Skip to content

27. What happens if my practice and home are in different regions and one area goes into lockdown? (23/10/20)

In light of the three-tier system of local Covid Alert Levels for England imposed by the government on 12 October, it is inevitable that veterinary professionals will face circumstances where they are restricted in being able to physically attend their practice to work. Given the nature of local lockdowns, the extent and application of lockdowns will vary depending on the area in question. View further information on the local Covid Alert Levels.

Please refer to specific government guidance for your region as and when local lockdowns are imposed. View a list of areas with current additional restrictions England. Further information regarding restrictions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is also available.

The local lockdown restrictions recently imposed in northern England are likely to be adapted to other future local lockdowns under tier three restrictions. For example, it is likely that non-essential businesses will be asked to close but veterinary practices will remain open. Veterinary practices will need to ensure they adhere to the government’s safer workplace guidance.

In the event of a local lockdown, travel to work will be permitted only where it is essential to do so and if you are unable to work from home. Please see government advice on travel in lockdown.

In addition, veterinary professionals who are living or working in a lockdown area will be able to provide emergency care in person only if there is no other option to do so. As such, veterinary professionals should exercise caution in offering any routine services. Please see FAQ 2 for further information. 

 

Possible scenarios

Whilst we cannot account for every possible eventually, please see below responses to four possible scenarios:

I work at a veterinary practice that is in an area currently under lockdown. Can I go to work?

Veterinary practices may open where necessary to provide emergency veterinary care and you will be able to travel to work where you cannot work from home.

Whilst it is currently against the law to stay in an area under lockdown, also known as a protected area, without a reasonable excuse, if you do not live there, staying in an area to work out of hours is an exemption.  

 

If my practice is in an area under lockdown, can I do home visits to clients in an area outside of lockdown?

Government advice is to only travel from areas under lockdown where it essential to do so. You will be able to travel to a client seeking emergency veterinary care where there is no other option.

 

My practice is in an area under lockdown, can a client in a non-locked down area visit the practice?

Clients should only travel to an area under lockdown where essential, and for emergency treatment where there is no other option. If there is an option to conduct more routine work without the client travelling to the practice, then this should be considered in line with FAQ 2.

 

Can a client in a locked down area visit a veterinary practice in an area outside of lockdown?

Similarly to the question above, clients in a lockdown area should only travel to an area outside of lockdown for emergency veterinary care where there is no other option. If there is an option to conduct more routine work without the client travelling to the practice, then this should be considered in line with FAQ 2.

 

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

Last updated: 23 October 2020

Related FAQs

  • Veterinary practices are not on the list of businesses and premises that need to close and, as such, may open where necessary.

    However, in order to comply with government guidance, where clients are seen, you should ensure you follow the relevant guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) including the mandatory wearing of face coverings. 

    In terms of those working within the practice, clinically extremely vulnerable employees should be encouraged to stay at home.

    Other team members should only attend the practice when necessary. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. 

    You should also familiarise yourself with, and follow, the government’s guidance for employers and businesses in England (see guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) to ensure you are following best practice to curb the spread of the virus and protect your team.

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

    Last updated: 24 September 2020

  • Although veterinary practices may remain open, it is vital to continue to comply with current government guidelines on working safely, which vary by nation and region within the UK, and to be mindful of the relevant guidance for members of the public.

    Please click on the drop-down below that is relevant to your area: 

    FAQ 2a: I am practising in an area under circuit-/fire-break lockdown restrictions

    During the course of the pandemic, the different nations may be subject to circuit-/fire-break lockdown restrictions in order to slow the spread of coronavirus.

    The purpose of the firebreak is to prevent non-essential travel and mixing of people.

    When deciding whether or not to carry out a particular type of work, you should refer to the flowchart below (also available to download as a pdf) and use it to guide you through the decision-making process.

    Coronavirus practice flowchart for practices in an area under circuit-/fire-break lockdown restrictions

    Wales

    Wales will remain under firebreak lockdown restrictions from 18:00 on 23 October until midnight on 8 November 2020.

