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5 October 2021

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has written to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to raise concerns over the regulator’s decision to extend measures permitting vets to prescribe prescription-only medicines without first having physically examined the animal.

In a letter sent yesterday (4 October), the UK’s largest membership body for the veterinary profession questions why the temporary guidance appears to be becoming “part of the new normal” over 18 months on since the first UK lockdown, and urges RCVS to share information on the evidence base that informed the extension, as well as the exit strategy.

RCVS first introduced the remote prescribing guidance as a temporary measure in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aim of reducing appointments in practice and keeping colleagues and clients as safe as possible while maintaining animal health and welfare.  It allows for the prescription of POM-V medication subject to meeting additional safeguards, including the vet being satisfied that they can safely prescribe medication without needing to conduct a physical examination.

While BVA supported the initial measures, it has raised concerns over several subsequent extensions to the guidance, and suggested that this may fuel unrealistic expectations among clients, as well as resulting in some risks to welfare in cases where health issues are not picked up at in-practice appointments.

In the letter, BVA President Justine Shotton cites the association’s recent position on under care and the remote provision of veterinary services, which recognised the original March 2020 relaxation of prescribing requirements as a “pragmatic solution”.  However, the position went on to recognise that this was a temporary measure in extraordinary times, which “must not lead to a longer-term change without full consultation with the profession and total transparency in relation to impacts on prescribing behaviours.”

Concluding the letter, Dr Shotton says: “We would like to better understand the evidence base on which RCVS continues to allow remote prescribing, including the impact on prescribing behaviours, and the proposed exit strategy. As far as we are aware, RCVS is still assessing the findings from the RAND survey as part of the under care review, and as those results are yet to be shared it is unclear how the continual extensions to remote prescribing dovetail with longer term plans and potential changes to the Code.”

BVA will continue to raise its concerns with RCVS and keep its membership informed on the response.

The current remote prescribing guidelines can be viewed at:

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