RCVS offers reassurances in light of Isoflurane shortage

20 December 2018

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is offering reassurances to the profession in view of the announced shortages of Isoflurane anaesthetic gas.

In light of the shortages of the product, as recently reported by the manufacturer Zoetis, the RCVS would like to reassure members of the profession that any problems that may arise from a shortage of the anaesthetic agent are very unlikely to be considered as a professional conduct issue. This is provided that, as would always be the case, any clinical decisions made are justifiable, that detailed contemporaneous notes are made, that the prescribing cascade is followed where authorised veterinary medicines are not available and that, where unauthorised medicines are being used, informed consent is gained from the animal’s owner with a full explanation of the risks, potential side-effects and costs, for example, being given before the medicine is administered.

Amanda Boag, RCVS President, commented: “We understand that this is a concerning situation for many in the profession who are worried about the impact of the shortage of Isoflurane on both elective and emergency operations. We are also concerned to hear that some vets are worried that they may be disciplined by the RCVS for clinical decisions and outcomes that may arise from the shortage, and so we are keen to stress that we understand that members of the profession can only do their best under the circumstances presented to them and that, provided they can clinically justify the decisions they have made, keep detailed notes, gain informed consent and follow the prescribing rules, then there is very unlikely to be an issue of professional misconduct.”

Whilst clinical decisions are for veterinary professionals, if veterinary surgeons have any questions about the shortage in relation to the Code of Professional Conduct and its supporting guidance, then they can contact the RCVS Standards and Advice Team on 020 7202 0789 or advice@rcvs.org.uk.

For further information about the shortage and alternative sources and products, the RCVS recommends visiting the Veterinary Medicines Directorate website on www.gov.uk/government/organisations/veterinary-medicines-directorate