    The CVO for Wales has said:

    ‘Veterinary practices can continue to operate during a firebreak period, but for essential and urgent work only.’

    Further information is available on the Welsh government website.

    FAQ 2b: I am practising in an area under Tier 1, 2 or 3 restrictions

    For those areas subject to Tier 1, 2 or 3 restrictions, animal owners are more able to take their animals to practices, thereby allowing vets to see patients and their owners in person.

    When deciding whether or not to carry out a particular type of work, you should refer to the flowchart below (also available to download as a pdf) and use it to guide you through the decision-making process.

    Coronavirus practice flowchart for practices in tiers 1 2 or 3

     

    Scotland

    As of 23 October 2020, the Scottish government has introduced a five-tier system to manage the spread of Coronavirus in Scotland. Please click here for further information 

    Please note:

    We have considered and produced the flowchart and associated guidance for the veterinary profession in line with the latest UK government advice to employers and businesses, UK government sector guidance on social distancing in the workplace (retail) and Welsh government guidance on taking all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace.

    This flowchart was originally published on 9 April 2020, updated on 19 May and 6 August 2020 with some minor amendments, and again on 29 September 2020.

    A print-ready version of this flowchart is also available to download as a PDF document.

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

    Last updated: 23 October 2020

  • You will need to decide whether the animal needs to be seen now, whether the case can be supported remotely or whether treatment can be delayed. If, after triaging the animal, you feel it is necessary to see them, consider whether it could be brought to you (or you go to it) without putting your own, or someone else’s, health at unnecessary risk.

    For example, ask whether another person can bring the animal to the practice, or another appropriate location, on the owner’s behalf.

    Government guidance states that there is no evidence of coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans. However, if you do decide to see the animal in person, normal biosecurity measures, as well as additional government guidance on hand washing, should be observed.

    Consider the extent to which you can assist remotely - this may include giving advice via remote means as to how to manage the animal’s condition at home. It may also include remote prescribing of POM-V medicines as appropriate (see FAQ 4 for full details). In this scenario, document your rationale for your decision making to ensure you can justify your actions if asked to do so.

    In cases where POM-V medicines are prescribed remotely, you should ensure that either you are in a position to examine the animal yourself or that it can be examined by another veterinary surgeon if its condition deteriorates to the point where remote support is inadequate. There may be instances where, in order to ensure your own safety, an animal needs to be taken away from its owners to undergo treatment, or euthanasia, for welfare reasons. This is likely to be particularly upsetting as most owners will want to be with their animal when they are put to sleep. As such, you may wish to consider whether you can direct them to an appropriate source of support, for example a bereavement or counselling service.

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

    Last updated: 13 May 2020

  • Under normal circumstances, this is not permitted by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct. However, during the pandemic, RCVS Council has agreed a temporary departure from this position.

    Please click on the drop-down below that is relevant to your area: 

    FAQ 4a. I am practising in an area under fire-/circuit-break lockdown restrictions

    The following derogation from the Code is effective only during the scheduled fire-/circuit-break lockdown period, and will be reviewed at subsequent meetings of our Standards Committee.

    Guidance on remote prescribing for veterinary surgeons in practice under Tier 1, 2, or 3 restrictions, is available in FAQ 4b.

    We hope that this guidance will enable veterinary surgeons to continue prioritising animal welfare without putting themselves, or their colleagues, at risk.  

    In line with the flowchart referred to in FAQ 2a, in non-emergency cases veterinary surgeons should consider whether they can support the case effectively via remote means in the first instance.

    The firebreak lockdown situation is exceptional and as such you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means. However, you must first be satisfied that:

    • you have enough information to do so safely without physically examining the animal
    • there is no suitable alternative, categorised as a POM-VPS, NFA-VPS, or AVM-GSL
    • the risk to the animal and/or public health is outweighed by the benefit, and
    • [Effective from 1 November 2020] you can provide a 24/7 follow-up service involving physical examination, plus or minus further investigation, if required; for example in the case where the animal does not improve, or suffers an adverse reaction, or deteriorates, subsequent to the prescription of said medicines. You or your practice can provide this follow-up service personally, or by written agreement with a veterinary services provider that is local to your client (as per existing guidance under the Code – see SG Chapter 3, paras 3.3 - 3.6).

