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14 April 2020

Update from Simplyhealth on Covid-19

News about the coronavirus is rapidly changing as more information and evidence is found. Of course, it’s understandable that the situation may cause concern for veterinary employees and businesses, as well as animal owners and keepers who use veterinary services.

It is important that as a veterinary business and as individuals we stay up-to-date so we have provided some useful sources of information below.

Links for veterinary professionals on the latest Coronavirus updates:

Veterinary practices and Covid-19

Please regularly view the RCVS and BVA websites for detailed information. On the 23rd March, new measures were announced by Government in the fight against coronavirus. These require people to stay at home except for limited purposes and state further closures of non-essential businesses on top of those announced to close on the 20th March.

As of the announcement on the 23rd March, veterinary practices are not on the list of premises to close. Therefore, they can stay open but they must comply with the guidance on social distancing and the number of clients seen face to face should be kept to a minimum. Please refer to the RCVS flowchart and the BVA guidance to help determine what cases should be seen. Practices will need to safeguard staff and public health and in a letter to the profession, the RCVS have stated: “As the regulator for veterinary surgeons and registered veterinary nurses in the UK, our priority is the health and safety of those we regulate.” and stated that there is “…a clear acknowledgement that veterinary professionals may need to depart from our usual best practice advice and guidance, in order to safeguard personal and team safety and public health.” Further useful guidance is given on their website.

  • Practices need to consider and implement a practice-wide plan that:
    • Prioritises public health
    • Keeps client contact to a minimum and avoids all unnecessary client contact
    • Minimises contact between colleagues
    • Minimises non-essential staff
    • Carries out risk assessments for all staff and encourages those that are vulnerable to stay at home and enables all staff to work from home where possible
    • Reviews the type of work that is appropriate, necessary and safe to be undertaking. Please see the BVA guidance and RCVS flowchart.
    • Uses technology to triage and consult and considers remote prescribing according to RCVS guidelines
    • Increases hygiene precautions
    • Follows the PPE advice from RCVS knowledge

If it is deemed necessary for a client to visit the practice to provide emergency care practices should think about:

  • Keeping client contact to a minimum and consider
    • One client per animal
    • Ask client to wait in the car
    • Use technology where at all possible for triage of existing clients
    • Review updated guidance on remote prescribing
    • Clarify client’s Covid-19 status
  • Hygiene
    • Consider card payments only
    • Regular cleaning of high-risk areas (door handles, light switches, keyboard)
    • Insist owners wash hands on arrival
    • Disinfection between clients
  • Consulting
    • Face to face consultations only for clients deemed essential for animal health and welfare or public health
    • Review the BVA and RCVS guidance
    • Use technology and remote consultation where possible
    • Home working using technology where possible

Remote prescribing and POM-V medication

Ordinarily remote prescribing of POM-V medication is not permitted however, given the current situation, the RCVS Council made a decision on the 24th March to temporarily allow remote prescribing of POM-V medication where it is appropriate to do so. Please see RCVS guidance for full details on when you can use remote prescribing. This decision will be reviewed on the 30th June 2020.

Email prescriptions and posting medication

In order to minimise client contact and enable clients to receive medications for their pets it may be necessary to use email prescriptions and post medication. Please see the BSAVA Guide to the Use of Veterinary Medicines for information and guidance, as well as the Post Office guidance.

Client communication

It is important to communicate with clients to inform them of what to expect when coming to the practice. In particular, they should consider if the visit is absolutely necessary so that animal welfare can be maintained without unnecessary risk to human health. As an example, practices may wish to use the following statements:

Your pet’s welfare is important to all of us but in these unsettling times it is important that we look after all of our health and therefore we need to minimise people entering the practice.

  • Please phone us first before coming to the practice. We can help to better understand if your visit is necessary and provide help and guidance on the phone and information for you if you do need to visit. If the practice think you need to attend then only one person is to come with the pet.
  • Our external door will be locked so please wait in the car when you arrive, call reception and the vet will come out to the car park. It may be that we ask you to wait in the car and the vet will take your pet into the practice. Please do not worry the vet will consult with you over the phone while they examine your pet.
  • Please pay by card and use the hand sanitisers available throughout the practice.

We appreciate that these are unsettling times for all of us and that you are worried about the welfare of your pet. Please be assured we are doing everything that we can to make sure we all stay safe and maintain pet welfare. It may be that we must limit the services that we can safely provide while still providing for pet welfare.

We want to thank you for your co-operation and together we can all help.

Client facing materials, available to download, have also been produced by the BVA (social media toolkit) and the RCVS.

Covid–19 and animals

While current evidence suggests an animal source for Covid-19, ongoing transmission is predominantly person to person and there is currently no evidence that pets may be a source of infection for people. Vets should continue to take the usual precautions when handling animals and animal products in line with good biosecurity. Please see the OIE website for further information.

  • There is the possibility that some animals may become infected with Covid-19 if in close contact with infected humans but there is currently no evidence that animals are playing any role in the spread of Covid-19 back to humans. Please see the OIE website for more information.
  • Animals may act as fomites with the virus on their fur for a short period of time in the same way as for other fomites such as door handles and shopping trolleys. Owners and anyone in contact with animals should routinely hand wash before and after touching animals.
  • The advice for pet owners who have been tested positive or are self-isolating is to keep pets isolated with them but restrict contact with them and avoid being licked and wash hands regularly before and after contact with their pet. Further advice for pet owners self-isolating with Covid-19 is on the BVA website.
  • Canine coronavirus (mild diarrhoea) and Feline coronavirus (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) are both alpha-coronaviruses and are not associated with Covid-19.
  • You may have heard on the news advice to cat owners to keep their cats indoors. The advice to keep cats indoors is only for those cats currently in a household where someone is self-isolating with suspected Covid-19 and the cat is happy to be kept indoors. There is currently no advice to keep all cats indoors. There is no evidence that pets can transmit Covid-19 to people, however pets could act as fomites. This is the reasoning behind the advice that where a household has suspected or confirmed Covid-19 any cat from that household should be kept indoors if it is happy to do so. Please see the BVA statement on cats and coronavirus.

We’re continuing to monitor the situation in the UK and will update our advice and support as things develop.

Gudrun Ravetz
Head Veterinary Officer