Skip to content

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

As the regulator for vets and vet nurses in the UK, our priority is the health and safety of those we regulate. We hope the information in this section will empower you to make decisions that will enable you to protect yourselves and your clients during the pandemic, whilst continuing to provide the best care you can to your patients at this extremely challenging time.

We have introduced updated guidance for veterinary professionals on how you can continue to undertake veterinary work during the extended lockdown period. This updated guidance includes new flow charts to help you decide whether or not to carry out a particular type of work.

Our FAQs are available on the following pages, and listed in full below. We will continue to update these in response to any further changes. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Filter FAQs

Coronavirus advice

  • Veterinary practices are not on the list of businesses and premises that need to close and, as such, may open where necessary.

    However, in order to comply with government guidance, where clients are seen, you should ensure you follow the relevant guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) including the mandatory wearing of face coverings. 

    In terms of those working within the practice, clinically extremely vulnerable employees should be encouraged to stay at home.

    Other team members should only attend the practice when necessary. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. 

    You should also familiarise yourself with, and follow, the government’s guidance for employers and businesses in England (see guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) to ensure you are following best practice to curb the spread of the virus and protect your team.

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

    Last updated: 24 September 2020

  • 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

    On 31 October 2020, the government announced new national restrictions for England from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December.

    Veterinary practices may remain open during the lockdown period, and owners will be able to leave home to seek veterinary advice and treatment that is essential for animal health and welfare.

    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 should exercise their clinical judgement as to what constitutes essential animal health and welfare during the period of national restrictions, and therefore it may be appropriate in certain circumstances to delay seeing an animal until after these restrictions are lifted. Please refer to the flowchart for England.

    Further information is available on the government website. The flowchart below is also available to download as a PDF.

    Covid-19 practice flowchart for England - 5 November 2020

    Wales (from 00.01hrs, 09/11/20)

    The 'firebreak' restrictions in Wales ended at midnight on 8 November 2020. From 00.01hrs on 9 November 2020, Wales introduced a new set of national measures to replace the previous restrictions.

    As such, the Welsh CVO’s Office has said that:

    ‘Veterinary practices can return to usual operation, with the now standard measures to try to prevent transmission of coronavirus between people as much as possible, [including] physical distancing, hand-washing, wearing face coverings indoors.’

    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 flowchart_Wales_201109

    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 (Level 4)

    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.

    From 17 November 2020, a number of regions in Scotland entered Level 4 restrictions. The Scottish CVO’s office has confirmed that:

    • Large animal veterinary services have a role in maintaining the food supply chain and therefore are part of the critical national infrastructure and classed as essential services.
    • Veterinary surgeons are listed as a business that can remain open under a Level 4 restrictions. Practices do not have to restrict services to emergency or food supply chain work as long as they continue to comply with general Covid-19 business requirements on working safely.

     

    Businesses that can continue to operate at Level 4 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 Level 4 restrictions, please refer to the flowchart below. Further information is available on the Scottish government website.

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

    Covid-19 practice flowchart - Can I do it? Scotland Level 4

    Northern Ireland

    From 16 October 2020, the NI government introduced coronavirus restrictions which will be in place until 00.01hrs on Friday 27 November. Please refer to the flow chart for NI.

    Further information is available on the NI government website. The flowchart below is also available to download as a PDF.

    Covid-19 practice flowchart for Northern Ireland - 5 November 2020

     

    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 2020 and 29 September. Further versions (for different scenarios) were then published on 23, 26 October 2020 and 3 November.

    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: 19 November 2020

  • You will need to decide whether the animal needs to be seen now, whether the case can be supported remotely or whether treatment can be delayed. If, after triaging the animal, you feel it is necessary to see them, consider whether it could be brought to you (or you go to it) without putting your own, or someone else’s, health at unnecessary risk.

    For example, ask whether another person can bring the animal to the practice, or another appropriate location, on the owner’s behalf.

    Government guidance states that there is no evidence of coronavirus circulating in pets or other animals in the UK and there is nothing to suggest animals may transmit the disease to humans. However, if you do decide to see the animal in person, normal biosecurity measures, as well as additional government guidance on hand washing, should be observed.