    If you are satisfied regarding the above, you should then consider the following:

    • Whether immediate action is necessary in the interests of animal welfare.
    • Whether treatment can be delayed until a physical examination is possible.
    • Whether it is possible to examine the animal without having contact with the owner and if so, whether it would assist.
    • The nature of the medication.
    • The appropriate quantity, taking into account factors such as the length of time until a physical examination of the animal will be possible and the length of time until the owner will be able to access medication by other means.
    • The risks and benefits to the animal.
    • The client’s view and understanding of the risks.

    You should also ensure that:

    • any consent given by the client is fully informed
    • you make detailed notes of your decision and the reasons for it
    • you can justify any decision that you make.

    Approaching cases in this way is aimed at limiting the number of instances where animal owners need to leave their homes to access veterinary care, which is in the wider interest of maintaining public health.

    FAQ 4b. I am practising in an area under Tier 1, 2, or 3 restrictions

    At its meeting on 8 October, RCVS Council decided to further extend the temporary remote prescribing guidance.

    The following derogation from the Code is effective immediately (unless otherwise indicated) during Tier 1, 2, or 3 restrictions and will be reviewed at subsequent meetings of our Standards Committee.

    Guidance on remote prescribing for veterinary surgeons in practice under fire-/circuit-break lockdown restrictions, is available in FAQ 4a.

    In recent months, animal owners have been more able to take their animals to practices, thereby allowing vets to establish the normal under-care relationship by physically examining the animal. However, Council recognises that the current situation is unpredictable and that physical examinations may not be possible in the face of certain circumstances (such as national/local lockdowns, quarantine arrangements, shielding by practice staff/clients etc), meaning access to remote prescribing would be necessary.

    Consequently, in line with the flowchart in FAQ 2b which explains the kind of work you can carry out, you should consider whether you already have the animal under your care (as explained in Chapter 4, paras 4.9-4.11) or, if not, whether it is possible to carry out a physical examination to bring the animal under your care. If the answer to both questions is ‘no’, you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means, providing you adhere to the following guidelines:

    You must first be satisfied that:

    • you have enough information to remotely prescribe POM-Vs safely without physically examining the animal,
    • there is no suitable alternative medicine, categorised as a POM-VPS, NFA-VPS, or AVM-GSL,
    • the benefit to the animal and/or public health outweighs the risk, and
    • [Effective from 1 November 2020] you can provide a 24/7 follow-up service involving physical examination, plus or minus further investigation, if required; for example in the case where the animal does not improve, or suffers an adverse reaction, or deteriorates, subsequent to the prescription of said medicines. You or your practice can provide this follow-up service personally, or by written agreement with a veterinary services provider that is local to your client (as per existing guidance under the Code – see SG Chapter 3, paras 3.3 - 3.6).

    If you are satisfied regarding the above, you should then consider:

    • whether immediate action is necessary in the interests of animal welfare,
    • whether treatment can be delayed until a physical examination is possible,
    • whether it is possible to examine the animal without having contact with the owner and, if so, whether it would assist,
    • the nature of the medication,
    • the appropriate quantity, taking into account factors such as the length of time until a physical examination of the animal will be possible and the length of time until the owner will be able to access medication by other means,
    • the risks and benefits to the animal, and
    • the client’s view and understanding of the risks.

    You should also ensure that:

    • any consent given by the client is fully informed,
    • you make detailed notes of your decision and the reasons for it, and
    • you can justify any decision that you make.

     

    When prescribing remotely, you should follow the BSAVA Guide to the Use of Veterinary Medicines, which contains useful information in relation to emailing prescriptions and posting veterinary medicines. See also the Royal Mail’s guidance on posting prescription medication. You should also provide the owner with all of the information they need to administer the medicine safely and ensure they have a means to contact you (or a colleague) in the event they have any questions or problems.

