The RCVS Standards Committee has approved new guidance to give greater clarity to veterinary surgeons who work with musculoskeletal therapists (MSKs).
MSKs, such as animal physiotherapists, currently have their work underpinned by an Exemption Order to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 which allows them to treat an animal under the direction of a veterinary surgeon who has first examined that animal.
The RCVS recognises that there has been some doubt as to whether MSKs require a veterinary referral for maintenance work, such as massage, in a healthy animal. This has caused some confusion, and may lead to delays in animals receiving maintenance care.
The new guidance, found in Chapter 19 of the supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct, sets out the existing rules for musculoskeletal treatment of illness, disease or pathology, and clarifies that healthy animals do not require a veterinary referral for maintenance care.
The guidance stresses that MSKs are part of the vet-led team, and that any animal, including healthy ones, should be registered with a veterinary surgeon and referred to a vet at the first sign of any symptoms that may suggest underlying health issues.
The guidance also notes that vets should be confident that the musculoskeletal therapist is appropriately qualified; indicators of this can include membership of a voluntary regulatory body with a register of practitioners, and associated standards of education and conduct, supported by a complaints and disciplinary process.
In March 2019 the RCVS published the Review of Minor Procedures Regime which noted that the existing exemption order was not suitable for underpinning the work of MSKs, and recommended that this be remedied by reform of Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, alongside regulation by the RCVS through Associate status for MSKs. This would allow the RCVS to set and uphold standards for MSKs in a similar way to veterinary nurses, giving further assurance to both the veterinary professions and the public.
The recent Legislation Working Party Report recommendations builds on that recommendation, and is currently open for consultation