    Consider the extent to which you can assist remotely - this may include giving advice via remote means as to how to manage the animal’s condition at home. It may also include remote prescribing of POM-V medicines as appropriate (see FAQ 4 for full details). In this scenario, document your rationale for your decision making to ensure you can justify your actions if asked to do so.

    In cases where POM-V medicines are prescribed remotely, you should ensure that either you are in a position to examine the animal yourself or that it can be examined by another veterinary surgeon if its condition deteriorates to the point where remote support is inadequate. There may be instances where, in order to ensure your own safety, an animal needs to be taken away from its owners to undergo treatment, or euthanasia, for welfare reasons. This is likely to be particularly upsetting as most owners will want to be with their animal when they are put to sleep. As such, you may wish to consider whether you can direct them to an appropriate source of support, for example a bereavement or counselling service.

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

    Last updated: 13 May 2020

  • Under normal circumstances, this is not permitted by the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct. However, during the pandemic, RCVS Council has agreed a temporary departure from this position.

    Please click on the drop-down below that is relevant to your nation to determine when remote prescribing may be appropriate: 

    England

    During the national lockdown restrictions, you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means. In line with the flowchart referred to in FAQ 2 for England, in non-emergency cases veterinary surgeons should consider whether they can support the case effectively via remote means in the first instance. However, you must first be satisfied that you can adhere to the guidelines below.

    Wales (from 00.01hrs, 09/11/20)

    In line with the flow chart referred to in FAQ 2 for Wales (from 00.01hrs, 09/11/20), you should consider whether you already have the animal under your care (as explained in Chapter 4, paras 4.9-4.11) or, if not, whether it is possible to carry out a physical examination to bring the animal under your care. If the answer to both questions is ‘no’, you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means, providing you adhere to the guidelines below.

    Scotland (Levels 0-3)

    In line with the flow chart referred to in FAQ 2 for Scotland (Levels 0-3), you should consider whether you already have the animal under your care (as explained in Chapter 4, paras 4.9-4.11) or, if not, whether it is possible to carry out a physical examination to bring the animal under your care. If the answer to both questions is ‘no’, you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means, providing you adhere to the guidelines below.

    Scotland (Level 4)

    Under Level 4 restrictions, you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means. In line with the flowchart referred to in FAQ 2 for Scotland (Level 4), in non-emergency cases veterinary surgeons should consider whether they can support the case effectively via remote means in the first instance. However, you must first be satisfied that you can adhere to the guidelines below.

    Northern Ireland

    During the current restriction period, you may prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means. In line with the flowchart referred to in FAQ 2 for NI, in non-emergency cases veterinary surgeons should consider whether they can support the case effectively via remote means in the first instance. However, you must first be satisfied that you can adhere to the guidelines below.

     

    Remote prescribing guidelines

    Before prescribing by remote means, you must first be satisfied that:

    • You can provide a 24/7 follow-up service involving physical examination, plus or minus further investigation, if required; for example in the case where the animal does not improve, or suffers an adverse reaction, or deteriorates, subsequent to the prescription of said medicines. You or your practice can provide this follow-up service personally, or by written agreement with a veterinary services provider that is local to your client (as per existing guidance under the Code – see SG Chapter 3, paras 3.3 - 3.6),
    • you have enough information to remotely prescribe POM-Vs safely without physically examining the animal,
    • there is no suitable alternative medicine, categorised as a POM-VPS, NFA-VPS, or AVM-GSL, and
    • the benefit to the animal and/or public health outweighs the risk.

    If you are satisfied regarding the above, you should then consider:

    • whether immediate action is necessary in the interests of animal welfare,
    • whether treatment can be delayed until a physical examination is possible,
    • whether it is possible to examine the animal without having contact with the owner and if so, whether it would assist,
    • the nature of the medication.
    • the appropriate quantity, taking into account factors such as the length of time until a physical examination of the animal will be possible and the length of time until the owner will be able to access medication by other means.
    • the risks and benefits to the animal, and
    • the client’s view and understanding of the risks.

    You should also ensure that:

    • any consent given by the client is fully informed
    • you make detailed notes of your decision and the reasons for it, and
    • you can justify any decision that you make.