    NB If you are approached by members of the public who are not existing clients of your practice, where possible you should in the first instance direct them to the practice where they are registered. Our current supporting guidance on  ‘Communication between professional colleagues’ may be useful.

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

    Last updated: 23 October 2020

    • Where it is necessary to see an animal in person:
      • Ask clients if they or a member of their household are currently self-isolating or have tested positive for the virus when booking appointments and before attending any home/farm visits or offsite consultations.
      • Reduce the number of people attending the premises to the absolute minimum (see FAQ 2) and limit physical contact with clients wherever possible (see FAQs 1 & 2). This could be achieved by asking that only one person accompanies an animal when attending the practice, or by asking clients to wait in the waiting room, outside or even in their cars while you examine their animal. The consultation with the owner could then take place over the telephone.
      • Ensure employees and clients wear face masks when on premises, including the consultation room, waiting area and any communal areas.
      • You may keep a record of clients attending your practice so that you can inform them if there is a positive case of coronavirus amongst your staff or other persons entering your premises. Whilst veterinary practices are not required to collect information via the QR code scanning system for the NHS Track and Trace programme, practices may consider implementing this system as part of the public health effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. This service is only available in England and Wales. It allows visitors to scan the QR code when they arrive, using the NHS COVID-19 app. More information is available on the government website
    • Carry out risk assessments for all staff and observe government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) in England (see guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). 
    • Encourage team members who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable, eg are aged over 70, have underlying health issues or are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired, to stay at home.
    • Familiarise yourself with, and follow, the government’s guidance for employers and businesses to ensure you are following best practice to curb the spread of the virus and protect your team.
    • Familiarise yourself with guidance on infection prevention and control from the UK Government and devolved administrations (where available, as follows) and consider whether any of the suggested measures could be applicable and implemented at your practice:

     

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

    Last updated: 23 October 2020

  • If you and your practice are unable to meet the government's social distancing guidelines, which include giving thought to limiting unnecessary travel, then the procedure should not go ahead unless there is an animal health risk, and only then when care has been given to additional risk assessment and PPE. 

    While the College does not regulate businesses, we do require that every practice has a senior named veterinary surgeon who takes responsibility for clinical policy and it would be to that person that we would look if we hear that business as usual is being pursued in a reckless fashion, rather than careful judgement being exercised. 

    It may assist to draw your employer’s attention to the most recent guidance for employers and businesses and social distancing.

    If you are concerned about how the virus may affect your employment, for example you are in the government’s list of clinically extremely vulnerable people and you wish to stay at home, you should refer to the government guidance for employees.

    If you are a member of a veterinary association or union that has a legal helpline, you may also wish to contact them for assistance with matters relating to your employment.

    In addition, there is also specific coronavirus advice from ACAS for both employers and employees.

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

    Last updated: 9 July 2020

  • Update - 8 June 2020

    The RCVS Taskforce have reviewed the decision taken in March to reduce the CPD hourly requirements for vets and VNs by 25% and agreed there will be no further reduction in CPD requirements this year.

    To inform their review, the taskforce looked at the data in the RCVS CPD recording platform, 1CPD which almost 60% of vets and 80% of VNs are using. This shows that around two-thirds of vets and VNs using the portal have so far completed more than 90% of the required hours for the year. A small minority of vets and VNs using the 1CPD portal have completed less than 20% of hours required.

    We recognise that many veterinary professionals may be struggling with competing priorities during this time. If you think you may not achieve your required CPD this year, we would encourage you to contact the Education team as soon as possible by emailing onecpd@rcvs.org.uk so we can discuss this with you. 

    Original statement - 30 March 2020

    In recognition of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions brought in by the UK Government in order to control its transmission, we have reduced by 25% the number of hours of CPD that you will have to complete during 2020.

    Therefore, this year, the annual minimum requirement for veterinary surgeons will be reduced from 35 to 26 hours of CPD, while that of veterinary nurses will be reduced from 15 to 11 hours.

    The reduction comes into force immediately to help relieve the pressure on you in facing significant and competing challenges in the coming weeks and months.

