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2. What type of work can I carry out? (06/01/21)

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 (national lockdown)

On 5 January 2021, England entered into national lockdown restrictions and the UK government has instructed people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS, and save lives.

Veterinary practices may remain open to provide services essential for public health and animal health and welfare under lockdown restrictions, and are not, as previously, restricted to emergency-only work.

The UK government has said that owners may leave home to seek veterinary advice or treatment for animal health and welfare reasons.

Veterinary professionals should exercise their clinical judgement as to what constitutes essential animal health and welfare, and therefore it may be appropriate in certain circumstances to delay seeing an animal until lockdown restrictions are lifted.

In line with the 'stay at home' message, veterinary practice support staff should work from home if possible, and veterinary professionals should undertake triage calls or remote consultations from home where possible.

Veterinary professionals are reminded to take appropriate biosecurity and hygiene measures when they do need to see an animal in person.

Please refer to the flowchart for England (national lockdown) - also available to download as a PDF.

Further information is available on the government website.

Can I do it? Guidance for clinical practices in England (national lockdown)

Wales

From 00.01hrs on 20 December 2020, Wales entered a national lockdown with Alert Level 4 restrictions to replace the previous national restrictions.

The Welsh CVO’s office has confirmed:

"Veterinary services may continue to operate but non-essential sales of petcare products must cease, in line with suspension of non-essential retail. Services that are not necessary for the health and welfare of animals or for the production of food should be deferred.

"We expect vets to use their professional judgement and understanding of infection control to make sensible decisions to limit the risks of spreading Covid-19 whilst undertaking their work. We do need people to stay at home as much as possible in this Alert Level 4."

Please refer to the updated flowchart for Wales below, which can also be downloaded as a pdf.

Further information is available on the Welsh government website.

Covid-19 practice flowchart for Wales- 20 December 2020

Scotland (Levels 0-3)

From 2 November 2020, the Scottish government introduced a system of five Covid protection levels that can be applied nationally or locally depending on the prevalence of the virus across Scotland, and which will be reviewed regularly.

If your practice is in a region of Scotland under Levels 0-3 restrictions, please refer to the flowchart below.

The flowchart below is also available to download as a PDF.

Covid-19 practice flowchart - Can I do it? Scotland Levels 0-3

Scotland (temporary lockdown)

From 5 January 2021, mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 restrictions to a temporary lockdown, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes.

The Scottish CVO’s Office has confirmed that:

"Businesses which provide essential services can continue to operate, such as those in the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sector. There are 13 designated CNI sectors including agriculture and food production and activity to maintain the food supply chain.

"Not all CNI activity will be essential. Those operations which can be done effectively through home working should be adopted.

"Veterinary services can remain open. They should plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively.”

Businesses that can continue to operate under lockdown restrictions must:

  • Plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively and maintain their service/operations.
  • Ensure all regulations and guidance is adhered to by staff and customers/visitors to site.
  • Encourage staff to work from home wherever possible, particularly with regards to staff who are assessed as at possible risk.

If your practice is in a region of Scotland under lockdown restrictions, please refer to the flowchart below. The flowchart below is also available to download as a PDF.

Further information is available on the Scottish government website.

Can I do it? Guidance for clinical practices in Scotland (national lockdown)

 

Northern Ireland (lockdown)

From 00.01hrs on 26 December 2020, the Northern Ireland Executive introduced a six-week lockdown to replace the previous national restrictions. An order for people in Northern Ireland to stay at home – to help stop the spread of Covid-19 – will become legally enforceable from 00.01 on Friday 8 January 2021.

The NI Executive has confirmed that veterinary practices can remain open.

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

Further information is available on the Northern Ireland government website

Can I do it? Guidance for clinical practices in Northern Ireland (national lockdown)

 

Please note:

We have considered and produced the flowchart and associated guidance for the veterinary profession in line with the latest government advice, including:

This flowchart was originally published on 9 April 2020, and was then updated on 19 May, 6 August and 29 September 2020. Further versions (for different scenarios) were then published on 23 and 26 October, 3, 19 and 26 November and 10 December 2020.

Print-ready versions of these flowcharts are also available to download as a PDF document.

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

Last updated: 6 January 2021

 

Related FAQs

  • 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: 14 December 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: 14 December 2020

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

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

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

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

    Last updated: 31 March 2020

  • As is the case for all veterinary services, when considering referral of a patient, our flowcharts 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 UK wide temporary relaxation allowing supply of veterinary medicines away from registered veterinary practice premises (RVPP), inaccessible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ended on 31 August 2020.

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

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


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

    For further information, please see the VMD guidance.

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

    Last updated: 25 January 2021

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

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

    Maintaining the food supply

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

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

     

    Can you help keep food imports flowing?

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

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

     

    Supporting the livestock industry (Scotland)

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

     

    Coronavirus vaccinations

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

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

     

    Donate veterinary equipment

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

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

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

     

    NHS Volunteer Army

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

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


    NHS Volunteer Army

     

    Work directly with NHS Trusts

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

     

    Clinical Contact Caseworkers

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

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

    England

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

    Scotland

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

    Wales

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

    Northern Ireland

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

     

    Call to final year students

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    Last updated: 11 January 2021

     

  • Based on the experience of other countries, we recognise that national lockdowns 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 travel and social distancing – and that applies to clients and staff.

  • Although veterinary practices are not required to close, in order to meet the most recent government requirements they must ensure they carry out their work safely, in line with the UK governments’ message to ‘stay at home’.

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

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

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

  • 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

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

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

     

    England

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

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

     

    Wales

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

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

     

    Scotland

    A level of priority for testing appointments will be maintained for ‘key workers’ and their household members to support them returning to work where it is safe to do so.

    ‘Key workers’ includes those working in animal health and welfare, and so includes veterinary professionals in Scotland.

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

     

    Northern Ireland

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

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

     

    When should I or members of my household be tested?

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

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

     

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

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

     

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

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

    Last updated: 05 August 2020

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