMTRA MAH qualification is now known as the NOAH Certificate in Animal Health.