Preparation for the relaxation of lockdown
As you are aware, the release of guidelines by the RCVS takes effect in England and Northern Ireland as of the 12th April, This enables practitioners across these counties to join our colleages in Wales and Scotland in returning to full clinical practice rather than essential/urgent services.
RCVS will remove the flow charts previously used to support decision making and practitioners are asked to provide services in accordance with their professional judgment whilst remembering to continue undertaking the ongoing required biosecurity and social distancing measures as well as additional relevant government guidelines and restrictions.
This has been a long road, and whilst we are not fully out of the end yet, many of our animal patients need MSK attention. RAMP holds animal welfare as a priority and while we have previously advocated treatment for urgent cases only inline with government and RCVS guidlines, we are aware that many regular patients are deteriorating without on-going treatment. We welcome the ability for our practitioners to offer care as appropriate to the wider animal population once again. However, the threat of Covid remains and social distancing is still in place which provides us with our biggest logistical challenge therefore we highlight that the professional judgement of the practitioner should always lead the decision as to whether it is safe to attend and treat an animal and remain conscious not only of their own safety but that of their owners and animals.
Beyond the change in scope of practice, many of the previous guidelines remain regarding biosecurity, social distancing and safety measures.
To remind you, here are some points that should be taken into account:
Animals with demonstrable pain and welfare issues should be seen, these may include all pathologies.
A pre-visit risk assessment and telephone call is essential. Gain as much information prior to the visit as possible to minimise contact time. If appropriate, would the use of an oral sedative, supplied by the clients’ vet to the client, mitigate risk? Do you have access to a responsible ‘safe’ handler that can attend with you?
No appointments should be made with anyone who has Covid symptoms or who is in close contact with anyone with Covid symptoms. There must be a 10-day quarantine period for them, prior to seeing them. Consider the suitability of wearing a mask to reduce the risk of the practitioner spreading Covid between yards/clients. Consider asking owners/handlers to wear masks to reduce the risk of transmission to the practitioner.
If you have symptoms do not treat, get tested, and await a clear result, prior to seeing any clients.
Animals with owners in the vulnerable categories should not be treated in the normal way. Try to see if any other approach other than face to face can be used or if there are mediated ways of treating the animal in person.
Small animals should be seen in a clinic setting, (physio or vet) rather than home visits if possible, as cleanliness, disinfection and biosecurity are easier to control. If home visits are necessary, ensure that no other pets/family etc are present. In a clinic setting explore the possibility of treatment without owner present. Risk assess home visits very carefully.
Yard visits- Risk assess individual setups. As a professional you will be aware of the situations, and risks, at each of your regular yards. Some may be relatively ‘safe’, others less so. The decision to attend a client should be dictated by the risk assessment.
Home/yard visits, ask for gates to be opened and closed for you to minimise touching surfaces. No loose dogs/cats around that could transmit virus via petting, ensure animal is ready and waiting for you (ie no putting on headcollars, leads etc and unnecessary handling of owners equipment), carry your own soap and towels to wash between visits and ask for a fresh bucket of warm water or easy access to sink to wash. Accept no refreshments.
Other considerations, can the animal be left tied up with the owner at an appropriate distance? If not, are there any other strategies to improve safety and appropriately handle and restrain the animal. Is this a safe approach for you, the client and the animal?
Is this animal safe to treat with these restrictions in place?
All visits should be risk assessed and the results documented. Including those where treatment is refused and the reasons why, with documented details of the explanation to the client.
Payment- attempt to remove the need to handle payments. Request payment by BACS/credit card/paypal.
This is not a return to normal, please follow all PPE, and government guidelines and advice..
This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible considerations and scenarios but some guidance. Your professional judgement and expert opinion should be used at all stages to ensure yours and the client’s safety while also minimising the risks of spreading Covid 19.
The professional judgement of the practitioner, based on a thorough risk assessment, should always lead the decision as to whether it is safe to attend and treat an animal.
Your professional Associations will offer instruction of their plans for relaxation of lockdown restrictions, please pay heed to their guidance.
The RAMP team