RCVS Council members request further development on telemedicine trial

1 November 2018

At its meeting on Thursday 1 November RCVS Council voted to refer a proposed telemedicine trial to the Standards Committee for further development.

The aim of the proposed trial is to assess the benefits and risks of the remote prescription of prescription-only veterinary medicines (or POM-Vs) where there has been no physical examination of the animal and a more detailed proposal will come back to a future meeting of Council for discussion. 

The discussion over the proposed trial, which would be limited and time-bound, took place at the November 2018 meeting of RCVS Council (Thursday 1 November 2018).

A number of Council members raised points about the potential animal welfare implications of the trial. Issues raised included how this would affect the provision of 24/7 emergency care and pain relief, considerations around antimicrobial resistance and the effect such a trial might have on the current definition of an animal being ‘under his or her care’.

Members of Council also spoke about the possible benefits of telemedicine saying that it has the potential to extend the reach of vets and empower clients and that, as the technology is already being developed, it is key that the College, as regulator, remains on the front-foot and safeguards the public.

After a lengthy debate Council members voted to refer the trial back to the Standards Committee to consider the issues that were raised, alongside the parameters and scope of the trial, and to carry out further consultation with a number of external stakeholders as they develop a more detailed proposal.

Amanda Boag, our President, said: “This was a very important and necessary debate and I appreciate that passions were, quite rightly, very high in relation to such a fundamental issue as remote prescribing where an animal has not been physically examined.

“I appreciate all the contributions that were made and the Standards Committee now has a clear steer as to the further work it needs to conduct before bringing the proposed trial back to a future meeting of Council.”

Meanwhile, at its meeting in September, the Standards Committee had agreed some minor changes to the current wording of chapter 2 (‘Veterinary care’) of the supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct to make clearer what is now permissible in terms of offering advice remotely.

In addition, Standards Committee is also working up case studies to provide further clarification and reassurance to the profession.

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