    When prescribing remotely, you should follow the BSAVA Guide to the Use of Veterinary Medicines, which contains useful information in relation to emailing prescriptions and posting veterinary medicines. See also the Royal Mail’s guidance on posting prescription medication. You should also provide the owner with all of the information they need to administer the medicine safely and ensure they have a means to contact you (or a colleague) in the event they have any questions or problems.

    NB If you are approached by members of the public who are not existing clients of your practice, where possible you should in the first instance direct them to the practice where they are registered. Our current supporting guidance on  ‘Communication between professional colleagues’ may be useful.

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

    Last updated: 19 November 2020

    • Where it is necessary to see an animal in person:
      • Ask clients if they or a member of their household are currently self-isolating or have tested positive for the virus when booking appointments and before attending any home/farm visits or offsite consultations.
      • Reduce the number of people attending the premises to the absolute minimum (see FAQ 2) and limit physical contact with clients wherever possible (see FAQs 1 & 2). This could be achieved by asking that only one person accompanies an animal when attending the practice, or by asking clients to wait in the waiting room, outside or even in their cars while you examine their animal. The consultation with the owner could then take place over the telephone.
      • Ensure employees and clients wear face masks when on premises, including the consultation room, waiting area and any communal areas.
      • You may keep a record of clients attending your practice so that you can inform them if there is a positive case of coronavirus amongst your staff or other persons entering your premises. Whilst veterinary practices are not required to collect information via the QR code scanning system for the NHS Track and Trace programme, practices may consider implementing this system as part of the public health effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. The QR code service is only available in England and Wales. It allows visitors to scan the QR code when they arrive, using the NHS COVID-19 app. More information regarding the QR code in England and Wales is available on the government website.
    • Carry out risk assessments for all staff and observe government guidance on staying alert and safe (social distancing) in England (see guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). 
    • Encourage team members who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable, eg are aged over 70, have underlying health issues or are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired, to stay at home.
    • Familiarise yourself with, and follow, the government’s guidance for employers and businesses to ensure you are following best practice to curb the spread of the virus and protect your team.
    • Familiarise yourself with guidance on infection prevention and control from the UK Government and devolved administrations (where available, as follows) and consider whether any of the suggested measures could be applicable and implemented at your practice:

     

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

    Last updated: 29 October 2020

  • If you and your practice are unable to meet the government's social distancing guidelines, which include giving thought to limiting unnecessary travel, then the procedure should not go ahead unless there is an animal health risk, and only then when care has been given to additional risk assessment and PPE. 

    While the College does not regulate businesses, we do require that every practice has a senior named veterinary surgeon who takes responsibility for clinical policy and it would be to that person that we would look if we hear that business as usual is being pursued in a reckless fashion, rather than careful judgement being exercised. 

    It may assist to draw your employer’s attention to the most recent guidance for employers and businesses and social distancing.

    If you are concerned about how the virus may affect your employment, for example you are in the government’s list of clinically extremely vulnerable people and you wish to stay at home, you should refer to the government guidance for employees.

    If you are a member of a veterinary association or union that has a legal helpline, you may also wish to contact them for assistance with matters relating to your employment.

    In addition, there is also specific coronavirus advice from ACAS for both employers and employees.

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

    Last updated: 9 July 2020

  • Update - 8 June 2020

    The RCVS Taskforce have reviewed the decision taken in March to reduce the CPD hourly requirements for vets and VNs by 25% and agreed there will be no further reduction in CPD requirements this year.

    To inform their review, the taskforce looked at the data in the RCVS CPD recording platform, 1CPD which almost 60% of vets and 80% of VNs are using. This shows that around two-thirds of vets and VNs using the portal have so far completed more than 90% of the required hours for the year. A small minority of vets and VNs using the 1CPD portal have completed less than 20% of hours required.

    We recognise that many veterinary professionals may be struggling with competing priorities during this time. If you think you may not achieve your required CPD this year, we would encourage you to contact the Education team as soon as possible by emailing onecpd@rcvs.org.uk so we can discuss this with you. 

