At its meeting last week [8 October 2020], RCVS Council voted to extend our temporary guidance that currently allows veterinary surgeons to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) remotely, but, with effect from 1 November 2020, update it with some further safeguards concerning physical examination of animals and the availability of follow-up care.
RCVS Council originally introduced this temporary guidance in March, as a result of the government’s lockdown and social distancing restrictions, to ensure that animal health and welfare could be maintained without risking the health of veterinary teams or their clients.
The guidance had been extended a number of times since, most recently at the end of September, to reflect the changing circumstances and government guidance surrounding the ongoing pandemic.
At the request of Council, the future of the temporary guidance was discussed at the October meeting and Council reviewed all of the evidence considered by the Covid-19 Taskforce.
A motion was subsequently laid by Dr Jo Dyer and Dr Neil Smith which paid tribute to the ongoing work and commitment of the Covid-19 Taskforce and their ‘invaluable contribution’ in making ‘quick decisions in a rapidly-changing situation’, but cautioned against pre-empting the outcome of the College’s review of ‘under care’ and out-of-hours emergency cover.
Whilst acknowledging that remote prescribing in certain circumstances should remain an option for veterinary surgeons, the motion stated that this now ‘should only be carried out by veterinary surgeons who can provide a 24/7* follow-up service involving physical examination, plus or minus further investigation, if required’.
It further set out that such a follow-up service ‘can be provided personally by the veterinary surgeon or practice, or by written agreement with a veterinary services provider which is local to the client (as with the current situation for 24/7* care provision)’.
In considering the motion, Council was also able to review the report of an RCVS-commissioned independent survey of veterinary practices into their experiences of remote consulting, together with feedback from a number of different veterinary service providers and other veterinary organisations.
After further discussion, Council voted to support the motion, with amended temporary guidance to be communicated to the profession as soon as possible and effective from 1 November 2020, to allow time for practices to make any necessary adaptations.
Council also decided that the temporary derogation from the usual requirement to conduct a physical examination before an animal is regarded as ‘under care’ be reviewed as a standing item at each subsequent Standards Committee meeting, until the normal guidance provisions were fully restored.
This article was corrected on 15 October. The original article mistakenly used the term ‘out-of-hours’ instead of 24/7. Our apologies for the error.