Coronavirus: what does it mean for Veterinary Professionals?
Following the Prime Minister’s recent announcement to reintroduce national restrictions across England from 5 November until 2 December 2020, guidance for veterinary professionals has been given on the type of work that can be carried out under varying government restrictions around the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis veterinary professionals have been able to work, in line with the UK government's advice to business. Initially, this work was limited to urgent and emergency services, and services to maintain the food supply chain. Practices then transitioned to providing services that are essential for animal health and welfare or public health, including to relieve pain and suffering.
Veterinary practices are now working within local, regional, and national lockdown measures and services will vary according to local rules. Practices are providing as full a range of services as possible, whilst working safely. This does not mean a return to pre-Covid 'business as usual' ways of working.
All veterinary services must be provided in a manner that supports social/physical distancing and good hygiene and biosecurity.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, along with the British Veterinary Association have both offered specific guidance for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to help veterinary professionals quickly identify the right guidance based on where they practise.
Generally, veterinary practices may remain open, but there are national variations in what, and how, services should be offered and prioritised, including at what point, and under what conditions, remote prescribing may be used to help support a case.
Wales currently has the tightest ‘firebreak’ restrictions, meaning practices can only provide essential and urgent work until midnight tonight, (8 November 2020), thereafter, returning to usual operations in line with Wales’ standard measures around workplace safety.
England and Northern Ireland are under national restrictions (4 Nov – 2 Dec, and 16 Oct – 12 Nov, respectively), meaning practices can provide treatment essential for maintaining animal health and welfare, along with non-urgent work providing that social distancing measures and safe working can be maintained.
Veterinary surgeons practising in these three countries may also choose to support a case remotely at an earlier stage, for example, through the remote prescribing of POM-Vs without first having conducted a physical examination.
Scotland remains the only country under regional tiered restrictions, meaning practices can continue to provide treatment whilst maintaining social distancing; however, before remote prescribing is offered, veterinary surgeons should first consider whether the animal can be brought under their care.
Across the UK, neighbouring practices are being asked to support one another during local, regional and national lockdowns.
All guidance will be kept under review and in line with subsequent changes in the UK governments’ restrictions.