17 Jul 2019
BVA President issues an update for the veterinary profession on Covid-19
17 Mar 2020 | COVID-19
Our President Daniella Dos Santos shares an update on the Covid-19 pandemic for the veterinary profession alongside advice for mitigating its impact on the workforce, wellbeing, and animal welfare
“The Covid-19 pandemic has left many of us worried for ourselves, our friends, our families and our businesses, and it’s imperative that we all work together and support each other, understanding that there are difficult times ahead for all of us.
The health and safety of the members of our profession is paramount, and we would urge all vets to follow the current government and RCVS advice. It is likely over the coming weeks, due to self-isolation or social distancing measures, that the workforce will be stretched. Some of us will become ill, some of us will need to care for others, and it is vital that we all work together as a profession to mitigate any impacts on our own and our colleagues’ wellbeing, as well as serious animal welfare impacts, as much as possible.
Changing the way we work
Each practice should be carrying out individual risk assessments and considering whether it is appropriate to continue with routine consultations in order to adjust to the workforce strain we will undoubtedly be feeling and to ensure the health and safety of our profession.
Practices should now put social distancing measures in place, such as asking clients to wait in the car park rather than the waiting room, triaging as much as possible via the telephone, considering alternate rota models and whether it is appropriate to continue seeing routine consultations. Difficult decisions are likely to come when assessing whether to attend to the animal of a person in self-isolation or diagnosed with Covid-19. At the moment, there is no evidence that animals are able to transmit the virus, but in accordance with RCVS advice please ensure that appropriate hygiene and biosecurity precautions are taken if you deem it necessary to see the patient for animal welfare reasons.
We are in direct discussions with Defra and the UK CVO and understand specific guidance and advice for pet owners is due to be released shortly, followed by technical guidance for veterinary surgeons. For those vets involved in statutory surveillance, we’re aware that prioritisation is currently being actively discussed within Defra, and we will update you as soon as we can. It is likely that the workforce strain is likely to be significant at some point, and we would urge neighbouring practices to maintain close contact with each other and work together to ensure, as far as possible, that it is possible to continue attending to those animals that require emergency care.
Support for veterinary businesses
We are aware that for many small- and medium-sized businesses, this is going to be a period of significant financial difficulty. The UK government has announced a package of measures to assist over this turbulent time, including Statutory Sick Pay relief for small and medium sized businesses. There may also be support in relation to Business Rate Relief:
- In England, we are writing to the government to ask them to ensure that the proposed Business Rates retail discount in England of 100% is extended to veterinary practices and that it extends beyond the £51,000 rateable value.
- In Scotland, we will be lobbying for the 75% rates relief to include veterinary businesses.
- In Wales, we will engage with Welsh Government to explain how the pandemic is affecting veterinary practices as they consider how best to respond.
- In Northern Ireland, the Executive has offered Hardship Rate Relief and is currently considering how best to help support business, including help with business rates. We will make the case for veterinary practices.
Veterinary medicine supplies
We encourage vets and other prescribers and retailers of veterinary medicines to continue with normal ordering patterns to maintain appropriate and proportionate stocks of veterinary medicines, in line with assurances from NOAH. If this is undertaken, there should be no need for additional stocks.
Given the rapidly developing situation there are many questions that we do not yet have the full answers to, but we have regularly been updating our webpage with advice from the WHO, NHS, WSAVA and RCVS.
At BVA we are taking steps to protect our staff, members and visitors, and while we are trying to operate as normally as possible, this is now likely to become increasingly difficult over coming weeks so please bear with us. We will be contacting anyone who is due to attend a meeting at BVA to confirm whether or not the meeting with be going ahead by teleconference or videoconference.
Remember that Vetlife is available 24/7 to support you if you are feeling worried or anxious, via their website or 0303 040 2551. We are all #TeamVet and #OneVeterinaryCommunity, and we are at our best when we all work together. In these uncertain times, please look out for each other and stay safe.”
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