The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is this week launching the second stage of a major review of its guidance around the definition of ‘under care’ and the provision of 24/7 emergency cover, with a survey that seeks the views and feedback of UK-based veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.
The three-stage, wide-ranging review was recommended to RCVS Council by the College’s Standards Committee in 2019 following its lengthy and detailed exploration of the implications of new technologies for both animal health and welfare and veterinary regulation – a key strategic objective for the RCVS, first identified as part of the Vet Futures initiative in 2015.
The main areas under consideration include the provision of 24/7 emergency cover and the interpretation and application of an animal being under the care of a veterinary surgeon. The review also encompasses, but is not limited to, consideration of issues around remote consulting in the form of vet-to-client telemedicine.
The review’s progress has been significantly impacted by the pandemic over the last 14 months, with the initial evidence-gathering stage having to be moved entirely online before being completed earlier this year. RAND Europe, an independent specialist research agency commissioned by the RCVS to conduct the review, therefore conducted a series of virtual focus group discussions via live video conference that sought the views and experiences of a wide range of veterinary professionals across multiple sectors.
Analysis of the information gained from Stage 1 was then used to develop the format and questions for an anonymous online qualitative survey that now seeks the views and feedback of both veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.
The survey will ask veterinary professionals to reflect on what, for them, should underpin good regulations and guidelines for practice. It will then ask respondents how these principles should be applied in particular situations relating to 24/7 emergency cover and ‘under care’ before inviting their views on how they would like regulations on these two areas to deal with any tensions between different desirable regulatory aims.
The questions themselves were also informed by additional feedback gained from in-depth interviews with key stakeholder groups such as membership associations, representative bodies and charities, plus the objective evidence gathered from the College’s recent survey of veterinary professionals’ experiences of remote prescribing during the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the issues raised do not necessarily reflect the views of the RCVS.
The feedback received from the survey will be used to help produce any changes to the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct and its supporting guidance concerning ‘under care’ and the provision of 24/7 emergency cover, which, under Stage 3 of the review, will then be put out for full public consultation later this year.
Chair of the RCVS Standards Committee, Dr Melissa Donald, said: “This review addresses fundamental questions about how we should continue to interpret ‘under care’ in a profession, and a society, that is largely unrecognisable to the one that first defined the term, and, at the same time, how we can continue to provide 24/7 emergency cover for those animals under our care.
“The original Vet Futures report also emphasised the impact that technological advances may have on the veterinary professions, so we must ensure we have in place a regulatory framework that gives consideration to these potential changes whilst ensuring animal health and welfare remain at its heart.
“These are challenging but hugely important questions on which we are hoping to receive as much feedback as possible. I do understand the huge pressures my vet and vet nurse colleagues continue to work under at the moment, so would like to thank them in advance for taking a little time out of their busy days to send us their views.”
The survey will open on Wednesday, 19 May 2021 for all UK-based veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses. An email containing a personalised link to the survey will be sent on RAND Europe’s behalf by their partner company, Accent, from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. All responses will be used and reported anonymously, so respondents will not be identified.
The survey will be open for four weeks, closing at 5pm on Wednesday, 16 June 2021. It should take 15-20 minutes to complete, but can be returned to and completed in stages if preferred. Further background information about the Under Care Review is available at www.rcvs.org.uk/undercare.