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Standards & Advice update: November 2021

At a recent meeting the RCVS Standards Committee approved new guidance to give greater clarity to veterinary surgeons who wish to exercise a conscientious objection.

Following consideration by the RCVS Diversity and Inclusion Working Group it was suggested that the supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct be strengthened to make it clear that veterinary surgeons in practice could, providing that animal welfare is maintained, opt-out of some veterinary work in line with their religion, personal views or beliefs.

The RCVS Standards Committee considered this issue, including the approach of other professional regulators, and agreed that, in order to support the profession and animal owners, specific guidance was necessary. It was further agreed that animal welfare should have priority over any right to conscientious objection and as such, a veterinary surgeon could only opt-out of providing a service when animal welfare was not compromised. It was also felt that it was important to advise veterinary surgeons to inform their employers of any conscientious objection as early as possible so that a contingency plan can be made.

The new guidance can be found in full in Chapter 2 of the supporting guidance to the Code, and is replicated below:

Conscientious objection

2.29 Veterinary surgeons may only refuse to offer specific procedures or services based on a conscientious objection where it is reasonable in all the circumstances and animal welfare is not compromised.

2.30 Where a veterinary surgeon is satisfied that animal welfare is not affected, they should make alternative arrangements for the animal, or where this is not possible, ensure the client has enough information to seek assistance from another veterinary surgeon. When exercising a conscientious objection, veterinary surgeons should ensure that they communicate their position sensitively and treat the client with respect.

2.31 Veterinary surgeons should inform employers of their conscientious objection at the earliest opportunity so that, if necessary, contingency plans can be made.

2.32 Veterinary surgeons should be open with colleagues about their conscientious objection and explore with those colleagues how they can practise in accordance with their beliefs without compromising patient care and without overburdening others.

There are further references and links in Chapters 3, 8, and 11 of the supporting guidance to the Code

Remote prescribing dispensation ends

As of Sunday 21 November 2021, the temporary dispensation brought in by the RCVS at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that allowed veterinary surgeons to, under strict conditions and safeguards, prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines remotely, has now ended. Further information about this decision, which was recently made by the RCVS Standards Committee, can be found here

November 2021