Focus groups on hold owing to social distancing guidelines.
Further changes to the planned review of the RCVS 'under care' guidance and 24/7 out-of-hours emergency cover have been announced.
A key element of the new methodology was an evidence-gathering stage, comprising several focus groups with vets and vet nurses from across the UK. However, owing to the current social distancing requirements - and given that practices are currently working under extreme pressure - the RCVS has decided they will not be feasible at this planned time.
The external research agency, scheduled to conduct the discussions, has advised the College that face-to-face discussions are the best way to gather the necessary research, and that it is not currently possible for them to replicate the environment through online discussion groups or telephone calls.
The College said the agency is exploring suitable alternative options for holding the meetings online, and that it will update and publish its revised timetable for the review accordingly.
Meanwhile, the RCVS is seeking to garner feedback from veterinary surgeons based on their experiences of being able to prescribe prescription-only medicines (POM-Vs) remotely. The change was introduced by the RCVS in March to temporarily allow vets to prescribe medicines without physically examining the animal, subject to a number of conditions and safeguards.
With the review due for revision on 30 June, the RCVS is looking to gather relevant data to determine if these arrangements can continue beyond this date, with or without the additional safeguards. It said the information received will also be used to inform future discussions in the 'under care' review, of which remote prescribing forms a key discussion point.
“We recognise the current conditions that veterinary practices are working under in no way represent normal practice life,” commented RCVS President Niall Connell. “Most practices will not have been set up to offer remote services and remote prescribing in a way that they might have chosen, given sufficient time and appropriate detailed guidance, if indeed there are any future guidance changes after the review.
“However, we feel it would be remiss of us not to seize the opportunity arising from this current crisis to ask about the experiences – good or bad – of those on the frontline of clinical veterinary practice in providing remote services to their clients.”
He continued: “Whilst this will be no substitute for the formal evidence gathered by the research agency in due course, whatever data and feedback we can collate from veterinary practices at this unique time for our professions will, I’m sure, be extremely valuable to our ongoing discussions.”
An online questionnaire is set to be distributed to all UK-based veterinary practices in the coming weeks, of which details will be announced shortly.