Finding A Pragmatic Approach To 24-hour Cover
15 years agoFollowing a consulation earlier this year on draft guidance for the provision of 24-hour emergency cover in remote regions, Council approved new guidance at its meeting yesterday. Overall, members supported the provision of 24-hour emergency cover, and advocated adopting a pragmatic approach in regions where comprehensive 24-hour emergency cover might not be possible. We were grateful for the useful comments we received from members in both rural and urban areas, but what revisions has Council agreed? Following our consultation, the 24-hour Emergency Cover Working Party (24/7 WP) met again in April to consider members' responses on our proposed guidance for remote regions and to make recommendations for revised guidance on other aspects of emergency cover. The following recommendations were then considered by Advisory Committee later that month and agreed by Council in June. Remote regions - a pragmatic approach Our consultation was mainly concerned with developing a non-exhaustive list of factors to consider when determining whether a veterinary surgeon's 'steps to provide 24-emergency cover' in remote regions were reasonable. Veterinary surgeons working in such areas emphasised that they did so by choice and that those who lived and worked there accepted the limitations of certain services. A pragmatic approach had therefore already developed. The main concern of both the 24/7 WP and the Advisory Committee was to clarify that the revised guidance applied only to those geographical areas where, '… for logistical reasons, travelling may be difficult and may be influenced by inclement weather, ferries or other factors'. Council agreed that this definition would differentiate remote areas from those where there was a low stock/animal density (where although veterinary surgeons might be available, they might not necessarily have the relevant expertise for the particular species presented). View relevant guidance Home visits The 24/7 WP also considered revised guidance on the duty of care regarding home visits to take into account not only the safety implications (for the veterinary surgeon) of making a visit, but also factors for veterinary surgeons to consider when deciding whether to attend an animal away from the practice premises. The guidance also makes clear that practice policies to exclude emergency visits are not acceptable and a veterinary surgeon should assess each request individually. View relevant guidance Travelling time During our last review of travelling time, in 2005, it was decided that we could not specify a distance or time that was acceptable to obtain emergency veterinary services, as this would be influenced by local conditions. The 24/7 WP highlighted the importance of making available to clients good practice information about the 24-hour emergency cover arrangements in place, and noted the reminder published in RCVS News (March 2007). Our existing guidance states that veterinary surgeons 'must be able to demonstrate that they have made arrangements, in advance, to provide 24-hour emergency cover for all their clients'. The 24/7 WP's view was that when making these arrangements, both the primary-care veterinary surgeon and the out-of-hours provider had a duty to consider whether the arrangements between them were workable. In so doing, both parties should ensure that:
18th June, 2007 00h00
- clients are expected to travel only reasonable distances;
- information on the 24-hour emergency cover arrangements is available to clients; and,
- when entering into arrangements to provide 24-hour emergency cover for another practice, confirmation is attained that that practice's clients will be informed of the agreed arrangements.
- 'veterinary surgeons must not unreasonably refuse to provide first aid and facilitate in the provision of pain relief for all other species'.
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