In light of additional pressures on practices caused by high levels of Covid-19 infection, stricter rules on isolation and the threat of the Omicron variant, the Standards Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons yesterday decided to reintroduce the temporary dispensation allowing remote prescribing with immediate effect.
The dispensation was originally introduced during the spring 2020 lockdown to safeguard animal health and welfare, the health and safety of the veterinary team, and public health, by allowing prescriptions to be made by veterinary surgeons without having first physically examined the animal, subject to conditions and safeguards.
When making the decision to bring the dispensation to an end in October 2021, the Committee indicated that it would ‘keep the issue under review in light of any changes in the circumstances of the pandemic, including government advice and regulations’.
At its meeting on 15 December 2021, the Committee discussed the pressures on practices caused by increasing levels of infection and the related isolation periods, as well as the growing threat of the Omicron variant across the country, which will almost certainly cause infection rates to rise further
Chair of the Standards Committee, Dr Melissa Donald, said: “We were very aware of the likelihood that both practice staff and clients will increasingly have to isolate over the coming weeks due to direct infection or positive contacts, particularly with the rise in cases amongst school children.
“Added to this, we know there are already workforce pressures across the profession, which will be exacerbated by reduced staffing levels over the Christmas and New Year period.
“We therefore felt it was appropriate to reintroduce these temporary remote prescribing measures at this time to help relieve pressure on practising professionals, and to provide them with the means to continue to look after the health and welfare of their patients in all circumstances.”
As before, the temporary dispensation is subject to the specific guidance found in FAQ4 (www.rcvs.org.uk/covidfaq4), including that veterinary surgeons must be able provide a 24/7 follow-up service involving physical examination, for example where the animal does not improve, or suffers an adverse reaction, or deteriorates, subsequent to the remote prescription of medicines.
The Committee agreed that the position should be reviewed in February 2022 at its next meeting.