What is a suitably qualified person?
‘Suitably Qualified Person (SQP)’ is a phrase used in the veterinary medicines legislation in relation to the prescription and supply of medicines. In practical terms this means a person registered with the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority (AMTRA) who is permitted by the regulations to prescribe and/or supply medicines classified as POM-VPS or NFA-VPS.
A Registered Qualified Person (RQP) is a term used to encompass:
- Veterinary surgeons registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
- Pharmacists registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (in Great Britain) or the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
- SQPs registered with AMTRA.
The regulations also define other types of 'qualified person', including Manufacturing Qualified Persons and Pharmacovigilance Qualified Persons.
AMTRA has been involved with the training and registering of saddlers and merchants (the predecessors of SQPs) for many years. Currently it is the only professional body for SQPs. All have to be registered with AMTRA and pay an annual fee, which varies with the category of SQP. AMTRA also monitors continuing professional development (CPD) and deals with complaints about breaches of professional standards.
An SQP can prescribe and supply POM-VPS and supply NFA-VPS veterinary medicinal products (VMPs), but only from authorized premises and only from within the animal group category they are trained and registered for. The SQP works according to a Code of Practice issued by the Defra Secretary of State through the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and distributed by AMTRA. SQPs can also supply AVM-GSL medicines and those marketed under the Small Animal Exemption Scheme (SAES).
SQP examinations and categories
The Code of Practice for SQPs mandates that all SQP qualifications be at Higher Education Level 4 (equivalent to first-year degree level) and outlines the required syllabus. All SQPs have to pass a base examination, which covers legislation, basic anatomy and physiology and basic disease challenges. In addition to the base element, there are species modules: farm animal; equine; and companion animal. In order to supply medicines the SQP must have passed the relevant species group module as well as the base and oral examinations. Thus, SQPs can combine the four species modules to create the qualification relevant to them and their business. The category of SQP is indicated by a character or characters within their SQP number. The most common are:
- R-SQP – all species groups
- E-SQP – equine and companion animal only
- C- SQP – companion animal only.
There are other potential species combinations with their own prefixes. For more information, click here.
Where can an SQP work from?
SQPs must operate from approved premises. Those premises may be a registered veterinary practice or a registered pharmacy, in which case no further registration is needed, or, more commonly, an SQP retailer's premises registered with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). The VMD will inspect premises and register them annually. For more information, see the VMD's SQP Retailers Information and Guidance for Approval and Veterinary Medicines Guidance Note 3: Guidance for Retailers.
What can an SQP do?
An SQP can mentally, orally or in writing prescribe a POM-VPS medicine for a client. They do not need to see the animal. They may not diagnose disease but can identify infestation, e.g. lice. They may not treat disease but can advise on prevention and control of disease. Most of the medicines in the VPS categories do have preventive uses, e.g. antiparasitic medicines, farm animal vaccines, nutritional supplements, antiseptic medicines and some local anaesthetics.
Obligations on the SQP
When prescribing and supplying a product within the POM-VPS category or supplying a product within the NFA-VPS category, the SQP must always:
- Be satisfied that the person who will use the product is competent to use it safely
- Advise on any warnings or contraindications on the label or product leaflet
- Provide advice on the safe administration of the product
- Supply the product specified in that prescription
- Take all reasonable steps to ensure that the product is supplied to the person named in the prescription.
Exotic species and off license use
On their own authority, an SQP may only supply medicines and advise on use strictly according to the datasheets or summary of product characteristics (SPC). If a client wishes to use a medicine for a species for which it is not authorized (e.g. give a POM-VPS product only authorized for cattle to a reptile), then an SQP may only supply the medicine to a veterinary prescription under the prescribing cascade. Similarly, if an NFA-VPS product authorized, for example, for tick control in cats was to be used for aviary birds, then a veterinary prescription with advised administration and dose instructions would be required.
Being an SQP gives no extra rights in relation to POM-V medicines. Any supply of a POM-V medicine in a veterinary practice would be under the authority and responsibility of the prescribing veterinary surgeon.
How to become an SQP
No prior qualifications are required. All aspiring SQPs must register with AMTRA as an
SQP ‘trainee’. Once registered, they will be sent a manual and a password to the online learning tool.
A potential SQP may use these online tools and prepare themselves for the examinations, attend company training or attend a course at one of the colleges in the UK that provides them. These courses vary from half day revision sessions to 2-week full courses. It is important that the potential SQP matches the course with their required qualification. Courses can be sourced through the AMTRA website.
A potential SQP is assessed by examinations set and marked by Harper Adams University College. These examinations take place at regular intervals at examination centres throughout the country. A potential SQP will register for a specific examination place and date with AMTRA. All potential SQPs have to pass a viva run by AMTRA, and sit and pass a base examination. Each SQP must also pass one or more species group examinations. This will define their SQP title and the species of animals that they may supply for. Additional species modules may be added at future dates to extend the range of medicine groups available to the SQP.
How does a qualified veterinary nurse become an SQP?
If a qualified veterinary nurse wishes to become an SQP, then recognition is given of the previous assessed study. Production of their veterinary nursing certificate will allow APL or APEL (credit given for prior learning) to be awarded and the veterinary nurse would then only be required to sit a shortened assessment, which concentrates on legislation and application of the knowledge and understanding they are already likely to have, in order to become a C-SQP. They can build on this by adding the farm animal, avian or equine modules. Student nurses or non-qualified practice staff have to sit the full examination process.
Continuing professional development
Once qualified, an SQP has to show they are keeping up to date. There is a 2-yearly requirement for CPD points. These can be gained from attending accredited meetings, accredited distance learning, private study and internet assessments. For more information, click here.