    Original statement - 30 March 2020

    In recognition of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions brought in by the UK Government in order to control its transmission, we have reduced by 25% the number of hours of CPD that you will have to complete during 2020.

    Therefore, this year, the annual minimum requirement for veterinary surgeons will be reduced from 35 to 26 hours of CPD, while that of veterinary nurses will be reduced from 15 to 11 hours.

    The reduction comes into force immediately to help relieve the pressure on you in facing significant and competing challenges in the coming weeks and months.

    We recognise that, although some veterinary professionals have seen a reduced workload and may well take this opportunity to do CPD, many will now be juggling their professional responsibilities with increased family, childcare and other caring responsibilities and may, therefore, be finding it difficult to plan for and undertake CPD.

    A similar 25% reduction pro rata (for 2020) will also be introduced for veterinary surgeons holding Advanced Practitioner or RCVS Specialist status, as retaining these statuses requires additional hours of CPD across a 5-year period, including in the specific areas of designation.

    We would urge you to remember, however, that our CPD policy for vets and vet nurses already allows for many different types of learning and development, not just attending physical events.

    While going to conferences and other events may not be possible for many for the time being, there is a wide variety of CPD that you can still access, including webinars, online learning, and reading relevant journals.

    We understand that, in some cases, the organisers of cancelled events are working to make the learning resources available online instead.

    There is a range of resources that you may find helpful on our website, including blog posts and videos about types of CPD to consider. Please visit www.rcvs.org.uk/cpd2020.

    Read our full statement

    Last updated: 8 June 2020

  • RCVS Council has agreed to a number of temporary measures around the Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) requirements for current UK veterinary students, in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the associated restrictions during the period of lockdown. These measures are summarised on our EMS page.

    The temporary changes to EMS policy will be kept under constant review and may be subject to further change, as restrictions due to the pandemic are eased and / or reintroduced if there is a second wave of infection.

    Contact the Education Team: education@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0791

    Last updated: 14 July 2020

  • Several universities and awarding organisations expressed concerns regarding student veterinary nurses’ attendance in clinical placement and employment, due to the precautions around transmission of Coronavirus. This applies to all students in all years of a programme, although there were particular concerns as to the impact this will have on final-year students being unable to complete the required number of hours in order to complete their licence to practise qualification and be eligible to apply to register with the RCVS.

    There have also been concerns raised over the completion of the RCVS Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses (DOS) should students be unable to attend their clinical placements or employment. The RCVS Day One Competences and Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses set out the minimum essential requirements that we expect all student nurses to have met when they register, to ensure they are safe and competent to practise on day one, in whichever area of the profession they start to work.

    Universities and awarding organisations requested a degree of flexibility around the RCVS VN Registration Rules and completion of the RCVS Day One Skills, in light of the Covid-19 situation.

    The following therefore applies:

    • Veterinary Nurses Council recognises that it should not be compulsory for students to complete clinical placements or employment during the current time and will review the situation on a regular, eight-week, basis. This will apply to students in any year of their studies.
    • It is also recognised that for students in their final year of study, it may be difficult for them to make up the hours of clinical placement or employment missed prior to completing their programme. Universities, awarding organisations and colleges should continue to support their students and explore alternatives, however any shortfall relative to the requirements should not be a barrier to completion of the programme.
    • It is anticipated that both further and higher education students not in their final year of study would have sufficient time to make up the number of hours prior to completing their programme however, this will be reviewed as the Covid-19 pandemic progresses.
    • Student veterinary nurses will still be required to complete the RCVS Day One Skills for Veterinary Nurses in their totality as these seek to assure competence at the point of registration. Where a student has completed the Day One Skills in fewer than the required 1,800 hours, this will be assessed on a case-by-case basis on application to register.


    NB We have also published advice about OSCEs and unseen examinations - please read FAQ12

    Contact the VN team:  vetnursing@rcvs.org.uk / 020 7202 0788

    *This guidance was first published on 27 March, updated on 2 June, 30 July and 12 October for a further 8 weeks, after which the situation will be reviewed again.

