UK veterinary practices will offer emergency care only as measures ramp up against the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a joint statement, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) statement announced how changes would affect veterinary work during the Covid-19 lockdown.

In a statement, the bodies said: "On Monday evening BVA and the RCVS moved quickly to determine what the [lockdown] announcement would mean for veterinary care and, while seeking urgent clarification from the government, we agreed that veterinary practices could continue to operate in order to provide emergency care, fulfil urgent prescriptions, and maintain the food supply chain.

"The lack of clarity in Government announcements over which premises could stay open caused some confusion on Tuesday and we recognise that this information was being assembled quickly.

Following our urgent requests for clarification through lobbying the government, veterinary surgeries have now been explicitly listed as an exception to the closures.

"Veterinary practices may remain open under the new rules. However, the number of clients seen face-to-face should be kept to an absolute minimum and veterinary teams must insist on strict social distancing measures at all times."

The RCVS has recently updated its series of FAQs to help veterinary professionals understand the new rules, including small animal practice and those working in ambulatory roles, eg equine and farm vets.

The changes include:

  • Routine treatments should not be carried out until further notice.
  • You may offer your clients advice and consultation services via remote means, including prescribing Prescription-only Medicines where appropriate.
  • Clients and/or veterinary professionals should only travel to see animals if judged essential to do so.
  • Animals should only be seen in emergencies or where, in the judgement of the veterinary surgeon, urgent assessment and/or treatment is needed in order to reduce the risk of patient deterioration to the point where it may become an emergency in the near future (ie within the three-week time frame currently laid out by the Government for these measures).
  • Veterinary professionals should exercise judgement as to when it is necessary for you to see an animal and/or their owner in person.
  • Further guidance will also be provided as the Government’s longer-term position is clarified.

The BVA is also developing some further guidance to provide clear examples of what constitutes routine, urgent and emergency care. This will be available shortly.