The Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) last week gave the go-ahead for a wide-ranging review of a number of key provisions of the supporting guidance to the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct, following ongoing discussions around trialling the development of telemedicine services, including remote prescribing, in UK veterinary practice.
The review was recommended to RCVS Council by its Standards Committee 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 [see Notes].
The main areas under consideration include the provision of 24-hour emergency cover and the interpretation and application of an animal being under the care of a veterinary surgeon. During the course of its discussions, which included numerous meetings and reports, a public consultation and examination of external legal advice, the Committee identified a number of anomalies in the College’s existing guidance that could affect how the Code’s provisions were applied across a range of different scenarios.
Chair of the Standards Committee, Dr Kate Richards, said: “It became clear to us that we could not consider telemedicine and remote prescribing in isolation and that it raised broader questions around the appropriateness of, and justification for, certain elements of existing RCVS guidance. I’m therefore pleased that RCVS Council has decided that the right and responsible approach is first to conduct a full review of these provisions.”
It is anticipated that the review will require wide engagement from all relevant sectors, potentially including a Select Committee-style hearing in certain areas. This would help to ensure any decision to treat different groups differently, in relation to ‘under care’ and ‘out-of-hours’, is both reasoned and justified.
In the meantime, as this review will take some time to complete, the College should like to make clear that the current provisions of the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct and its supporting guidance remain in full effect. Further information about the review will be made available in due course.
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