Coming together in the face of a pandemic

We are living in an unprecedented, unpredictable and challenging time. In the weeks since my last column, there has been a seismic shift in the way in which veterinary teams function and the range of services they are able to offer clients.

The financial and emotional toll of the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures has been enormous, too, but we know that vets and vet nurses have been doing all it takes to support each other, their clients, and the animals under their care under the circumstances.

So I’d like to begin with a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to each and every member of the veterinary team for making dramatic changes to help curb the pandemic. Apart from the profession’s work in caring for animals and maintaining the food supply chain, it has been great to see the response from practices following the calls for ventilators, PPE and other medical equipment to help the NHS.

The dozens of messages of gratitude, encouragement and positivity for vets on social media – including during the #ClapForKeyWorkers days- are a tiny but invaluable testament to the essential service that the profession is providing for concerned pet owners and livestock keepers during this public health emergency.

I’d like to reassure you that BVA is working hard to make sure that our members feel informed and supported during this trying period.

BVA has been issuing regular updates through its website and social media channels to give guidance to both vets and animal owners as the coronavirus crisis continues. I have been hosting weekly webinars for all members of the veterinary professions and the wider vet-led team to explore any questions and concerns arising from the lockdown. My colleagues and I also continue to be in touch with our specialist divisions, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, government officials and animal welfare charities to help keep pace with developments and champion the role that veterinary professionals have to play in the difficult months ahead.

We anticipate that some form of restrictions may continue in the near future, and we must be mindful of the ongoing need to prioritise public health and addressing animal health and welfare issues that may arise over this prolonged period. Take a look at BVA’s ‘traffic light’ guidance on essential care on our website, designed to support vets’ professional judgment on a case-by-case basis on a rolling two-month timeframe. This advice will be reviewed in light of any further government instructions or relevant information.

Thanks to our lobbying with the RCVS in the early days of the lockdown, veterinary practices were recognised as ‘business critical’. However, we continue to urge government and devolved administrations to recognise veterinary surgeons and veterinary businesses as eligible for all financial support measures in the months ahead. Our template letter for vets to write to their own local MPs, councils and devolved members has been downloaded several hundred times and we have been encouraged by the feedback we’ve received so far. Please add your voice to this important campaign too – you can download the template letter via the dedicated Covid-19 information hub www.bva.co.uk/coronavirus.

We’ll continue to share the latest updates on Covid-19 and how the veterinary community is responding via our website and social media. In the meantime, you can also download and share our social media graphics to keep clients posted about essential services.

Finally, I’d like to remind you that Vetlife and the BVA Legal Helpline are there to offer you free and confidential emotional, financial and legal support.

BVA will continue to be a voice for the profession in this difficult time. The veterinary profession is at its strongest when it pulls together to help our colleagues, clients and the communities we serve, and it’s vital that we support one another and keep working hard to protect animal health and welfare, as well as doing our bit to slow the spread of this pandemic. Stay safe.

By Daniella Dos Santos, CEO of the British Veterinary Association (BVA)

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