Updated 19 February 2015
The veterinary team
17.1 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses working for an organisation or practice have shared responsibilities relating to the provision of veterinary services by the team and business, including the following:
- Senior veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should ensure any working systems, practices or protocols allow veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to practise in accordance with the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who knowingly or carelessly permit anyone to practise veterinary surgery illegally may be liable to a charge of serious professional misconduct.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should ensure processes are in place to ensure that professional staff for whom they are responsible are registered, for example, by inspecting the original RCVS certificate of membership and checking with the RCVS.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses when supervising veterinary nurses undertaking Schedule 3 procedures, should confirm that their names are currently on the List of Veterinary Nurses (which incorporates the Register of Veterinary Nurses) maintained by the RCVS and have not been suspended or removed from the Register of Veterinary Nurses by direction of the RVN Disciplinary Committee.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should ensure support staff for whom they are responsible are competent, courteous and properly trained. They should ensure support staff are instructed to maintain client confidentiality and to discharge animals only on the instructions of the duty veterinary surgeon; and, do not suggest a diagnosis or give a clinical opinion. Support staff should be advised to pass on any request for urgent attention to a veterinary surgeon and be trained to recognise those occasions when it is necessary for a client to speak directly to a veterinary surgeon.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should communicate with colleagues and others within the organisation or practice, to coordinate the care of patients and the delivery of veterinary services.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should regularly review work within the team, to ensure the health and welfare of patients; and, ensure that processes are in place to enable changes in practice when indicated.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should account, individually or collectively, for medicines (including drugs controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act) obtained for use within the organisation or practice; specific rules apply in certain cases, for example, Named Veterinary Surgeons working within research establishments. (Named Veterinary Surgeons)
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should communicate relevant responsibilities, particularly those in relation to the care of animals, to members of the team who are neither veterinary surgeons nor veterinary nurses.
- Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who have concerns about the competence of a colleague are encouraged to discuss the matter with the senior veterinary surgeon of the practice. If the matter cannot be resolved with such an approach, any concerns should be brought to the attention of the RCVS Professional Conduct Department.
The veterinary business
17.2 Veterinary surgeons may provide veterinary services through various business entities; for example, as limited companies, partnerships or sole practitioners. Veterinary services may be provided from stand-alone premises or those based within other business entities, such as supermarkets or pet superstores.
17.3 Under the terms of Section 19 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, only those registered with the RCVS are permitted to practise veterinary surgery in the United Kingdom.
17.4 The RCVS jurisdiction applies to each individual veterinary surgeon member whose responsibilities in terms of the Code of Professional Conduct apply, regardless of their employment status within the business entity.
17.5 If a veterinary surgeon provides veterinary services on behalf of an organisation or non-veterinary surgeon, for example, as an employee, the RCVS strongly recommends that the organisation or non-veterinary surgeon should:
- recognise the professional responsibilities of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses, in particular the responsibilities set out in the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct and supporting guidance issued by the RCVS; and,
- appoint a senior veterinary surgeon to director or equivalent status within the business, or an appropriate status within a charity, to have overall responsibility for professional matters, including clinical policy guidelines, procedures by which medicines* are obtained, stored, used and disposed; and, procedures for addressing clients' complaints about the provision of veterinary services.
[* The Home Office, which has responsibility for drugs controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has indicated that (1) where it is clear employee veterinary surgeons are responsible for the purchase and supply of these drugs in the company's name, Home Office licences for the possession and supply of controlled drugs are not required and (2) it is desirable for a senior veterinary surgeon to be responsible for company procedures by which these drugs are obtained, stored, used and disposed of by employee (and locum) veterinary surgeons.]
17.6 Veterinary surgeons must ensure that all their professional activities are covered by professional indemnity insurance or equivalent arrangements.
17.7 For 'equivalent arrangements' to be satisfactory, they must cover four key areas:
- There must be sufficient funds available to cover potential future claims;
- Those funds must be readily available in the event that losses need to be compensated - funds are not readily available where use affects significantly the work of the business or life of an individual;
- There must be an established procedure in place for dealing with claims and accessing those funds, so that all parties have clarity about the process; and
- There must be arrangements in place to ensure claims are dealt with by those who are independent of those who are the subject of the claim, so that decision-making is not based on personal interest.
17.8 Veterinary surgeons seeking to rely on the equivalent arrangements provision should seek professional advice (e.g. from a solicitor or accountant) to ensure equivalence with professional indemnity insurance.