We will soon place a greater emphasis on owners’ legal responsibilities for their animals, as well as an obligation on veterinary surgeons to provide more information to clients about their out-of-hours emergency service. We will also provide guidance to assist and empower vets to decline to attend an animal away from the practice when unnecessary or unsafe. 

This follows RCVS Council’s agreement in principle on recommendations that flowed from the Standards Committee’s comprehensive review of 24/7 emergency care.

The review was triggered by a number of issues, including the profession’s response to the Chikosi Disciplinary Hearing of June 2013.

The recommendations were developed out of a detailed process of evidence gathering, which included 656 pages of views submitted to the College, 2,801 signatures to a petition on home visits, a three-day select-committee-style hearing where representatives from 15 organisations and a further 10 individuals gave their views, a snapshot of responses from 1,062 vets taking part in the RCVS Survey of the Professions, and an online survey of 1,250 animal owners.

Council praised the work, which had been carried out under the guidance of Standards Committee Chair Clare Tapsfield-Wright and agreed that draft changes to the supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct should be refined and agreed by the Standards Committee and published over the next couple of months.

The Standards Committee looked in detail at all the issues and I am delighted to have Council’s support for the general direction of our proposals.

Clare commented: “This process was not carried out as a typical consultation, with proposals being issued for consideration: we really wanted to be open to the views of the profession and the public from the start.

“We found that the profession did not wish to remove the 24/7 requirement, but there was a lot of frustration and concern, particularly around safety, home visits, who should be seen, outsourcing and contingency planning.

“The Standards Committee looked in detail at all of these issues and I am delighted to have Council’s support for the general direction of our proposals. We will now review some changes to the wording of the new guidance, to improve clarity, and publish it as soon as possible.”

President Neil Smith said: “I am delighted with the way this process has been carried out. No doubt the outcome will not please everyone, but these changes are based on robust evidence.

“The approach taken by the Standards Committee forms a useful model that could be adapted to address other such issues that we may face in the future.”