RCVS updates COVID-19 guidelines

Fresh guidance to vets and practices has been issued by the RCVS as new lockdowns and Tier 4 restrictions kick in across the UK.

The college, along with the BVA, had issued a joint statement earlier this week, when all four nations introduced additional restrictions to combat a rise in cases and the new variant of COVID-19. The statement said both were seeking clarification on the implications for vets of the new measures.

Flow charts

The RCVS has now received guidance from CVOs and Government agencies, allowing it to again tailor its guidance specifically to each nation.

Changes have been made to the flow charts and FAQs on its website, while additional guidance for each lockdown or tier level has also been included. The guidance again covers remote prescribing.


A new Tier 4 introduced in England on 20 December affects London and the south-east, Peterborough, Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire. Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, further parts of Essex, Waverley in Surrey, and all of Hampshire – including Portsmouth and Southampton, but not the New Forest – will move to Tier 4 early on Boxing Day.

Under these restrictions, practices can remain open, and owners can leave home to seek veterinary advice “essential for animal health and welfare”. Veterinary work essential to the supply of the food chain is also allowed.

In line with the “stay at home” message, practice support staff should work from home if possible, the RCVS said, with triage calls and remote consultations advised.


Mainland Scotland is entering Level 4 restrictions for three weeks from Boxing Day, with travel between Scotland and England restricted.

However, the Scottish CVO’s office has confirmed cross-border travel exceptions include animal welfare, including veterinary work and travel to a vet. Practices can remain open and do not have to restrict services, but should plan for a minimum number of people on site and most to work from home.


A national lockdown in Wales started on 20 December, with Alert Level 4 restrictions replacing previous national restrictions.

A statement from the Welsh CVO’s office said: “Veterinary services may continue to operate, but non-essential sales of pet care products must cease, in line with suspension of non-essential retail. Services that are not necessary for the health and welfare of animals or for the production of food should be deferred.

“We expect vets to use their professional judgement and understanding of infection control to make sensible decisions to limit the risks of spreading COVID-19 while undertaking their work. We do need people to stay at home as much as possible in this Alert Level 4.”

Northern Ireland

A six-week lockdown, replacing previous national restrictions, comes into force on Boxing Day in Northern Ireland (NI).

The NI Executive has confirmed practices can remain open, while NI’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has confirmed the regulations do not appear to restrict the activities of veterinary professionals.

  • Full guidelines – including the breakdown for each nation, PDF links to the flow charts and links to each nation’s latest official guidance – are available on the RCVS website.
  • UPDATE (15:40, 23 December): From 00:01 on Boxing Day, health secretary Matt Hancock announced Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, parts of Essex not already in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey, and Hampshire – including Southampton as well as Portsmouth, but not the New Forest – will be escalated to Tier 4.


RCVS updates COVID-19 guidelines

In-text: (Vet Times, 2020)

Vet Times. (2020). RCVS updates COVID-19 guidelines [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].

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