RCVS news: RCVS provides reassurance that vets will still be carrying out vital veterinary work during COVID-19 pandemic

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulator for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK, has released a new framework for veterinary practices, helping them to decide what treatments it is appropriate to carry out safely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The UK’s veterinary practices are one of the groups of businesses that the UK Government has confirmed can stay open during the pandemic, stating that ‘it is important for business to carry on’. The new guidance from the RCVS provides a pathway for determining how veterinary services may be provided to the nation’s animals, while prioritising public health and complying with the government’s social distancing advice for both the public and employers.

The guidance, which has been provided to the profession in the form of a flowchart available at www.rcvs.org.uk/coronavirus, allows veterinary professionals to determine which particular treatments and procedures they can carry out under social distancing guidelines, leaving it to their judgement what they actually offer, depending on their facilities, level of staffing and local disease pressures.

Some of its key points are:

  • Veterinary work that is vital for the maintenance of the UK’s food supplies and food trade – such as ensuring food hygiene standards and supporting the livestock industry – should still be carried out, while observing biosecurity measures;
  • Veterinary practices should still take steps to provide emergency and critical care for seriously injured or ill animals;
  • Where feasible and appropriate, veterinary practices can provide consultations for animal owners and their pets remotely;
  • If cases can be supported while still maintaining social distancing, or if the planned treatment could have animal health and welfare or public health implications if not carried out within the next two months, then these may be carried out. However, the RCVS has recommended to veterinary practices that, alongside social distancing, they put in place further measures to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, including consideration of personal protective equipment and the movement of people from, to and around the practice. The British Veterinary Association (BVA), the representative body for UK veterinary surgeons, has published advice for animal owners on these treatments, including vaccinations, at: www.bva.co.uk/coronavirus/coronavirus-advice-for-animal-owners/

The RCVS has also updated its advice for animal owners on interacting with veterinary practices. This includes advice not to turn up to practices unannounced, and always to contact the practice in advance so that veterinary staff can assess whether attendance in person is needed or if the consultation can be carried out remotely. There is additional advice for animal owners who are self-isolating that is in-line with the Government’s ‘stay at home’ guidance for those with possible COVID-19 infections.    

Dr Niall Connell, President of the RCVS, commented: “During these difficult times we understand that, for many, their beloved pets are a comfort and a solace and that they want to make sure they remain fit and healthy. We know that what might happen if their animal falls ill is a concern for many.

“I would like to reassure the country’s animal owners that veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses are still absolutely committed to ensuring animal health and welfare. However, the number one priority for veterinary practices at the moment is public health, including that of their clients and their own teams. As a result, there will be certain limitations on available veterinary services. Practices will not be operating on a ‘business as usual’ basis because they will be trying to keep the amount of face-to-face contact to a minimum. We ask that members of the public trust, as we do, the professional judgement of veterinary practices as to what treatments are necessary and what can be safely and appropriately carried out.

“As ever, veterinary professionals are rising to the challenge by working together to find innovative ways of offering veterinary services remotely and, where attendance at a veterinary practice is absolutely necessary, reducing the risk of virus transmission through social distancing measures.

“The vast majority of animal owners have been patient and understanding of the situation, and the efforts their practices are going to, and I would like to thank them for that.”

The Frequently Asked Questions and guidance for animal owners from the RCVS can be found at https://animalowners.rcvs.org.uk/coronavirus.

The flowchart for the veterinary professions to help them navigate how veterinary services can be provided is available at www.rcvs.org.uk/coronavirus

Any further questions should be directed to the RCVS Standards and Advice Team on advice@rcvs.org.uk

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