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21. Do veterinary professionals qualify for coronavirus testing under the government’s guidelines? (30/03/21)

There are different arrangements on eligibility and access to coronavirus testing in the different countries of the UK. Please see below for details of the system in place in your country.

Please note that, in different countries, specific arrangements apply to prioritise those sectors accessing testing. Again, please check individual national guidance for details.

 

England

NHS Test and Trace have launched a new public health campaign across England to encourage anyone with symptoms to get a free test as soon as they develop symptoms of Coronavirus. The campaign also emphasises the need to respond to the NHS Test and Trace service if contacted.

Read the full UK government guidance including details on how to be tested here

In addition, Defra Secretary of State George Eustice MP has encouraged employers in England to sign up to the government’s workplace coronavirus testing programme. This is a voluntary initiative for employers to sign up and employee participation. To qualify for free lateral flow tests, applications must be registered by 31 March 2021. View further information.

 

Wales

Anyone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus is eligible for a test. However, the process of getting tested is different for members of the public and ‘critical workers’, which include veterinary professionals.

Read the Welsh government guidance including details on how to be tested

 

Scotland

Testing is available for anyone with symptoms to know if they have the virus.

Community testing is available for some areas of Scotland for people with and without symptoms.

Read the Scottish government guidance including details on how to be tested

 

Northern Ireland

Everyone in Northern Ireland with symptoms of coronavirus is now eligible for testing.

Read the NI Public Health Agency Guidance including details on how to be tested

 

When should I or members of my household be tested?

The Department of Health and Social Care advises that you should be tested within the first 3 days of Coronavirus symptoms appearing, as the test is most accurate within this period, and testing is effective up until day 5.

If you are self-isolating because a person you live with has symptoms you can refer them for testing, giving you and your employer more certainty about whether you should be self-isolating or if you can return to work.

 

Can I seek testing in sites closer to home / work if I work in a different nation to my home?

The Department of Health and Social Care has advised that eligible individuals can access a site in another nation to which they are based so long as they meet the eligibility requirements for that test site and without travelling excessive distances to do so.

 

Please refer to FAQ 10 for more information on ‘key worker’ status in relation to school closures as a result of the pandemic.

Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

Last updated: 30 March 2021

Related FAQs

  • In line with the four UK governments’ plans for easing restrictions, practices across the UK are able to open without restrictions and provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement. However, practices are to be mindful of the ongoing requirement to maintain biosecurity and social distancing.  

    Please see FAQ 2 for more detail.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0789

    Last updated: 12 April 2021

  • During the first peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in spring 2020, there was concern that the objectively structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) could not be delivered in a Covid-safe way. In order to ensure student veterinary nurses were able to be assessed effectively and safely, the RCVS Veterinary Nurses (VN) Council approved an alternative assessment method for awarding organisations and universities to utilise.

    The alternative to OSCEs, called the Patient-based Assessment, involves building up a small portfolio of case reports and supporting evidence to prove how those who use this assessment method meet Day One Competencies and Skills. Once this has been signed-off and submitted, students using this assessment method will undertake a detailed and structured discussion about their involvement with the cases they have described. The outcome of the discussion will determine whether students can be awarded their licence to practise qualification and subsequently apply to join the RCVS Register of Veterinary Nurses.

    This alternative assessment method was initially available whilst Ofqual had implemented the Extra-ordinary Regulatory Framework (ERF) for assessments which were due to place between March and July 2020. However, as the UK has continued to see further peaks in infection rates, Ofqual has extended the ERF to cover academic year 2020/21, allowing alternative assessments to be utilised if required. Whilst it is anticipated that universities and awarding organisation will utilise a Covid-safe OSCE methodology, this may not be feasible in all situations and educational providers are reminded that the Patient-based Assessment is available for use.

    The handbook including detailed information about the criteria and process for the Patient-based Assessment has been published on our website and we would recommend all student veterinary nurses read it to gain a clear understanding of how the assessment method will work.

    The RCVS veterinary Nursing Department can be contacted on VNPBA@rcvs.org.uk.

    Read the news release. 

    NB We have also published advice about clinical placements - please read FAQ 9

    Last reviewed: 20 April 2021

  • We recognise that remote approval and quality monitoring activities will reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission to college staff, training practice staff, students and the public.

    Utilisation of desk-based activities and video-conferencing technology should be considered during this unique time.

    Where remote centre or training practice approval has taken place, we would expect a follow-up visit in person once the coronavirus outbreak is under control, in line with the prevailing government advice.

    Contact the VN team:  vetnursing@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0788

    NB This guidance was first published on 27 March and reviewed on 2 June. The situation will be reviewed again in 8 weeks' time.

    Last updated: 14 December 2020

  • In light of the UK Government’s advice on reducing transmission through social distancing measures, as well as a number of travel bans being put in place on an international level, we have made the decision to postpone the 2020 diet of the Statutory Membership Examination.

    We are exploring options for running the written component of the examination remotely, whilst also ensuring that appropriate security measures are in place to ensure the integrity of the examination, with the aim of carrying this out during the summer of 2020. 

