Veterinarians must deliver evidence-based veterinary services of a high standard, appropriate to meet the needs of their clients and the welfare health care needs of the animals under their care, and ensure their clients’ animals have access to emergency care.
Understanding the guiding principle
Veterinarians must keep their skills and knowledge up to date by taking part in relevant continuing professional development activities that maintain and develop their competence and performance.
Understanding section 1
Veterinarians must recognise when either their competence or the resources available to them place limits on their ability to perform to an acceptable standard. All reasonable steps must be taken to avoid exceeding those limits.
Understanding section 2
All veterinarians must take reasonable care to ensure that the practice that they are working in is operated to the standard expected in this Code.
Understanding section 3
Veterinarians must maintain clear and accurate clinical records. The records must:
- be of such detail that another veterinarian could take over the management of the case at any time
- be retained for periods of time as required by statute or for the duration of time for which they remain relevant to the purpose for which they were recorded
- not be altered retrospectively unless the changes are marked chronologically on the record, and the additions are dated and noted as being added retrospectively; and
- be made accessible to clients on request, unless there are justifiable legal reasons to withhold.
Understanding section 4
Veterinarians employed by government or involved in industry, education or research must:
- ensure that employer requirements and contractual obligations do not compromise or override professional standards
- inform clinical practitioners before providing services affecting their clients. This includes public presentations, trial work and investigating aspects relating to products.
- ensure all professional and regulatory requirements are satisfied when undertaking trial, research or investigatory work for an employer.
Understanding section 5
In considering the use of alternative or complementary methods of diagnosis or treatment the welfare of the animal is paramount. Where a veterinarian chooses to use alternative or complementary methods of diagnosis or treatment the client must be able to make an informed decision about whether to proceed. Therefore the veterinarian making this choice must inform the client of:
- the nature of the alternative treatment offered; and
- the extent to which it is consistent with conventional medicine.
Understanding section 6
Veterinarians in clinical practice must make an emergency service available at all times. This service is required so that their clients’ animals can receive essential veterinary treatment in order to relieve unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.
The emergency service must be sufficiently resourced, so that except in extraordinary circumstances all veterinary emergencies involving clients' animals are attended in reasonable time to ensure the welfare of the animals. A decision of what is a reasonable time will take into account the type of practice and the locality.
Those veterinarians on duty and directly responsible for providing the emergency service can refer callers who are not clients to the emergency service provided by the caller's own veterinarian. However, if that alternative service is not available and if the veterinarian has the necessary skills and resources required for the particular emergency, the veterinarian must attend the emergency and provide essential treatment.
Understanding section 7
There will be times when a veterinarian who is not currently working in clinical practice, or who is not on duty, is called upon in a veterinary emergency. On these occasions, if the veterinarian is unable to attend the animal personally to provide emergency treatment, he/she must make a reasonable effort to assist the caller to locate an alternative source of emergency veterinary care.
Instances will occur where there is no available veterinary service. In any such case the veterinarian must provide appropriate advice in order that the person in charge of the animal is able to take the necessary steps to alleviate any unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress being suffered by the animal.
Understanding section 8
Veterinarians must make provision for the care of animals currently receiving in-patient treatment. This must be at a level appropriate to the clinical problem being managed and must be communicated to the client.
Understanding section 9