RCVS updates guidance for vets working with musculoskeletal therapists
There has been some doubt in the past regarding delegation of maintenance work, such as massage, to an MSK.

Updates to Code of Professional Conduct provide clarity for vets

New guidance to help veterinary surgeons working with musculoskeletal therapists (MSKs) has been published by the RCVS' Standards Committee.

According to the RCVS, MSKs, such as animal physiotherapists, currently have their work underpinned by an Exemption Order to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 which allows them to treat an animal under the direction of a veterinary surgeon who has first examined that animal.

The College has acknowledged that there has been some confusion as to whether MSKs need a veterinary referral for maintenance work, such as massage, in a healthy animal.

The new guidance is found in chapter 19 of the supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct. It outlines the current rules for musculoskeletal treatment of illness, disease or pathology and states that healthy animals do not require a veterinary referral for maintenance care.

In the guidance, the RCVS states that veterinary surgeons should be confident that the musculoskeletal therapist is appropriately qualified. It also notes that any animal, including a healthy one, should be registered with a veterinary surgeon and referred to them at the first sign of any potential underlying health problems.

In March 2019, the RCVS acknowledged that the existing exemption order was not suitable for underpinning the work of MSKs in it's Review of Minor Procedures Regime. To remedy this, the College recommended a reform of Schedule 3 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act, alongside regulation through Associate status for MSKs. This would allow the college to set and uphold standards for MSKs in a similar way to veterinary nurses.

The recent Legislation Working Party Report, which is currently open for consultation, includes proposals which build on this recommendation.