    Due to the suspension of teaching at all UK veterinary schools, the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) component will also be postponed. We are working closely with the venue to secure new dates for the end of 2020.

    Our Education Team is supporting all 2020 Statutory Examination candidates with regular updates, and can be contacted on rcvsexam@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7965 1104.

    Last updated: 31 March 2020

  • In view of the latest advice from the UK governments, this FAQ is no longer relevant so we have removed it.

    Please refer to FAQ2 'What kind of work can I carry out?' for the most relevant guidance.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last updated: 12 April 2021

  • The UK wide temporary relaxation allowing supply of veterinary medicines away from registered veterinary practice premises (RVPP), inaccessible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ended on 31 August 2020.

    However, in view of the continuing challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, effective from 1 September 2020, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) is allowing the supply of medicines from temporary premises where:

    • Veterinary practice premises are located in an area in which local lockdown measures have been implemented (the VMD has confirmed that this also applies to national lockdowns); or
    • A veterinary surgeon needs to self-isolate as they have tested positive for the virus or due to contact tracing.


    To notify the VMD and RCVS of any changes, please email inspections@vmd.gov.uk and registration@rcvs.org.uk

    For further information, please see the VMD guidance.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last updated: 25 January 2021

  • As veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses, you are in an excellent position to offer your unique skills, training and expertise to help in the national effort to fight the pandemic, should you be able and willing to do so, in a number of areas such as maintaining the food supply, donating veterinary equipment for medical use, and helping to support the vulnerable and shielding during restrictions.

    Here are a number of ways in which you could help.

    Maintaining the food supply

    If you have worked as Red or White Meat Official Veterinarians (OV) within the last five years and have let your designation status lapse, we would urge you to contact the relevant agency for food standards in your part of the UK, as your skills are needed now to support efforts to keep the food chain running during the pandemic.

    If you fit the bill, and are able to work, please contact operations@fss.scot in Scotland, jon.stanford@eandj.co.uk in England/Wales, or VSAHG.BMBEmployeeRelations@daera-ni.gov.uk in Northern Ireland.

     

    Can you help keep food imports flowing?

    Checks at Border Control Posts are important for protecting animal and public health and need to be done without unnecessarily delaying imports of food from outside the EU.

    This is not yet a call for those who might be interested, but if you are near a port with a Border Control Post and would be interested in this sort of work, please keep a look out for further requests.

     

    Supporting the livestock industry (Scotland)

    If you are based in Scotland and able to offer skilled support to farmers who become ill or need to self-isolate, to ensure their animals continue to be looked after, please email scotland@lantra.co.uk.

     

    Coronavirus vaccinations

    A change in legislation has now allowed a wider group of individuals to undertake training to deliver the coronavirus vaccines. However, while veterinary surgeons can sign up as vaccinators, they are not on the list of healthcare professionals that are being encouraged by the NHS to apply for roles in the vaccination roll-out programme.

    Veterinary professionals may also be able to get involved in supporting the vaccine delivery process by applying as volunteers through the St John Ambulance volunteering scheme.

     

    Donate veterinary equipment

    If your practice has not already done so, please fill out this survey with details of any veterinary equipment that you might be able to loan/donate to support frontline medical teams in their efforts to fight the pandemic.

    Such equipment may include NHS-compatible ventilators, anaesthetic equipment/gases (NB see cautionary note about propofol) and PPE.

    Please ensure your practice only responds once to this survey to avoid double-counting of resources.

     

    NHS Volunteer Army

    The NHS is calling for volunteers to help the nation’s 1.5 million vulnerable people who have been asked to shield themselves from coronavirus because of underlying health conditions. This help involves simple but vital tasks such as:

    • delivering medicines from pharmacies,
    • driving patients to appointments,
    • bringing them home from hospital, or
    • making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.


    NHS Volunteer Army

     

    Work directly with NHS Trusts

    We understand that many vets and vet nurses are keen to offer help in areas such as healthcare, diagnostic testing and biosecurity. We also understand that some NHS Trusts may already be advertising for assistance or approaching veterinary professionals directly.

    Whilst this may be possible, there are certain legal restrictions on the assistance you can lawfully provide and how you should represent yourself to patients.

    It is our understanding that under current proposals, it is not intended that vets or vet nurses would register on an emergency basis with any other regulator, eg GMC, NMC.

    However, local NHS Trusts could employ people to undertake roles that are not reserved by law to licensed doctors or other regulated professionals, providing they are satisfied that the individual has the skills and competences to do that role. Anyone employed in these roles locally should not misrepresent their position to patients and must be careful not to hold themselves out as a licensed doctor. They should also be very clear about their role regarding any patient and consider with those employing them all issues relating to consent.

