UK vets have been temporarily granted permission to remotely prescribe veterinary medicine in a bid to reduce the risk of transmission of coronavirus (Covid-19).
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Council made the unprecedented decision in light of the UK Government’s current guidance to limit non-essential contact with others.
However, it comes with the caveat that veterinary medicines are only remotely prescribed where appropriate and where complying with Government advice leaves no other available options.
Under normal circumstances, the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons does not allow veterinary surgeons to prescribe veterinary medicines (POM-Vs) without physically examing the animal first.
However, RCVS Council has decided that there should be a temporary departure from this position under the current exceptional circumstances.
This position will continue to be reviewed on an ongoing basis and, in any event, no later than June 30, 2020.
Dr. Niall Connell, RCVS president, said: “In these unprecedented times we recognise that undertaking a physical examination of an animal may no longer be safe for people or practicable under the restrictions on movement and contact that the UK Government has recommended and is likely to enforce.
Vets and vet nurses will always have animal health and welfare as their key professional priority, but they must now prioritise their personal safety and that of their practice teams and clients, and do as much as they can to ensure the protection of public health. Personal and public safety overrides animal welfare.
“I am very grateful to my colleagues on RCVS Council who worked together at short notice to discuss this issue fully.
"I am glad to say we reached a consensus that recognises the extraordinary nature of these circumstances and will help the profession to strike the right balance between providing essential veterinary care for animals and safeguarding the health of the profession and the public.
“Remote prescribing should only take place where no other option is available within the current government guidance, and, needless to say, this is a temporary measure and, as soon as is practicably possible, the code will revert to its previous position.
"Although currently postponed, we will also be continuing with our review of ‘under veterinary care’ and out-of-hours emergency care in order to ensure that we have the correct interpretation and application of an animal being ‘under the care’ of a veterinary surgeon.”
The guidance states that veterinary surgeons may only prescribe POM-V medicines via remote means where there is no other option, eg. a medicine categorised as a POM-VPS, NFA-VPS, or AVM-GSL, that would be a suitable alternative and that they are satisfied that any risk to the animal is outweighed by the benefit.
The RCVS has developed a set of frequently asked questions on coronavirus and related issues that sets out considerations veterinary surgeons should make before deciding on whether or not to prescribe veterinary medicines remotely.