June 4th 2021

Face Coverings and Visiting Your Vet

As the United Kingdom begins to move out of lockdown and businesses once again welcome people through their doors, we examine what our new normal is.

COVID-secure measures have meant lots of changes in veterinary practices and the VCMS has seen very few complaints specifically about COVID measures. However, we have had queries about face coverings and applying the guidance to practices.

In today’s blog, we explore the current guidance and what non-compliance can mean in regard to receiving service.

It is a given that visiting your vets will remain an unusual experience for the foreseeable future. Designed to maintain strict safety protocols and procedures, it is important to understand that the veterinary practice, who will be implementing these protocols to protect the health of all, will still offer the very best care they can and their professional commitment to their clients will remain unchanged.

Examinations of your pet or animal are at the discretion of the practice and we must be mindful to respect their ultimate decision, which is never taken lightly, to provide care. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons advises the below:

England
From 8 August 2020 it has been a legal requirement to wear face coverings in all indoor settings where you are likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, including veterinary services, zoos, aquariums, visitor farms and storage and distribution facilities. Veterinary professionals are required to wear face coverings indoors when not using personal protective equipment (PPE), i.e. a surgical mask for consultations.

Scotland
In Scotland, it is mandatory to wear face coverings in retail shops, supermarkets, on public transport, aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms and any other tourist, heritage or cultural site.

In other situations and workplace settings, the Scottish government confirms that employers should continue to follow the workplace’s guidance and should endorse and support staff to wear face coverings in all areas of the workplace, including those mandated by law, and to follow best practice in the use of face coverings.

Wales
Face coverings became mandatory for all indoor public places in Wales from 14 September 2020.

Northern Ireland
Since 10 August, the NI government made it mandatory to wear face coverings in certain indoor settings such as shops and shopping centres, in addition to wearing face coverings on public transport.

Each practice will be following guidance from both their respective government (across the United Kingdom) as well as their regulatory body. Great care and understanding is taken in both the accepting of patients and their pets or animals for treatment as well as the refusal of treatment based on not wearing a mask.

In these difficult and new times, we urge that both practitioners and the public be mindful of the needs of both the practice and the individual. If service is to be refused, we urge that the practice calmly and clearly explains why and offers alternative solutions to resolve the issue. As a client who refuses service, we stress the importance of understanding that each practice follows its own policies and procedures based on the latest guidelines and what is best for those under its care.

As a veterinary professional you can stay up to date with the latest professional guidelines (based on government information) via the RCVS website, and as a member of the public the latest government advice.

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