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Improvements made to how we handle concerns raised by animal owners

9 October 2014

We are have recently improved the way in which we investigate concerns raised about the professional conduct of veterinary surgeons and registered veterinary nurses by speeding up the process and improving communication.

Canine patient and ownerThe new concerns investigation procedure was introduced in August with the aim of streamlining the process and making it less stressful for all concerned by improving communication and reducing the amount of time taken to resolve concerns.The changes arise from the First Rate Regulator initiative in which we carried out telephone interviews with members of the public and the profession who had raised concerns.

Speed and communication were highlighted as issues - for example, most respondents criticised the length of time taken to conclude a case while others said they had to contact us in order to find out how the case was progressing.

Eleanor Ferguson, Head of Professional Conduct, says: “The First Rate Regulator initiative conducted last year made it clear that some animal owners who had made complaints to the College were frustrated with the speed at which their case was either resolved or progressed and the lack of communication regarding what stage the complaint was at.

“To deal with this we have introduced greater flexibility to allow us to resolve concerns more quickly and fast-track the most serious cases to the Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC); while improved communication – including regular telephone contact and documentation in plain English -  means that we aim to keep all those involved informed of progress more regularly.”

Improved communication – including regular telephone contact and documentation in plain English -  means that we aim to keep all those involved informed of progress more regularly.

The process has been improved in a number of areas, including:

  • a simpler three-stage structure comprising a new, initial assessment and investigation stage; further investigation by the PIC; and, referral to the Disciplinary Committee (DC);
  • small teams of three to initially manage concerns, to make the process more agile and flexible;
  • appropriate investigations as soon as possible to either resolve concerns quickly or enable the PIC to make a quicker decision;
  • improved contact, including phone calls to discuss the case and establish a point of contact, and plain English documentation;
  • case managers to help manage expectations where possible by indicating likely outcome;
  • improving service standards so that, from the day the concern is received, there will be an acknowledgement within two days; a phone call within two weeks; the initial assessment/investigation within three months; any consideration by the PIC within nine months; and, any Disciplinary Committee listing within 12 months. We aim to implement this time-scale within three years;
  • internal controls to help meet service standards and allocate extra resources if necessary;
  • fast-tracking of serious cases to the PIC, eg dishonesty, false certification, and serious convictions;
  • current older cases to be brought into the new procedures as soon as possible;
  • improved communication of, and information about, the new procedures. 

You can find out more about raising a concern with us on the website.

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