    We recognise that, although some veterinary professionals have seen a reduced workload and may well take this opportunity to do CPD, many will now be juggling their professional responsibilities with increased family, childcare and other caring responsibilities and may, therefore, be finding it difficult to plan for and undertake CPD.

    A similar 25% reduction pro rata (for 2020) will also be introduced for veterinary surgeons holding Advanced Practitioner or RCVS Specialist status, as retaining these statuses requires additional hours of CPD across a 5-year period, including in the specific areas of designation.

    We would urge you to remember, however, that our CPD policy for vets and vet nurses already allows for many different types of learning and development, not just attending physical events.

    While going to conferences and other events may not be possible for many for the time being, there is a wide variety of CPD that you can still access, including webinars, online learning, and reading relevant journals.

    We understand that, in some cases, the organisers of cancelled events are working to make the learning resources available online instead.

    There is a range of resources that you may find helpful on our website, including blog posts and videos about types of CPD to consider. Please visit www.rcvs.org.uk/cpd2020.

    Read our full statement

    Last updated: 8 June 2020

  • RCVS Council has agreed to a number of temporary measures around the Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) requirements for current UK veterinary students, in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the associated restrictions during the period of lockdown. These measures are summarised on our EMS page.

    The temporary changes to EMS policy will be kept under constant review and may be subject to further change, as restrictions due to the pandemic are eased and / or reintroduced if there is a second wave of infection.

    Contact the Education Team: education@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0791

    Last updated: 14 July 2020

  • Several universities and awarding organisations expressed concerns regarding student veterinary nurses’ attendance in clinical placement and employment, due to the precautions around transmission of Coronavirus. This applies to all students in all years of a programme, although there were particular concerns as to the impact this will have on final-year students being unable to complete the required number of hours in order to complete their licence to practise qualification and be eligible to apply to register with the RCVS.

    There have also been concerns raised over the completion of the RCVS Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses (DOS) should students be unable to attend their clinical placements or employment. The RCVS Day One Competences and Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses set out the minimum essential requirements that we expect all student nurses to have met when they register, to ensure they are safe and competent to practise on day one, in whichever area of the profession they start to work.

    Universities and awarding organisations requested a degree of flexibility around the RCVS VN Registration Rules and completion of the RCVS Day One Skills, in light of the Covid-19 situation.

    The following therefore applies:

    • Veterinary Nurses Council recognises that it should not be compulsory for students to complete clinical placements or employment during the current time and will review the situation on a regular, eight-week, basis. This will apply to students in any year of their studies.
    • It is also recognised that for students in their final year of study, it may be difficult for them to make up the hours of clinical placement or employment missed prior to completing their programme. Universities, awarding organisations and colleges should continue to support their students and explore alternatives, however any shortfall relative to the requirements should not be a barrier to completion of the programme.
    • It is anticipated that both further and higher education students not in their final year of study would have sufficient time to make up the number of hours prior to completing their programme however, this will be reviewed as the Covid-19 pandemic progresses.
    • Student veterinary nurses will still be required to complete the RCVS Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses in their totality as these seek to assure competence at the point of registration. Where a student has completed the Day One Skills in fewer than the required 1,800 hours, this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis on application to register.


    NB We have also published advice about OSCEs and unseen examinations - please read FAQ12

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

    *This guidance was first published on 27 March, updated on 2 June, 30 July and 12 October for a further 8 weeks, after which the situation will be reviewed again.

    Last updated: 12 October 2020

  • On 20 March 2020, we published a joint statement with the British Veterinary Association containing guidance on the status of veterinary surgeons as 'key workers' in relation to school closures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    This follows lobbying of government by both the RCVS and BVA on this subject.

    Read the full statement here

    With regard to veterinary nurses, the British Veterinary Nursing Association published the following statement on 21 March 2020: 

    Why RVN's aren't considered 'key workers' 

    Please also read FAQ 21 'Do veterinary professionals qualify for coronavirus testing under the government’s guidelines?'.

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

    Last updated: 22 March 2020

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3