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RCVS Covid-19 Taskforce extends remote prescribing guidance

26 June 2020

The RCVS Council Covid-19 Taskforce yesterday (25 June 2020) decided to extend by six weeks our temporary guidance that allows veterinary surgeons to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) remotely, without first having physically examined the animal, subject to a number of conditions and safeguards being in place.

RCVS Council originally decided to change the supporting guidance to the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct in March, in view of the nationwide lockdown measures in place at that time due to the coronavirus pandemic. This enabled veterinary practices to continue to provide the animal-owning public with veterinary services, a proportion of which via remote means, whilst safeguarding the health of their teams and clients.

“After reviewing a number of relevant factors, we agreed that the UK, and UK veterinary practice, had not yet sufficiently returned to ‘normal’ to enable the temporary change in guidance to be halted.

As this position was due for review no later than 30 June, the Taskforce considered a number of key factors in relation to this guidance including: whether all types of veterinary practices could operate face-to-face under current distancing guidance; the risk factors associated with remote prescribing, in terms of animal health and welfare; and, a return to fuller practice caseloads across all types of species.

The Taskforce also considered the varying ability of clients to travel to practices, both in the case of those who might still be shielding and in view of the different rules in place across the four nations of the UK; the potential impact of quarantine relating to track and trace on practices; and, the need to ensure inclusivity of staff teams and enable as many as possible to contribute to the practice workload.

Niall Connell RCVS President Niall Connell (pictured), who chairs the Taskforce, said: “After reviewing a number of relevant factors, we agreed that the UK, and UK veterinary practice, had not yet sufficiently returned to ‘normal’ to enable the temporary change in guidance to be halted.

“We were particularly aware that there are still quite distinct differences in how veterinary practices around the country are able to cope with the ongoing restrictions, especially around social distancing in the workplace, so we decided the simplest and safest approach would be to maintain the status quo for a further six weeks.

“We will therefore review the temporary guidance again no later than 6 August, but would also like to reassure practices that they will be given at least three weeks’ notice of any change.”

The Taskforce further agreed that the current flowchart – produced to help practices decide whether or not to carry out certain work during the pandemic – did not need to be changed for the time being.

Should practices feel that remote consulting was not the most effective option they could move to face-to-face consulting, providing they could do it safely with appropriate social/physical distancing.

We have also commissioned an independent study into individuals’ experiences of remote consulting and remote prescribing during the pandemic. The main purpose of this survey is to see if there are any immediate safety, quality or efficiency issues relating to this renewed temporary exemption to RCVS guidance that need to be taken into account.

A secondary objective is to capture data on individuals’ experiences to inform our wider review of ‘under care’ and 24/7 out-of-hours emergency cover, planned to resume later this year.

The study is being undertaken by the Institute for Employment Studies, with a survey of UK-practising veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses launching on 26 June 2020 and closing 10 days later.

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