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24. Are face coverings mandatory for anyone who attends a veterinary practice? (24/09/20)

Government guidance on mandatory face coverings is different for each of the nations within the UK. Please see below for details of the system in place in your country. In addition, please refer to your employer’s protocols for the interpretation of legislation for your specific work situation, and be mindful of any specific personal health factors.

 

England

From 8 August 2020 it has been a legal requirement to wear face coverings in all indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, including veterinary services, zoos, aquariums, visitor farms and storage and distribution facilities. Please follow the latest government guidance on face coverings including exemptions on wearing face coverings.

Veterinary professionals are required to wear face coverings indoors when not using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e. a surgical mask for consultations.

Please see the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) guidance on social distancing control measures and risk assessments for businesses for further information.

 

Scotland

In Scotland, it is mandatory to wear face coverings in retail shops, supermarkets, on public transport, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms and any other tourist, heritage or cultural site. In other situations, the Scottish government recommends wearing a face covering where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household. Please see the Scottish government guidance.

 

Wales

Face coverings became mandatory for all indoor public places in Wales from 14 September 2020. Please see the Welsh government guidance.

 

Northern Ireland

Since 10 August, the NI government made it mandatory to wear face coverings in certain indoor settings such as shops and shopping centres, in addition to wearing face coverings on public transport. Please see the NI government guidance.

 

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

Last updated: 24 September 2020

Related FAQs

  • We have published a new flowchart, effective 9 April and updated on 19 May, which takes you through a decision-making process for all veterinary interventions within the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

    This puts the decision as to which vaccinations can be carried out into your hands, using your veterinary clinical judgement.

    We feel this is the best way to ensure that you can start to address specific disease pressures in your geographical area, while prioritising the health of your teams, clients and the wider public, and adhering to the latest government advice on staying safe and alert (social distancing).

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

    Last updated: 14 July 2020

  • Following their decision in March to suspend OSCEs for three months, the RCVS Veterinary Nurses (VN) Council has approved an alternative assessment method for awarding organisations and universities who are unable to provide objectively-structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) under social distancing guidelines. 

    The alternative to OSCEs, called a 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 may not be relevant to all as some awarding organisations and universities have since developed methods of safely holding their OSCEs within social distancing guidelines. 

    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 updated: 30 June 2020

  • 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: 2 June 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

  • As is the case for all veterinary services, when considering referral of a patient, our flowchart in FAQ 2 should be followed by both the referring vet and referral veterinary team.

    If a physical referral is necessary, contact with the animal’s owner should be limited as much as possible and the government’s guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) should be observed.

    You should also consider the following factors:

    • The extent to which remote means can be used to offer tailored advice and/or other services to veterinary colleagues and clients (for more information relating to remote prescribing, see FAQ 4)
    • The location of the referral centre, ensuring that it is as close to the client as possible in order to avoid unnecessary travel
    • The need for physical rechecks of ongoing referral patients; some physical rechecks may be necessary, eg for the administration of chemotherapy or management of orthopaedic apparatus, but these should be performed only having considered whether a remote or more local approach is possible

    This guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis as the situation develops.

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

    Last updated 14 July 2020

  • The 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; 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: 24 September 2020

  • 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.

    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.

     

    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 updated: 2 June 2020

  • Based on the experience of other countries, we recognise that the lockdown period may last in some form for several more weeks or even months. This means that animal health and welfare issues that are not a priority today could become so over the coming weeks and months without veterinary intervention.  Whereas human medical resources are being diverted to the Covid-19 fight resulting in NHS hospitals focusing on emergency work, on the whole this isn’t the case with veterinary staff. Human medical care also involves close person-to-person contact (and therefore much higher risk) than veterinary care, where a large amount can be done with minimal human contact.

    That said, the updated guidance does not represent ‘business as usual’. Decisions need to be taken in the light of the current very stringent government advice for social distancing – and that applies to clients and staff.

  • Government advice is that where possible, and following social distancing, work should go on. In no way are we expecting you to provide services that you don’t feel are appropriate. Our new flowchart is designed explicitly to allow you the flexibility to decide that is best in your own individual circumstances.

    As ever, we trust veterinary professionals to make decisions based on the specific situation with which they are faced, and their local knowledge. All practices are different, with different facilities, staffing levels, species and local disease threats – our guidance, which all vets and nurses need to abide by, allows everyone to operate to the best of their abilities.

  • 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 updated: 14 July 2020

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