How we assess and investigate concerns raised about a veterinary surgeon
If your case falls within our remit it will be subject to our investigation procedure, which is set out below. If your concern does not fall within our remit, the Veterinary Client Mediation Service (VCMS) may be able to help you.
For more information about the types of cases we can deal with, and about VCMS, please go to I want to raise a concern about a veterinary surgeon.
Assessment and investigation
We will disclose your concerns to the veterinary surgeon.
We may ask the veterinary surgeon to write to us and comment on the concerns you have raised. We will send a copy of this letter to you so that you can tell us if you disagree with anything they have written.
It may not be necessary for us to contact the veterinary surgeon if we have received enough information from you to allow us to assess the concern or on the other hand, we may need to gather additional information so that we can decide what action we can take.
Your Case Manager may therefore seek information over the telephone, by email, in writing or in meetings, for example:
- from you;
- from the veterinary surgeon about whom you have concerns;
- from others at the veterinary practice (such as the veterinary surgeon’s employers or veterinary/non-veterinary colleagues at their practice);
- from anyone who you have told us may have witnessed or have knowledge about any of the incidents you are concerned about; and/or
- from any other veterinary surgeon who may have treated your animal.
Your Case Manager may also ask for copies of the clinical records relating to your animal’s treatment.
Our investigations could also involve:
- instructing our Veterinary Investigators to visit the veterinary surgeon who you are concerned about, and/or to visit you and anyone else who may have knowledge about the incidents, and to report back to the Case Manager;
- obtaining formal witness statements (from you and others); and/or
- obtaining expert reports.
Your Case Manager may, at any time, seek guidance about an investigation from the Chairman of the Preliminary investigation Committee or the Head of Professional Conduct at the RCVS.
Consideration by the Case Examiner Group
Once your Case Manager considers that sufficient information has been obtained to enable your concerns to be assessed (and this may be on the basis of your information alone), they will be considered by a Case Examiners Group.
This Group is made up of your Case Manager; a veterinary Case Examiner and a non-veterinary Case Examiner.
(Please see 'Our terms explained' for information about veterinary and non-veterinary Case Examiners and Veterinary Investigators)
The Case Examiner Group makes its decisions in private, so neither you, nor the veterinary surgeon, will attend any of its meetings.
The Group will decide whether there is an arguable case that what the veterinary surgeon has done, or not done, could affect his/her fitness to practise, ie whether it amounts to serious professional misconduct.
The Case Examiner Group can:
- close the matter with no further action;
- close the matter and issue advice to the veterinary surgeon; or,
- decide that there is an arguable case against the veterinary surgeon and that the case should be referred to the Preliminary Investigation Committee (Stage 2), whose role it is to decide if a case should go to a Disciplinary Committee (DC) hearing.
Decisions by the Case Examiner Group must be unanimous. Where there is no agreement, the case will be referred to the PIC for it to consider.
Upon the authorisation of the PIC Chairman and/or the Head of Professional Conduct, concerns and/or convictions/cautions that are identified by the Case Examiner Group as being of a potentially serious nature may be referred directly to the PIC for investigations to be carried out.
We will write to both you and the veterinary surgeon concerned about the decision made by the Case Examiner Group and the reasons for this decision. We aim to complete stage one within 4 months of the concern being raised with us.
Preliminary Investigation Committee
The Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC) meets to consider whether there is a realistic prospect that what the veterinary surgeon has done, or not done, could amount to serious professional misconduct, and whether the case should therefore be referred to a DC hearing.
PIC meetings are in private, so neither you, nor the veterinary surgeon concerned, will attend any of the meetings.
The PIC will receive all the information and documents previously made available to the Case Examiner Group.
We aim to complete stage two within 7 months of the concern being raised, but for more complex cases, this can take up to 12 months. A case is deemed complex where the Committee requested that further information, for example, witness statements and/or expert evidence is obtained.
Both you and the veterinary surgeon will be notified if a matter is going forward to the PIC and will have the opportunity to provide any additional comments and information that you would like it to consider.
When the PIC considers matters, it may require more information before making a decision (see above for the sort of information that it may ask for).
The PIC will, in any event, ask the veterinary surgeon to supply details of his/her continuing professional development records for the last three years, as well as to confirm their indemnity insurance details.
What the PIC can do
The PIC may decide to:
- close the case with no further action;
- close the case and issue advice to the veterinary surgeon;
- hold a case open (with or without a follow-up visit by our Veterinary Investigators);
refer a complaint to the DC for a hearing. It will do this where it considers that there is a realistic prospect of the DC finding that the veterinary surgeon’s alleged conduct falls far short of the standard expected of a reasonably competent veterinary surgeon. The PIC will do so in particular when it takes the view that the behaviour, if proved, is fundamentally incompatible with his/her being a veterinary surgeon and this may include any behaviours in the following (non-exhaustive) list:
- Very poor professional performance where there has been a serious departure from the standards set out in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct;
- Causing, or causing risk of, serious harm to animals or the public, particularly where there is a breach of trust;
- Offences of a sexual nature;
- Offences involving violence and/or loss of human life;
- Evidence of a harmful or deep-seated personality or attitude problem; and/or
- Dishonesty (including false certification), particularly where persistent or concealed;
retain a case for ongoing monitoring under the RCVS Health Protocol; or,
retain a case for ongoing monitoring under the RCVS Performance Protocol.
Disciplinary Committee hearing
If a case is referred to the Disciplinary Committee, there will be a formal hearing.
A DC hearing is like a court hearing and you will probably be asked to attend to give evidence under oath or affirmation (a solemn promise to tell the truth). Other witnesses will also usually be called to give evidence.
Generally, a DC hearing date will be offered within 15 months of the date we received your concerns form.
The veterinary surgeon may appeal to the Privy Council against a DC decision to suspend or remove them from the Register.
Please view the related documents on our Disciplinary Committee page for detailed information about what it can do.