3. What if one of our clients is self-isolating and their animal is unwell? (13/05/20)

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

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, the number of clients seen face-to-face should be kept to an absolute minimum (see FAQ 2) and, where clients are seen, you should ensure you follow the relevant guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing).

    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.

    You should also 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.

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

    Last updated: 13 July 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 within the UK, and to be mindful of the relevant guidance for members of the public.

    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 flow chart (6 August 2020)

    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, and then updated on 19 May 2020 with some minor amendments, and again on 6 August 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: 6 August 2020

  • Under normal circumstances, this is not permitted by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct or supporting guidance. However, in light of recent government guidance to limit non-essential contact with others, RCVS Council has decided that there should be a temporary departure from this position and that remote prescribing of POM-V medicines (including medicines prescribed under the cascade and those imported under the Veterinary Medicines Directorate’s Special Import Scheme for veterinary imports) should be permitted where it is appropriate to do so (see below). On 25 June RCVS Council extended the remote prescribing guidance and will review this position on an ongoing basis and in any event, no later than 18 August 2020.

    We hope that this 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 2, in non-emergency cases veterinary surgeons should consider whether they can support the case effectively via remote means in the first instance.

    The current situation is exceptional and as such you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means. However, before doing so, you must 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.

    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.

    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. 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.

    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.

    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.

    NB If you are approached by members of the public who are not existing clients of your practice, where possible they should be directed to the practice where they are registered in the first instance. 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: 14 July 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 their cars while you examine their animal. The consultation with the owner could then take place over the telephone.
    • Carry out risk assessments for all staff and observe government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing)
    • Encourage team members who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable, eg are aged over 70, have underlying health issues or are pregnant, 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: 14 July 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 and again on 30 July for a further 8 weeks, after which the situation will be reviewed again.

    Last updated: 31 July 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

  • 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

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