    Last updated: 12 October 2020

  • On 20 March 2020, we published a joint statement with the British Veterinary Association containing guidance on the status of veterinary surgeons as 'key workers' in relation to school closures as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

    This follows lobbying of government by both the RCVS and BVA on this subject.

    Read the full statement here

    With regard to veterinary nurses, the British Veterinary Nursing Association published the following statement on 21 March 2020: 

    Why RVN's aren't considered 'key workers' 

    Please also read FAQ 21 'Do veterinary professionals qualify for coronavirus testing under the government’s guidelines?'.

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

    Last updated: 22 March 2020

  • We updated our flowchart in FAQ2 on 4 November 2020, and have introduced a specific one for veterinary professionals in each of the UK’s four nations.

    The flowchart takes you through a decision-making process for all veterinary interventions within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, and explains what services you can continue to provide, in line with national government guidance

    This puts the decision as to which vaccinations can be carried out into your hands, using your veterinary clinical judgement.

    We feel this is the best way to ensure that you can address specific disease pressures in your geographical area, while prioritising the health of your teams, clients and the wider public, and adhering to the latest government advice on staying safe and alert (social distancing).

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

    Last updated: 4 November 2020

  • 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: 30 June 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: 2 June 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 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; 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: 24 September 2020

  • 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.

    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.

     

    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: 2 June 2020

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

  • Government advice is that where possible, and following social distancing, work should go on. In no way are we expecting you to provide services that you don’t feel are appropriate. Our flowcharts are designed explicitly to allow you the flexibility to decide that is best in your own individual circumstances.

    As ever, we trust veterinary professionals to make decisions based on the specific situation with which they are faced, and their local knowledge. All practices are different, with different facilities, staffing levels, species and local disease threats – our guidance, which all vets and nurses need to abide by, allows everyone to operate to the best of their abilities.

  • 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

  • You should only undertake testing for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in animals where it is in the interest of the health and welfare of the animal and is in line with APHA guidance. It should not be a screening test.

    You should be mindful of the fact that SARS-CoV-2 appears to be a very rare cause of mild clinical disease; other differentials should be considered, investigated and ruled out as more likely causes of clinical signs before performing testing for SARS-CoV-2.

    The small number of animals worldwide which have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 to date have shown only mild respiratory signs and gastrointestinal distress. In the absence of a specific treatment for the virus, testing for SARS-CoV-2 has not, and should not, result in alteration to case management. You are therefore urged to carefully consider before undertaking any such test and the benefit to the specific animal.

    Where it is intended that clinical research projects are to be undertaken, for instance, utilising blood that is derived from clinical sampling, ie for a diagnostic or treatment purpose, or via non-invasive sampling, eg swabs, these should be the subject of appropriate ethical review. Otherwise, sampling to answer research investigations is regulated by The Home Office under The Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

    Collecting samples from animals must only be undertaken with due consideration to the current social distancing requirements. Further, as confirmed contact with a suspect human case is one of the criteria for considering testing (see APHA guidance) particular caution should be taken when handling the animal due to the risk of it acting as a fomite.

    If, after careful consideration, you feel that testing for SARS-CoV-2 is necessary, you should assess the types of samples that are needed, ie check with the lab before collection to get it right first time and avoid unnecessary handling or repeat sampling of the animal.

    You have a professional obligation to report positive SARS-Cov-2 test results to the competent authority - Office of the UK Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) in England and respective CVOs in the devolved administrations - to support the UK's international reporting obligations to the OIE.

     

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

    Last updated: 27 July 2020 

  • The new UK border rules introduced due to coronavirus state that any person returning to the UK from overseas (excluding Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) must provide their journey and contact details, and self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

    There are exemptions in place for certain categories of workers in the UK. For each of the devolved nations, travel corridor exemptions are in place and are subject to review dependant on the level of risk for certain countries/territories.

    The quarantine exemptions are different for each of the regions of the UK. Please see below for details of the system in place in your area. In addition, please refer to your employer’s protocols for the interpretation of legislation for your specific work and personal situation.

     

    England

    Travel corridors

    The government has eased quarantine measures in England and has introduced travel corridor exemptions for some countries and territories.

