Guidelines of the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria
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Guideline 17 - Emergency veterinary services and specialist veterinary services

This guideline outlines the appropriate standard expected of a registered veterinary practitioner in the course of veterinary practice. It should be read in conjunction with other related guidelines.

Context to Guideline 17: Emergency veterinary services and specialist veterinary services

To inform their choice of veterinary service provider, owners may rely on a veterinary practice to differentiate the veterinary services offered. The public understanding of commonly used categories of emergency and specialist veterinary service provision appears below:
  1. Emergency veterinary services — veterinary attendance available during specified hours for consultation and treatment of urgent animal health issues having significant impact on an animal’s wellbeing
  2. Specialist veterinary services — veterinary services delivered by a registered specialist veterinary practitioner, i.e. endorsed by the Board as a specialist
  3. Specialist emergency eervices — a combination of the above service descriptors noting a registered specialist veterinary practitioner will be directly involved in the delivery of emergency veterinary services.

A veterinary practice should ensure that the use of one or more of the above descriptors in its name or in publicly available information conforms with the relevant definition.

Professional conduct under this guideline is demonstrated by the following:
17.1 A veterinary practitioner advertises the provision of emergency veterinary services only where appropriate facilities, equipment and/or assistance are available, and a registered veterinary practitioner is accessible to deliver required treatments and procedures.
17.2 A veterinary practitioner providing veterinary emergency services ensures that the owner of the animal clearly understands the care required after the emergency treatment and what veterinary services are available should the animal need additional assessment or treatment.
17.3 A veterinary practitioner ensures that any limitations or conditions to their offering of emergency veterinary services are communicated in a manner that clearly informs the owner as to the scope or availability of the offered services. 
17.4 A veterinary practitioner providing veterinary emergency services is able to demonstrate that the services they provide differ from non-emergency services. 
The trading name of a practice must not contain the word “specialist” or any derivation of it unless at least one of the veterinary practitioners employed in the practice is a registered veterinary specialist and is directly overseeing the provision of specialist veterinary services.
17.6 A veterinary practitioner working in a practice promoting the availability of specialist veterinary services, but who is not endorsed by the Board as a specialist veterinary practitioner, notifies the owner of the animal of any limitations to the veterinary services they provide and records the discussion in the veterinary medical record.

Related guidelines

Related legislation

Date of publication
In effect from 1 May 2021.

This material is current only at the time of publication and may be changed from time to time. The Board reviews and updates the Guidelines on a continuous basis to reflect changes in the science and knowledge base underpinning contemporary veterinary practice. The Board will take reasonable steps to inform the veterinary profession when such updates are released but it remains the responsibility of the individual veterinary practitioner to ensure that their knowledge and application of these Guidelines to their own practice is current.

While the Board has made every effort to ensure that the material in these Guidelines is correct in law, it shall not be liable to any veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity in relation to any claim, action or proceeding whatsoever (whether in contract, negligence or other tort or in proceedings seeking any other form of legal or equitable remedy or relief) for any inadequacy, error or mistake, or for any deficiency in the whole or any part of this document (including any updates incorporated in the document from time to time). A veterinary practitioner or any other person or entity acting upon the contents of this document acknowledges and accepts that this is the basis upon which the Board has produced these Guidelines and made them available to such person or entity.