NHS hospitals are calling on VETS to join the frontline as Britain’s coronavirus peak looms.
Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust has reportedly recruited 150 veterinary staff as “respiratory assistants”.
While Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust has asked vets and dentists to become “bedside support workers”, according to the Health Service Journal.
It is believed vets could help with things like monitoring patients who are under anaesthetic.
Some have been placed on furlough by private practice and it’s understood they might be in a position to help in hospitals.
Departmental vets – who are experts in disease control – may even be able to help when it comes to community testing and establishing patterns of disease incidence, it’s reported.
‘Eyes and ears’
Managers at Torbay Hospital are preparing for the possibility that there might not be enough staff to treat a surge in Covid-19 patients.
In a message sent to local veterinary associations, the trust said that it anticipates the number of intensive care beds may need to increase tenfold in the coming weeks.
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Staff said that it would be “relatively straightforward” to source physical kit, but there is a “critical lack” of suitably skilled workers.
Vets would be required to act as the “eyes and ears” of the intensive care medics, they added.
A trust spokeswoman said veterinary staff have “valuable skills that we can use to support our staff in caring for patients with respiratory problems”.
They would be given the training to care for ventilated patients this week and matched with consultants.
The trust emphasised that vets wouldn’t make decisions about “triage, airway interventions such as intubation, or withdrawal of active treatment”.
Their involvement would be unpaid voluntary work, but they will be indemnified, the letter added.
It may also see them drafted in to help out at a new Nightingale hospital being set up in Exeter.
Meanwhile, Hampshire Hospitals has also called on “skilled professionals” – including vets and dentists – to support critical care staff and other wards.
Those recruited for the bespoke role, dubbed a “bedside support worker”, will receive “close and direct supervision from our clinical teams”, a trust spokesman told HSJ.
Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister has also said veterinary staff were on standby if needed.
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Edwin Poots told a Stormont committee that vets could be used to alleviate staffing pressures and help with some clinical roles.
A Department of Agriculture (DAERA) spokesperson said: “The department has offered assistance to the Public Health Agency NI and is exploring the potential for DAERA veterinary staff to support the health service in a number of ways.
“We want to do all we possibly can to help.”
It comes as government advisers insist the virus outbreak’s peak could be ten days away — on April 18.
So far, at least 60,773 people have been infected with coronavirus in the UK and 7,097 have died.
Before falling ill, PM Boris Johnson pledged to review lockdown on Easter Monday, April 13 — three weeks after it began on March 23.
But Downing Street is seriously concerned that people may defy the advice and head out to enjoy 24C (75F) bank holiday sunshine.
Mr Raab will today give a firm indication that Brits can expect to be locked down for weeks longer and will again urge them to stay indoors as much as possible.
The Government will formally set an extension early next week — after analysing three weeks’ data.