The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) recently wrote to all veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses about extending its temporary guidance that allows veterinary surgeons to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) remotely until the end of October, but with an update that now requires the prescribing vet to consider whether the animal can first be brought under their care.
RCVS Council introduced this temporary guidance in March, subject to a number of additional safeguards, 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.
Since then, the RCVS has twice extended this guidance, in view of the ongoing pandemic, the fact that many practices had not returned to ‘business as usual’, that some veterinary professionals and clients were still having to self-isolate or shield, and the ongoing uncertainty caused by local lockdowns.
In its latest review of this guidance, the RCVS Council COVID-19 Taskforce reassessed the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic on veterinary practices (via its fourth impact survey), the latest government guidance, the wider national situation including an increasing prevalence of local lockdowns, and an earlier survey commissioned to provide an evidence-based understanding of veterinary professionals’ experiences of remote prescribing during the pandemic (the full results of which will be discussed by RCVS Council at their meeting on 8 October and published thereafter).
According to the College’s latest economic impact survey, 50% of practices were still carrying out remote consulting, which included remote prescribing under the temporary guidance. Previously surveying the profession’s experiences of remote prescribing had identified no immediate safety concerns around this.
However, the Taskforce recognised that many practices were currently returning more to ‘business as usual’ (a situation it felt should be encouraged, where possible) and updated the temporary guidance and associated flowchart accordingly.
Consequently, before deciding to prescribe POM-Vs remotely, the updated guidance now requires veterinary surgeons to first consider whether the animal is already under their care; or, if not, whether it is possible to physically examine the animal in order to bring the animal under their care. If the answer to both questions is ‘no’, POM-Vs may still be prescribed remotely providing the guidelines set out in the College’s coronavirus advice hub are adhered to.
RCVS President Dr Mandisa Greene, who chairs the Taskforce, said: ‘The reason for maintaining the possibility of remote prescribing without a physical examination was that we recognised that the current situation is unpredictable, and while the ability for the public to visit practices in person has improved over the last few months, we felt that situations might still arise where that would not be possible, and where access to remote prescribing would be necessary. These could include further local lockdowns, ongoing quarantine arrangements, and the remaining fact that some members of both the veterinary team and the public continue to shield.
‘It remains our intention that this guidance will continue to be a temporary measure and may be subject to further extensions or updates given the uncertain nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.’
The RCVS Council will review the position at its meeting on 8 October, with any changes being effective by 1 November at the earliest.
Meanwhile, the RCVS review of ‘under care’ and out-of-hours emergency cover has now resumed, starting with a number of virtual focus groups and consultation with stakeholders within the veterinary and veterinary nursing professions.
The findings from these focus group discussions will then inform a wider survey to be sent to all veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in early 2021, along with stakeholder organisations and the animal-owning public. Remote prescribing will continue to form a part of this review.