In light of the rapidly developing coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak around the world and increasingly in the UK, the RCVS has written to all veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses registered with the College to offer general advice and reassurance on Thursday, 5 March 2020.
The letter, set out below, includes broad guidance on the ongoing provision of veterinary services in challenging circumstances; a clear acknowledgment that veterinary professionals may need to depart from our usual best practice advice and guidance in order to safeguard personal and team safety and public health; and, reassurance about how our normal expectations around clinical decision-making would take the context of these exceptional circumstances into account.
Over the coming days, as the College receives additional requests from veterinary professionals for advice on specific situations, it will publish a range of FAQs online.
In the meantime, the RCVS Standards & Advice Team is available to contact on email@example.com/ 020 7202 0789.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice and reassurance for vet professionals
We have recently received a number of queries relating to effective contingency planning in response to the coronavirus outbreak and how certain challenges arising from it may be managed in line with your professional obligations set out in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct and its supporting guidance.
As the regulator for veterinary surgeons and registered veterinary nurses in the UK, our priority is the health and safety of those we regulate. We hope that this information will empower you to make decisions that will enable you to protect yourselves whilst continuing to provide the best care you can to your patients at this extremely challenging time.
In the first instance, it is important that you and the public are aware of and follow current advice and guidance from the UK Government and devolved administrations, as follows:
We understand that animal health and welfare will always be your first concern when attending to animals. However, we appreciate that you will also have concerns about the clinical and professional decisions you need to make in these difficult and changeable circumstances. To this end, we encourage you to work together to co-ordinate the care of animals and the delivery of services, and to use your clinical and professional judgement when assessing risk and making decisions, informed by the Code and guidance.
Our guidance is designed to be workable and applicable to wide-ranging scenarios, and is there to support you to effectively risk-assess and make clinical and professional judgements relevant to the context before you. However, we acknowledge that in these exceptional circumstances, you may need to depart from the best practice advice set out in the guidance, in order to safeguard yourself and your colleagues, as well as public health.
We understand that you may feel anxious about how your decision-making in such circumstances might be viewed if a concern is raised with us about you. We always consider concerns on the specific facts, taking into account the context in which any decisions were made together with any other relevant factors. We also consider any additional advice outside of the Code and guidance, such as this letter, in place at the time.
We therefore wish to reassure you that if you act reasonably in the light of all available information and evidence, and are able to justify the decisions you have made, it is hard to see circumstances where we would find you had acted in any way that would be a major cause for concern. To this end, we would advise you to include a detailed note of the decisions you make, and the reasons for them, within your clinical notes.
We will keep this guidance under review and will amend it as necessary as the situation develops.
In addition, over the coming days, we will be publishing some Frequently Asked Questions on our website with advice on more specific situations, which we will also review on an ongoing basis.
In the meantime, you can contact our advice team on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7202 0789.
Niall Connell MRCVS
Further guidance and resources
American Veterinary Medical Association – What do you need to know about coronavirus?
British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) – COVID-19 and Pets
British Veterinary Association (BVA) – Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) – updates for the veterinary profession
Public Health England – COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) – The New Coronavirus and Companion Animals – Advice for WSAVA Members