    To support you in any decision you might make to work with your local NHS Trust, we recommend that you:

    • obtain a clear job description that clearly defines the tasks that you will be required to undertake, and do not deviate from these;
    • satisfy yourself that you have the skills and competencies to undertake the tasks outlined in this job description;
    • satisfy yourself that none of these tasks is reserved by law to licensed doctors or other regulated professionals;
    • ensure you are given local training appropriate to the tasks outlined in this job description; and,
    • check that you are appropriately indemnified by the NHS Trust for the work that you are being asked to do (NB NHS Resolution has confirmed that those brought in to help in NHS Trusts in England will be provided with free indemnity cover for civil liabilities; however, those working in NHS Trusts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should first check with the individual Trust).


    We would also ask you please to remember that even though you might be working in a different capacity, you remain registered with the RCVS. As such, we are obligated to remind you that any concerns raised about you regarding these activities (however unlikely this would be) could fall under our broad regulatory remit.

    We have also received NHS Trust advice that anyone considering working for an NHS Trust in roles where there may be patient contact should ideally be under 45 years old, and have no risk factors at all in the way of respiratory compromise or immunosuppression.

    We recognise that the government’s current priority is in re-recruiting retired and non-practising medical health professionals, and granting provisional registration to final-year medical students, and that the GMC is making significant advances in these areas.

    To this end, we would encourage you to first consider what assistance you might be able to provide to the livestock production, meat hygiene and food import/export industries, as set out above, before volunteering to assist directly with local NHS Trusts.

     

    Clinical Contact Caseworkers

    Following the NHS launch of a test and trace service to help speed up testing for anyone with coronavirus symptoms and track that person’s recent contacts, we understand that NHS Professionals has been recruiting Clinical Contact Caseworkers to help run this service.

    We have spoken to the relevant authorities in England, Scotland and Wales about what insurance implications there may be for veterinary professionals undertaking this role. These are as follows:

    England

    Veterinary professionals who are engaged by NHS Professionals to undertake test and trace duties for the Department of Health and Social Care/Public Health England are covered for clinical negligence risks under the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Coronavirus, which is administered by NHS Resolution on behalf of the Secretary of State.

    Scotland

    Veterinary professionals employed by, or volunteering for, an NHS Scotland Board are covered for clinical negligence risks by the Clinical Negligence and Other Risks Indemnity Scheme (CNORIS), managed by NHS National Services Scotland. Employment in a contact tracer role by NHS Scotland would be via an NHS Scotland Board and therefore covered by CNORIS.

    Wales

    A Contact Tracing System in Wales was announced by the Welsh Government on 1 June 2020. We are therefore seeking further clarification from NHS Wales on the provision of indemnity for veterinary professionals employed in a contact tracer role. In the meantime, it is important that you check the insurance situation yourself if you are seeking to undertake this role in Wales.

    Northern Ireland

    We have also made enquiries with the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland, and will update this FAQ when that information becomes available. In the meantime, it is important that you check the insurance situation yourself if you are seeking to undertake this role in Northern Ireland.

     

    Call to final year students

    Have you finished your course and are wondering how you can use your veterinary training to help with the Covid-19 response?

    The government, supported by the Royal College, are working hard to keep the livestock food chain moving, both to ensure a safe food supply and to protect animal health and welfare. Veterinary graduates have unique skills and training that make them well placed to help with this work.

    Veterinary graduates have already completed most of the Official Auxiliary (Meat Hygiene Inspector) theory training as part of their course. Many vets start their careers in Veterinary Public Heath as Official Auxiliaries (Meat Hygiene Inspectors) and move on to complete the OV training while in that role.

    If you are interested in finding out more about how your unique professional training can support the whole community during the Covid-19 response, then there are various opportunities available in England, Scotland and Wales in this important area of work. This would include a training, mentoring and further development programme which may allow migration into a full Official Veterinarian role post-graduation.

    If you think you can help, please contact recruitment@eandj.co.uk in England/Wales or operations@fss.scot in Scotland.

     

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last reviewed: 25 March 2021

     

  • In view of the latest advice from the UK governments, this FAQ is no longer relevant so we have removed it.

    Please refer to FAQ2 'What kind of work can I carry out?' for the most relevant guidance.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last updated: 12 April 2021

  • In line with the four UK governments’ roadmap for easing restrictions, practices across the UK are able to open without restrictions and provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement. However, practices are to be mindful of the ongoing requirement to maintain biosecurity and social distancing.   

    We do not expect veterinary practices to offer business as usual for the time being. Vets will need to make difficult decisions in light of the travel and social distancing restrictions currently in force across the UK, taking into account the health of both their clients and their teams.

    We appreciate that decisions may vary between practices, and in different parts of the country, depending on the circumstances and the latest government restrictions/guidelines in place.

    Please refer to FAQ 5 for further information on the measures to take to protect yourself and clients.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last updated: 12 April 2021

  • If you are unable to microchip a puppy while maintaining social distancing and adequate biosecurity, for example, if the owner is self-isolating, both you and the animal owner should make a note that the issue was considered thoroughly and decided against on public health grounds.

    With your support, the dog owner should make every effort to remedy the situation as soon as circumstances and/or government guidance on staying safe and alert (social distancing) allow.

    Contact the Advice Team: advice@rcvs.org.uk or 020 7202 0789

    Last reviewed: 25 March 2021

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