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Standards & advice update: May 2021

This month’s update follows the latest meeting of the Standards Committee which took place at the beginning of the month. One of the major decisions at that meeting was an agreement on a new guidance-based approach to microchip scanning of dogs ahead of euthanasia, which has also been agreed by BVA and Defra, the detail of which has been published elsewhere.

There was also an update to the Supporting Guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct as relates to anaesthesia as well as developing a reminder to members of the professions about certification using electronic signatures and online forms. Both of these updates can be found below.

Anaesthesia support – Supporting Guidance update

The Supporting Guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct has been updated to reflect new guidance on support during anaesthesia. Chapter 2 ‘Veterinary Care’ and Chapter 18 ‘Delegation to veterinary nurses’ have been amended to reflect that during small animal procedures requiring general anaesthesia, there should be another, suitably trained, person present for the specific purpose of monitoring anaesthesia. Exceptions to this guidance include emergencies or very short procedures such as cat castrates.

It should be kept in mind that the most suitable person to assist a veterinary surgeon to monitor and maintain anaesthesia is a veterinary nurse or, under supervision, a student veterinary nurse. If the anaesthesia is being monitored by anyone other than a registered veterinary nurse, evidence of suitable training should be available (in-house training is acceptable).

These updates arose following changes to the PSS Small Animal Module at Core Standards level relating to additional staff members being present during some surgical procedures. These, along with other agreed changes, have now been published on the PSS section of the website.

This requirement has been moved from GP level, to Core Standards, within the Small Animal PSS Module, and as such, is now the standard which all practices (regardless of accreditation with PSS) need to meet in line with paragraph 4.3 in the Code of Professional Conduct: ‘4.3  Veterinary surgeons must maintain minimum practice standards equivalent to the Core Standards of the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme.’

Please see the updates to Chapter 2, paragraphs 2.3 and 2.4, and Chapter 18, paragraphs 18.9 in relation to support during anaesthesia.

Reminders on certification to veterinary surgeons using electronic signatures and online forms

Veterinary surgeons are reminded that they should consider and ensure that sufficient safeguards and security is in place when engaging in electronic veterinary certification via the use of electronic signatures and online forms, both of which are now routinely used throughout the profession.

The absence of a request for an electronic signature, or the ability to easily access an online form, does not mean that the completion of that form does not amount to veterinary certification.  Online forms and the submission of data in this regard, is likely to amount to electronic veterinary certification and should comply with Chapter 21 of the Supporting Guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct.

Veterinary surgeons asked to complete any form of electronic veterinary certification, including the use of electronic signatures and the completion of online forms, should consider whether there are sufficient controls and security in place, (eg system encryption, passwords, etc.) to avoid unauthorised access to and use of the veterinary surgeon’s electronic identity.  Where an electronic identifier, (eg numeric, alpha-numeric, symbol etc.,) is used in place of a signature, it must be unique to the signatory and safeguarded against unauthorised use by anyone other than the signatory.

Consideration should also be given to whether the electronic veterinary certificate is unalterable and lockable to avoid unauthorised modification or manipulation once it has been signed/submitted/certified.  Veterinary surgeons will need to seek technical advice from those with relevant knowledge to give assurances about how to meet these requirements.

Finally, veterinary surgeons are reminded to keep a copy of the completed form/certificate to ensure that a trail of document ‘originals’ can be maintained, particularly if the document is likely to pass through a sequence of electronic ‘hands’, and to familiarise themselves with the relevant provisions of the UK legislation, for example, the Electronic Communications Act 2000 and associated regulations.

May 2021