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RCVS updates key COVID-19 guidance in light of new government restrictions

Guidance explains the type of work that can be carried out under varying government restrictions

27 October 2020, at 5:00pm

Following the recent decision by the Welsh Government that Wales is to enter a two-week “firebreak” lockdown period from 6pm on Friday 23 October, the RCVS has further updated its key guidance for the veterinary professions that explains the type of work that can be carried out under varying government restrictions around the UK.

The College published its original guidance, in the form of a flowchart, during the early days of the pandemic to support veterinary decision-making during lockdown. Since then, it has updated the flowchart several times to reflect the subsequent relaxation of government restrictions.

A key element of this flowchart was the option for veterinary surgeons to remotely prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) without first carrying out a physical examination of the animal, subject to certain conditions. RCVS Council initially allowed this temporary derogation from the College’s usual guidance to ensure that animal health and welfare could be maintained during the pandemic, without risking the health of veterinary teams or their clients.

In light of the currently worsening situation across the UK, the Welsh Government’s decision to impose a further lockdown, and the potential for tighter lockdown restrictions elsewhere in the country, the College has now produced two flow charts and two sets of temporary guidance on remote prescribing, to reflect the main two types of government restrictions a practice may be working under. These are:

  • Circuit-break or Fire-break lockdown conditions: FAQ2a and FAQ4a
    A “new” flowchart which broadly represents a return to the College’s original guidance in April to undertake essential and emergency work only and with a temporary option to remote prescribe POM-Vs at an earlier stage, subject to certain conditions*.
  • Tier 1, 2, or 3 restrictions: FAQ2b and FAQ4b
    The current flowchart which incorporates all of Council’s recent changes, including an expectation that a veterinary surgeon should first endeavour to bring an animal under their care before considering prescribing POM-Vs remotely, subject to certain conditions*.

*these conditions are set out in FAQ4a&b and include a recent requirement introduced by RCVS Council (effective from 1 November) for anyone remotely-prescribing POM-Vs to also provide a 24/7 follow-up service involving physical examination, plus or minus further investigation, if required. This follow-up can be provided personally by the veterinary surgeon or practice, or by written agreement with a veterinary services provider that is local to the client.

RCVS President Dr Mandisa Green said: “I would like to reassure my colleagues once again that we understand the extreme challenges and difficult decisions they are facing.

“The College has no interest in taking anyone to task for considered professional judgement, providing they act reasonably in the circumstances, can justify their actions and take reasonable notes.

“Sadly, we’re seeing the pandemic situation deteriorating again in the UK, but to varying degrees across the country. This presents a significant challenge in ensuring our guidance is clear and straightforward, while remaining relevant to as many people as possible.

“We sincerely hope this new guidance achieves that aim and supports veterinary professionals working to uphold animal health and welfare, while maintaining the safety of their teams and clients.”

[Note: A new five-tier system for Scotland was announced earlier on 23 October. The RCVS will be reviewing the detail of this as soon as possible and will update its guidance as necessary.]

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