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Practices respond to call to help the NHS

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By Josh Loeb

Hundreds of vet practices have come forward with offers of human-compatible ventilators to assist NHS intensive care units in saving lives.

Offers of help and equipment from the vet sector have been coming thick and fast

Offers of help and equipment from the vet sector have been coming thick and fast since the Covid-19 crisis began, and the profession’s efforts were this week praised by veterinary leaders including BVA president Daniella Dos Santos and UK chief vet Christine Middlemiss.

In her weekly webinar about the crisis, Dos Santos revealed that, alongside the drive by vets to free up ventilators for the health service, NHS trusts had been getting in touch with vet practices directly to request personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks.

‘When requests have reached us, we have shared names of suppliers with [the NHS trusts] and this seems to be the best way of managing this in the medium term at the moment,’ she said. ‘We’d urge all veterinary practices to use PPE prudently in the weeks ahead.’

The role vets play in the food supply system is also now being seen as key work. Dos Santos warned that Covid-19 had resulted in some staff shortages that may impact on official veterinarian (OV) capacity and could therefore impact on food production as the pandemic progresses. Vets who have worked as a red or white meat OV in the past five years, but whose designation status has lapsed, and who are able to work as part of efforts to keep the food supply system running during the Covid-19 outbreak should contact Eville and Jones or Food Standards Scotland.

‘It is important that we work together to keep the abattoirs open at this critical time,’ Dos Santos said.

She also highlighted the government’s call for volunteers from the whole of society to help support the NHS and care sector with tasks such as delivering medicines from pharmacies, driving patients to appointments and bringing them home from hospital, and making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.

However, asked whether she thought there could be a medical role for vets in human healthcare settings, she said the focus ‘has rightly been on re-recruiting trained doctors and nurses who have left due to retirement or other reasons’, adding that trained medical staff ‘are by far the best placed people to provide frontline support’.

Acknowledging the profession’s efforts so far, Middlemiss said: ‘It’s important that we all work together during this difficult time, and I am pleased to see the concerted effort between human and animal health professionals.’

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