New RCVS guidance navigates clinical and ethical judgements - Veterinary Practice
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New RCVS guidance navigates clinical and ethical judgements

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has released new guidance to help the veterinary profession with ethical and clinical judgements

On 1 July, new guidance for routine veterinary practice (RVP), formerly known as recognised veterinary practice, will be introduced by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to empower the profession to make their own judgements about RVP and clinical veterinary research (CVR).

Following approval by the RCVS Standards Committee, the new guidance, which replaces Chapter 25 of the Supporting Guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct, will help the profession to determine whether a procedure, series of procedures, or study is RVP, CVR or whether it is experimental and so should be regulated by the Home Office under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act. This in turn will assist vets in deciding whether ethics review is required, what level of consent should be obtained, and from whom.

Routine Veterinary Practice is an important veterinary concept which describes the procedures and techniques performed on animals by veterinary surgeons (or veterinary nurses under their direction) in the course of their professional duties, which ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to their care. These are the routine, established, procedures undertaken on animals every day.

Within the concept of RVP is clinical veterinary research. CVR is when routine procedures are undertaken for the benefit of the animal/s, with the concurrent intention to generate new knowledge that benefits animals, such as developing new procedures, improving a diagnosis, changing a routine procedure, or comparing existing procedures. While the idea of CVR is not new, it is the first time that the RCVS has provided specific guidance on this area.

The guidance also introduces an obligation to obtain ethics review for all studies where one would be expected to obtain permission from the owner/keeper of an animal prior to being enrolled, or when consent is needed for use of previously collected samples or the use of data from an animal. More information about obtaining ethics review can be found within the guidance. This obligation will come into effect on 1 September 2022.

Comprehensive FAQs accompany the newly drafted Chapter 25, and provide extra guidance on the following areas:

  • What do you want to do?
  • Why do you want to do it?
  • Does the procedure or technique include the use of a medicine prescribed under the cascade?
  • Do you have informed consent?
  • Is this clinical veterinary research?
  • Has the procedure or technique been performed before?
  • Have you performed the procedure or technique before?
  • Do you need to obtain ethics review?

Chair of the Standards Committee and incoming RCVS President, Dr Melissa Donald, said: “The revised guidance on RVP is an important development. The process for reviewing the guidance has been thorough and involved input from academics and researchers throughout the veterinary industry. We hope that the guidance will inspire confidence in our veterinary colleagues at all levels to undertake treatment routes which develop veterinary knowledge as a whole, while still being for the benefit of the animal being treated.”

For further information in relation to RVP and/or CVR, or advice on whether a particular proposed procedure would be covered by this guidance, please contact the Standards and Advice team.

As of 1 July, the new guidance will be found on the RCVS website.

For further information in relation to ethics review of proposed veterinary clinical research studies, please contact the Secretary to the RCVS Ethics Review Panel or visit the website.

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