The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has published new guidance for vets on 24-hour emergency first aid and pain relief.

Two sections of the supporting guidance to the code of professional conduct have been updated – chapter 2, “Veterinary care” and chapter 3, “24-hour emergency first aid and pain relief” – placing a greater emphasis on owners’ legal responsibilities for their animals while obligating vets to provide full details of their 24-hour emergency cover provision to clients.

Although vets are professionally obliged to take steps to provide 24-hour emergency first aid and pain relief, the new supporting guidance clarifies situations where delaying or declining attendance to an animal may be appropriate. It is hoped this will assist and empower vets to decline to attend an animal away from practice where they feel it is unnecessary or unsafe.

After a thorough review of the evidence the standards committee developed the new supporting guidance, which was agreed in principle by RCVS council in its June meeting.

Gordon Hockey, RCVS registrar, said: “Following the considerable disquiet within the profession following the disciplinary committee’s decision on the Chikosi hearing in June 2013, we decided only a thorough evidence-gathering process with all parties could resolve the apparent gap between the expectation of the public regarding 24-hour emergency care and the profession’s ability to meet this.

“We are very happy with the way this process was carried out and would like to thank the many individual veterinary surgeons and animal owners, as well as representative organisations, that have contributed to this outcome.

“By making the legal and professional obligations of veterinary surgeons and the welfare obligations of animal owners clearer we hope this new guidance should allay some of the frustrations and concerns of the profession.”

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