The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has released new guidance on veterinary referrals for musculoskeletal treament. H&H heard the views of campaigners, practitioners and vets on the change...
OWNERS do not now have to seek veterinary approval to have musculoskeletal treatment for horses, in a “win-win” situation.
The work of musculoskeletal therapists (MSKs), such as osteopaths, physios and chiropractors, is underpinned by an exemption order to the Veterinary Surgeons Act, which allows them to treat animals “under the direction of a vet who has first examined that animal”.
But the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) said it recognised that there had been doubt as to whether MSKs need vet referral for maintenance work on a healthy animal. This caused confusion, and might mean delays to animals’ maintenance care.
“The new guidance clarifies that healthy animals do not need a vet referral for maintenance care,” a spokesman said.
The guidance states that all animals should be registered with a vet, to which they should be referred “at the first sign of any symptoms that may suggest underlying health issues”.
Vav Simon, president of the Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP), told H&H she has been working towards this for years.
“The problem was that a registrant might say to the vet ‘A trainer wants me to see a horse,’ and the vet would say, ‘I haven’t seen the horse for 18 months, I can’t give consent.’ So you have to ask the owner to get the vet first, and they have to then pay for the horse to be seen twice. No owner would be prepared to do that.
“Many of our registrants were losing work, so we took it to the Government. Defra said we didn’t need vet consent, so we went back to the RCVS, which said it made sense; if there’s nothing wrong with an animal, a vet wouldn’t refer it for treatment.
“This is the first big change in animal treatment in 60 years, and owners are delighted.”
Dr Simon said this should mean more horses will get MSK treatment, with which leading trainer Brian Hutton, who helped with the campaign, agrees.
“I’m delighted,” Mr Hutton told H&H. “It’s something I’ve been bringing up but it’s Vav’s tenacity that’s got it through. It’s great for equine health, and the RCVS has shown wisdom getting it through. It’s a win-win for the horses.
“It’s a great rapport between the RCVS, Defra and practitioners; it means more people looking out for the horse. Widening the net to pick up any problems is a very good thing.”
British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) CEO David Mountford said the clarification was useful.
“It recognises some of the important work of MSKs is targeted at maintaining a healthy horse, but also highlights the legal obligation for veterinary involvement to be sought whenever injury or pathology is suspected,” he told H&H.
“In the short term, BEVA would encourage owners to ensure everyone who works on their horse has appropriate qualifications; long term, we’d like legislation that would ensure all therapists are as accountable as vets, vet nurses and farriers.”
H&H 3 December 2020
You might also be interested in…
Our chartered physiotherapist investigates ways in which a horse's performance and general health can be optimised
The petition and march is in protest to the Royal College of Veterinary Medicine’s position statement on complementary and alternative
Equine vets have a higher risk of being injured at work than firefighters