AMTRA (the Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority) is the professional regulator for all Suitably Qualified Persons or SQPs who are entitled to prescribe and/or supply certain veterinary medicines under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations. We speak to Sharon Groves about her day-to-day role as a SQP.
How did you get into the pet industry?
I came via retail, equine and working for Countrywide, my husband and I were moving back to the Isle of Wight and saw Pets With Hart for sale, the rest as they say is history.
What roles have you undertaken?
There is nothing I won’t do in the shop, from cleaning to stocking up, weighing up, ordering and of course serving our wonderful customers!
When did you apply to become an SQP?
I was working for Countrywide, my husband was already an RSQP and I was very interested in it, and my manager (husband) suggested it as each store needed four SQP’s.
What is the process of doing so?
Training and studying and then the exams but none of it is too onerous, it’s just a case of studying and doing some research. Once you’ve become an SQP you are required to CPD each two year period so that you keep up to date with changes.
Why did you think it was necessary?
You can never have too much knowledge, you can help your customers more and at the time it was an advancement in my job.
How has it altered your role compared to before/the role of others?
I am much more useful to customers as I have a bigger range of products available to be able to prescribe for their pets. I’m also a lot more confident in how I can advise people with the knowledge I have gained over the years.
How has it improved the way you help customers?
You have a qualification that you’ve worked hard for and continue to glean knowledge from various webinars, Over The Counter quizzes and conferences. It gives you a fresh outlook and sometimes other SQP’s have found a different way to explain a product that will catch people’s attention.
What advice do you give to owners using your SQP status?
Usually one of our staff has come to get either myself or David to be able to prescribe for their pet, we would start by asking when it was last treated and what with, we would ask what weight it is, or if it’s a dog that they’ve bought in we can pop it on our scales. We have some dummy items that can give us approximate weight of cats, the more accurate we can be the better. We would advise on any contraindications that might occur and how to apply or dose correctly, all the time making sure the customer is capable of using the products correctly. If it looks like a customer is asking diagnostic questions, I will refer them to their vet – an SQP must not diagnose!
What benefit does having an SQP in store provide to customers and owners?
Quite often we supply our customers and owners with their pet’s food, so it saves them a trip to the vets, they come in for convenience too as we are open when the vets aren’t and can save them money. Sometimes they will pop in just for a bit of advice, which we can and are always happy to give.
What does a typical day for you look like?
Usually I’ll check all our animals are alright, then check the answerphone and sort out any deliveries that are due to go out. David will go out on the deliveries and Chris and I will organise the jobs for the day, I’ll sort the banking and orders and bills. You’ll quite often find me out the back of the shop weighing animal or bird food up. Then I’ll have reps visit as well. And of course I’ll serve our lovely customers too, prescribing products for their pets and having a general chat with them. At the end of the day I’ll check all the animals have been done and are all happy.
How regularly do you prescribe veterinary medicine?
As an SQP I am not allowed to prescribe any POMV products, they are vet only, though I can prescribe NFA-VPS and POMVPS and I do that most days.
How will becoming an SQP benefit independent and major retailers?
An SQP can be a huge asset to an independent store as their knowledge is deeper and more informed.
Your companion animal SQP representative on the AMTRA council – Sharon Groves, owner of independent pet and smallholder store, Pets with Hart in Newport on the Isle of Wight, was elected as a companion animal SQP representative in 2017.
This was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Pet Gazette.