    From 10 July 2020, you will not have to self-isolate when you arrive in England if you:

    • Are travelling or returning from one of the countries with a travel corridor exemption; or
    • Have not been to or stopped in a country that is not on the travel corridors exemption list in the previous 14 days.


    View the full list of countries and territories that are included.

    All other travel where the travel corridor exemptions do not apply

    There are exemptions in place for some travellers, including certain veterinary surgeons, where they have travelled to the UK in the course of their work or otherwise to commence or resume work, as follows:

    • Veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain, and
    • Official Veterinarians (OVs) working on official controls at the border


    Those veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain are exempt under the following guideline, with the food supply being covered under ‘goods’:

    a worker with specialist technical skills, where those specialist technical skills are required for essential or emergency works or services (including commissioning, maintenance, and repairs and safety checks) to ensure the continued production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods

    In addition, there are exemptions for qualified persons and responsible persons for human and veterinary medicines, clinical trials, clinical investigations and pharmacovigilance.

    The full list of exemptions is available on the government website.

     

    Wales

    Travel corridors

    The Welsh government has eased quarantine measures and introduced travel corridor exemptions for some countries and territories.

    View the full list of countries and territories that are included.

    All other travel where the travel corridor exemptions do not apply.

    There are exemptions in place for certain veterinary professionals as follows:

    • Those involved in the production, supply, movement, manufacture, storage or preservation of goods;
    • Those involved in veterinary medicines for the purposes of clinical trials; and
    • Those involved in veterinary medicines for the purposes of quality assurance


    Please refer to the full list of exemptions on the Welsh government website.

     

    Scotland

    Air bridges

    The Scottish government has announced a list of countries where quarantine measures do not apply on arrival to Scotland. Please refer to the full list of countries.

    All other travel where the travel bridge exemptions do not apply.

    Please note that for people travelling to Scotland there are some differences from the exemptions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, namely, there are no quarantine exemptions for veterinary professionals:

    • Registered health or care professionals travelling to the UK to provide essential healthcare, including where this is not related to coronavirus - will need to self-isolate for 14 days if you are staying in Scotland;
    • Frequent travellers for work: if you live in the UK but work in another country and travel between the UK and country of work at least once a week; and/or you live outside the UK but work in the UK and travel between your country of residence and the UK at least once a week - will need to self-isolate for 14 days if you are staying in Scotland.


    Please refer to the Scottish government website.

     

    Northern Ireland

    Travel corridors

    The NI government has eased quarantine measures and introduced travel corridor exemptions for some countries and territories.

    View the full list of countries and territories that are included.

    All other travel where the travel corridor exemptions do not apply.

    The categories of veterinary professionals exempt from quarantine mirror those exempt for England, namely:

    • Veterinary surgeons involved in the food supply chain; and
    • Qualified persons and responsible persons for human and veterinary medicines, clinical trials, clinical investigations and pharmacovigilance.


    Please refer to the full list of exemptions on the NI government website.

     

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

    Last updated: 10 July 2020

  • Government guidance on mandatory face coverings is different for each of the nations within the UK. Please see below for details of the system in place in your country. In addition, please refer to your employer’s protocols for the interpretation of legislation for your specific work situation, and be mindful of any specific personal health factors.

     

    England

    From 8 August 2020 it has been a legal requirement to wear face coverings in all indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, including veterinary services, zoos, aquariums, visitor farms and storage and distribution facilities. Please follow the latest government guidance on face coverings including exemptions on wearing face coverings.

    Veterinary professionals are required to wear face coverings indoors when not using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) i.e. a surgical mask for consultations.

    Please see the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) guidance on social distancing control measures and risk assessments for businesses for further information.

     

    Scotland

    In Scotland, it is mandatory to wear face coverings in retail shops, supermarkets, on public transport, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms and any other tourist, heritage or cultural site. In other situations, the Scottish government recommends wearing a face covering where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household. Please see the Scottish government guidance.

     

    Wales

    Face coverings became mandatory for all indoor public places in Wales from 14 September 2020. Please see the Welsh government guidance.

     

    Northern Ireland

    Since 10 August, the NI government made it mandatory to wear face coverings in certain indoor settings such as shops and shopping centres, in addition to wearing face coverings on public transport. Please see the NI government guidance.

