Just over a year on from the announcement of the UK’s first national lockdown, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is publishing new COVID recovery guidance for the veterinary professions in the UK, which will gradually replace its current emergency guidance and aims to help veterinary practices begin a phased return to near-normal operations, subject to a number of provisions.
The key recovery guidance aligns with the UK governments’ collective intention to open up parts of the indoor economy between now and mid-April (22 March in Wales, 5 April in Scotland, and 12 April in England and Northern Ireland), contingent upon a number of different provisions in each of the four UK nations.
Professional judgement and biosecurity
Subject to each government’s plans remaining in place, the College’s new guidance will enable practices across the UK to provide services to clients in accordance with their professional judgement, the ongoing requirement to maintain biosecurity and social distancing, and any other relevant government guidelines and restrictions.
The College’s Covid flowcharts, which have aimed to support veterinary decision-making throughout the pandemic restrictions, will therefore be removed, and practices will no longer be expected to provide only essential/urgent services.
Remote prescribe if no suitable alternative
However, recognising that for some time to come there could be ongoing issues for certain members of both the practice team and the public in attending and accessing practices, the College is retaining its temporary guidance that permits remote prescribing of prescription-only veterinary medicines, but only where there is no suitable alternative and still subject to certain guidelines and requirements.
Alongside the College’s guidance, the British Veterinary Association is also publishing guidance for practices on working safely as lockdown restrictions are eased.
Speaking on the anniversary of the UK’s national lockdown, RCVS President Mandisa Greene said: “None of us could have predicted quite what an extraordinary and extraordinarily challenging 12 months this has been for everyone. On behalf of the whole of RCVS Council, I would like to thank sincerely once again all our veterinary and veterinary nursing colleagues, and all those in practice teams around the UK, for their awe-inspiring commitment, adaptability, resilience and sheer hard work in continuing to provide essential veterinary services and look after the health and welfare of the nation’s animals, in what have been the most difficult of times.
“Whilst I sincerely hope that we are at last beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, if there is one thing we have learnt, it is that things can deteriorate rapidly if we don’t all continue to play our part and follow all relevant guidelines.
“I therefore urge my colleagues to continue to use their professional judgement and think very carefully about their gradual return to more normal working patterns over the coming weeks and months, according to their individual circumstances and the best interests of their teams, clients, and the animals they care for.”
Meanwhile, at its recent meeting, RCVS Council agreed with a proposal from the College’s COVID-19 Taskforce that the policy and guidance changes made in response to the pandemic over the past 12 months would now be reviewed, and decisions made as to whether to retain, amend or reverse them. Responsibility for these decisions would generally now be returned to the relevant Committee or Working Group that normally oversaw these areas, albeit potentially with advice or recommendations from the Taskforce.
In line with these decisions and the UK governments' respective roadmaps, guidelines and deadlines the College will continue to update the FAQs in its online Covid hub over the coming days and weeks as part of its ongoing recovery guidance.
The College’s Covid recovery guidance is available here.