In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic AHPR wish to provide some advice to our registrants who are having to face difficult decisions in relation to their working practices in this unprecedented time. Most of this information is in line with RCVS / BVA recommendations and as part of the Vet Led team is pertinent.
Firstly please keep up to date with all Government announcements that are being reviewed at least daily and adhere to any recommendations and requirements they are setting out. Try not to be constantly checking websites as this can lead to increased anxiety; try and keep checks to maybe twice daily. Please only use information from approved sources, there is a lot of misinformation being circulated on social media which could cause even more anxiety. The Mental Health Foundation have provided advice about how to maintain your mental health during the outbreak, which can be accessed here https://mentalhealth.org.uk/coronavirus.
Although we all endeavour to protect and promote animal health and welfare, at this time it is of paramount importance to place human health first. Whilst we are aware of the difficult position in which many of you will find yourself due to the nature of your business, it is extremely important that you consider the risks of continuing to work in your normal manner. The Government are extremely clear on social distancing and self-isolation, the details of which are available online https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults
The nature of our registrants’ work is such that in many cases close contact between you and your clients is a normal occurrence. Those working in Veterinary Practices will hopefully have already received guidelines from their employer about modifications to dealing with clients and their animals. Self-employed registrants will have to make decisions for themselves in relation to their working practices.
Whilst the Government have placed Farm Animal Vets and Emergency Veterinary Practices in the Key Workers category (in relation to those professions and sections of society who can continue to send their children to school) this is not the case (at the moment) for General and Small Animal Practice or Equine Vets. This therefore should give you an indication of what the Government is considering is essential work. BVA are lobbying the Government for Veterinary Practices to be considered as Critical Businesses; this relates to being considered essential work in the case of further Government restrictions. How this will relate to our self-employed registrants is unclear at the moment but it is unlikely that vets will provide consent for treatment by allied professionals at this time.
We would ask you to consider if any work you continue to do is urgent? Does it need to be done at this time? Carry out a risk assessment for yourself, your clients and anyone else with whom you may come into contact. You should be aware of the groups the Government have classed as vulnerable (those over 70 years, Pregnant Women, those with certain underlying health issues and the immunocompromised). Ascertain if clients have been self-isolating. In these cases it would be best to not have any contact with clients or their animals.
If you do decide you can carry on with visits to clients then you must strictly adhere to social distancing and biosecurity. Keep contact with any surfaces or equipment at the client’s site to the absolute minimum in any situation, cleaning and disinfecting not only yourself but any equipment you use. Wash and gel your hands before contacting animals to prevent potentially transmitting any pathogens to them, reapply gel as you work, wash your hands and gel after finishing. Try and be extremely mindful of not touching your face at all times. Try and not work inside an enclosed area that has poor ventilation.
Maybe you can consider working in other ways? Continue to keep in contact with your clients via email, phone, Facetime, Whatsapp etc. They will be keen to maintain their animals’ health and well-being. Maybe you can provide advice and exercise programmes over the phone or other media. If you use video call to check the progress of the animal, be cautious about using it as an assessment tool as your insurance may not cover you if anything goes wrong. However it would be a good idea not to take on any new clients at this time as you will not be able to carry out a full assessment.
Unfortunately things are going to get worse before they get better and we all need to be taking our social responsibilities extremely seriously at this time if we are to help reduce the transmission of infection and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
We recognise it’s a difficult time for those who are self-employed. Please keep checking the government websites for updates on future payments for small businesses and for personal help such as mortgages and loans https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
Check your Insurance policies; Payment Protection /Business Interruption Insurance and contact your insurance providers for clarification. If you are covered for sickness you may find the excess is more than what you will be paid for time off. Technically unless you are hospitalised for some time, they will pay for the 2 weeks that you are ill. Information relating to benefits if you are told to self-isolate or are ill with CV-19 can be found here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19
Annual renewal of registration to AHPR is on 1st July. Any applications received from 1st January 2020 will be eligible for a 25% discount. This means that anyone applying for direct entry to the register between 1st January and 30th June will pay the £40 application fee followed by £20 registration fee. For RPL/ RPEL applications please contact the Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details of the fee required for registration.