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29. Are veterinary professionals exempt from self-isolation rules? (16/08/21)

On 22 July, the UK government announced as part of step 4 of its roadmap that people who are double jabbed or aged over 18 would no longer need to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a positive Covid-19 case. The date this comes into effect varies between the nations.

The latest guidance for each nation is set out below where available – please click on the drop-down below that is relevant to your nation.

England

From Monday 16 August, double vaccinated adults will no longer be required to self-isolate, as long as they received their final dose of an MHRA-approved vaccine as part of the UK vaccination programme at least 14 days prior to contact with a positive case.

Double jabbed individuals and under 18s who are identified as close contacts by NHS Test and Trace will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible to check if they have the virus and to check for variants of concern. People can order a PCR home test online or by calling 119, or going to a test site.

As double jabbed people identified as close contacts are still at risk of being infected, people are advised to consider other precautions such as wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, and limit contact with other people, especially with anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. They will not be required to self-isolate while they wait for the results of the PCR test.

Further information is available on the government’s website

Wales

From 7 August 2021, those who have been in close contact with a positive case but are fully vaccinated will no longer need to self-isolate. Ten days of self-isolation will still be required for people who test positive or have symptoms.

Further information on current self-isolation rules can be found here on the Welsh government’s website.

Scotland

From 9 August 2021, all fully vaccinated people are exempt and will no longer need to self-isolate.

Further information regarding the critical workers exemption is available on the Scottish government’s website.

Northern Ireland

From Monday 16 August, people who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days if someone they have been in close contact with tests positive for Covid-19. Instead, they should get a PCR test on day two and day eight of the 10 day period. People who are not fully vaccinated will still need to self-isolate for 10 days.

Further information on the current self-isolation rules is available on the NI government’s website.

Please refer to FAQ 5 regarding protecting staff and clients in practices via the use of PPE, Test and Trace and workplace coronavirus testing. Please read the government’s guidance for employers and businesses in England (see guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

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

Last updated: 16 August 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.

    The UK government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, and the use of  provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients will be a matter of choice for business.

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

    Please read the government’s guidance for employers and businesses in England (see guidance for WalesScotland and Northern Ireland).

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

    Last updated: 5 August 2021

  • The governments of all four UK nations have produced plans for the easing of lockdown restrictions, each of which is running at a slightly different speed. Please click on the links below for the guidance appropriate for your country.

    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 nation: 

    England

    From 12 April 2021

    The Government has issued a roadmap providing a step-by-step plan of changes to ease restrictions in England. 

    Changes due to take effect no earlier than 12 April open up parts of the indoor economy. Such changes are contingent on four tests being met:

    • Test 1: The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
    • Test 2: Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
    • Test 3: Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
    • Test 4:  assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
       

    The indicative, ‘no earlier than’ date may therefore be subject to change, so our guidance, which links to these dates, may also be subject to change.

    210324_covid recovery guidance

    Professional judgement and biosecurity

    Subject to this proviso - with effect from 12 April practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement – i.e. no longer just ‘essential services’. However, it must be stressed that 12 April does NOT see any change in social contact rules; government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

    Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

    Flowcharts removed

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

    We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

    Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

    Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

    Further information is available from the English government website.

    Wales

    From 22 March 2021

    On 19 March, the Welsh government published guidance for businesses as the country entered into Alert Level 4 and on 22 March, some classes of non-essential retail re-opened. However, the Welsh CVO’s office has confirmed that this has not changed the Welsh Government’s guidance for vets. Unlike previous lockdowns, vets are no longer required to limit their work and services to urgent work, and there is more discretion for vets to manage their workloads safely.

    However, government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

    210324_covid recovery guidance

    Professional judgement and biosecurity

    Unlike previous lockdowns, vets are no longer required to limit their work and services to urgent work, and there is more discretion for vets to manage their workloads safely, in accordance with their professional judgement.

    However, government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing, use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

    Flowcharts removed

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

    We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

    Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

    Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative
    Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

    Further information is available from the Welsh government website.

    Scotland

    From 5 April 2021

    On 16th March the Scottish Government published a timetable for easing restrictions. Assuming that all goes well, the next significant milestone will be 5 April, when the Scottish Government plan to ease a wider range of current restrictions in level 4 areas, including reopening of non-essential click and collect, and extending the list of retail premises permitted to open.

    210324_covid recovery guidance

    Professional judgement and biosecurity

    From 5 April, the Scottish CVO’s office has confirmed that veterinary practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement – i.e. no longer just ‘essential services’. 

    However, it must be stressed that 5 April does NOT see any change in social contact rules; government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

    Flowcharts removed

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

    We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

    Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

    Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

    Further information is available from the Scottish government website

    Northern Ireland

    From 12 April 2021

    From 12 April, the Northern Ireland Executive has confirmed that the ‘stay at home’ provision will be removed from legislation and from this date, veterinary practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement – i.e. no longer just ‘essential services’. 

    210324_covid recovery guidance

    Professional judgement and biosecurity

    From this date, veterinary practices will be able to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement, ie no longer just 'essential services'. 

    However, it must be stressed that 12 April does NOT see any change in social contact rules; government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients remain in force.

    Flowcharts removed

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements.

    We have therefore removed our previous flowcharts that aimed to assist with veterinary decision-making during lockdown restrictions.

    Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative

    Recognising that there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both staff and the public in attending and accessing practices for some time, where there is no suitable alternative, remote prescribing will continue to be permitted subject to guidelines that can be found at FAQ 4.

    Further information is available from the Northern Ireland government website.

     

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

    Last updated: 12 April 2021

     

  • 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 Coronavirus does not easily pass between pets or other animals in the UK. 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 reviewed: 30 March 2021

  • 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, subject to the guidelines outlined below:

    Remote prescribing guidelines

    Before prescribing by remote means, you must first be satisfied that:

    • 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),
    • 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, and
    • the benefit to the animal and/or public health outweighs the risk.

     

    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: 25 March 2021

     

  • 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.

    The UK government still requires businesses to demonstrate robust strategies for managing the risk of transmission, so provisions such as social distancing / use of PPE etc, to ensure the safety of staff and clients will remain in force.

    It will therefore be for individual practices / premises to decide, according to their individual circumstances, how they will operate in compliance with these requirements. For example:

    • 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 and limit physical contact with clients wherever possible. 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. The QR code 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 regarding the QR code in England and Wales is available on the government website.
    • You may sign up to workplace coronavirus testing: 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 for employee participation. To qualify for free lateral flow tests, applications must be registered by 31 March 2021. Please view further information.

    Please read the government’s guidance for employers and businesses in England (see guidance for WalesScotland and Northern Ireland).

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

    Last updated: 12 April 2021

  • It may assist to draw your employer’s attention to the most recent guidance for employers and businesses in EnglandWalesScotland and Northern Ireland.

    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: 5 August 2021

  • 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 pandemic. 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.

    • The RCVS Veterinary Nursing Department has issued guidance on completion of the RCVS Day One Skills to all programme providers. This guidance includes the use of professional discussion, set tasks and simulation where appropriate.


    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 reviewed: 20 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

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