RCVS Council votes to extend temporary remote prescribing guidance

At its meeting last week (Thursday, October 8), the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) voted to extend the college’s temporary guidance that currently allows veterinary surgeons to prescribe prescription-only veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) remotely.

However, on November 1, the RCVS will update it with some further safeguards concerning physical examination of animals and the availability of follow-up care.

The 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 the council, the future of the temporary guidance was discussed at the October meeting and the 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”.

However, they cautioned against pre-empting the outcome of the college’s review of “under care” and out-of-hours emergency cover.

Remote prescribing should remain an option

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.

In considering the motion, the 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, the council voted to support the motion, with amended temporary guidance to be communicated to the profession as soon as possible and effective from November 1, 2020, to allow time for practices to make any necessary adaptations.

The 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.