     

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

    Last updated: 24 September 2020

  • In response to the UK Chief Veterinary Officer’s confirmation today [27 July 2020] that on 22 July, a domestic cat was the first animal in the UK to test positive for Covid-19, there is no change to government guidance on the testing of animals for Covid-19. 

    Despite the fact that this is the first confirmed case of coronavirus animal infection in the UK, there is no evidence that the animal was involved in the transmission of the disease to humans nor is there evidence that other domestic animals are able to transmit the virus to humans. The cat and its owners have since made a full recovery.

    Public Health England has issued advice in line with general coronavirus guidance to keep washing hands regularly, including before and after contact with animals.

    Pet owners should be directed to the latest government guidance on how to continue to care for their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Please refer to the BVA website for further advice for pet owners with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

    For more information on your professional obligations regarding testing animals for Covid-19 and your reporting requirements, please refer to FAQ 22.

     

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

    Last updated: 27 July 2020

  • Government tracing programmes across the UK are different for each of the four nations. Please see below for details of the system in place in your area.

    Each of the four nations have launched separate contact tracing programmes to avoid blanket national lockdown restrictions and to help facilitate local lockdown situations to target the virus. Each programme will ask those who test positive for Covid-19 to provide contact details for the people that they have been in recent contact with and contact tracers will notify each of those persons to self-isolate for 14 days.

    For veterinary professionals, if you are identified as having been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, but at that time you were wearing the minimum required PPE as recommended by Public Health England (gloves, apron, a fluid repellent surgical face mask and eye protection), you would be considered to have had adequate protection against transmission and should not be advised to self-isolate.

    However, given that in most circumstances where veterinary workers are identified as contacts, whilst you may have been wearing a face covering, this may  not have been whilst wearing the minimum required PPE, and so you will be advised to self-isolate. If you are advised to self-isolate, and this would cause an impact on the provision of veterinary services, the incident can be discussed with the local Public Health England Health Protection Team who will decide whether a local risk assessment is warranted. Please refer to your employer’s protocols in the first instance.

    NHS Track and Trace QR system

    Whilst veterinary practices are not required to collect information via the QR code scanning system for the NHS Track and Trace programme, practices may consider implementing this system as part of the public health effort to contain the spread of coronavirus. This service is only available in England and Wales. Please see below for further information regarding the programme relevant for each nation:

    England

    See details of tracing programmes in England

    Scotland

    See details of tracing programmes in Scotland

    Wales

    See details of tracing programmes in Wales

    Northern Ireland

    See details of tracing programmes in Northern Ireland

     

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

    Last updated: 29 October 2020

  • Veterinary practices may remain open during a period of national or regional restrictions, however, this will depend on whether an individual can go to work, and you are advised to check with your employer. Please refer to FAQ 1 regarding keeping practices open.

    In light of the varying restrictions imposed across each of the four nations, it is possible that veterinary professionals may face circumstances where they are restricted in being able to physically attend their practice to work, for example, by avoiding unnecessary travel. Given the nature of regional and national restrictions, the extent and application of restrictions will vary depending on the area in question. Please refer to FAQ 2 for further information.

     

    Possible scenarios

    Whilst we cannot account for all eventualities, please see below responses to three possible scenarios:

    Can I do home visits to clients who live in an area under different restrictions to those where I live/work?

    Government advice is to minimise travel and as the restrictions vary between the nations, only travel to and from areas under different restrictions where it essential to do so. You will be able to travel to a client seeking emergency veterinary care where there is no other option, and this should be considered in line with FAQ 2.

     

    Can my clients visit my practice if they live in an area that has different restrictions to where my practice is?

    Clients should only travel to an area under different restrictions where essential, and for emergency treatment where there is no other option. If there is an option to conduct more routine work without the client travelling to the practice, then this should be considered in line with FAQ 2.

     

    Can I work in practice if my practice is located in a different country to where I am living?

    Government guidance is that you must work from home if you can effectively do so and anyone who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. However, clinically extremely vulnerable employees should be encouraged to stay at home.

     

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

    Last updated: 9 November 2020