The RCVS is running a survey to get the views and opinions of UK veterinary surgeons about 24/7 emergency cover and the definition of 'under care'.

The survey is the second stage of a three stage review recommended to RCVS Council by the College’s Standards Committee in 2019, after it looked at the implications of new technologies for both animal welfare and veterinary regulation.

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 remote consulting.

In stage one of the review, the RCVS commissioned a research agency to conduct a series of focus group discussions with veterinary professionals working in a variety of roles and sectors. The information gleaned from the discussions was then used to develop the questions for this survey. 

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 survey results 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 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, 19th May 2021 for all UK-based veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.

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.


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