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5. Communication between professional colleagues

Updated 24 November 2016



5.1  Overtly poor relationships between veterinary surgeons and/or veterinary nurses undermine public confidence in the whole profession.

5.2  Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should not speak or write disparagingly about another veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse. Colleagues should be treated fairly, without discrimination and with respect, in all situations and in all forms of communication.

5.3  Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should liaise with colleagues where more than one veterinary surgeon has responsibility for the care of a group of animals. Relevant clinical information / information in the interest of the treatment of the animal should be provided promptly to colleagues taking over responsibility for a case and proper documentation should be provided for all referral or re-directed cases. Cases should be referred responsibly.

[Clinical and client records] [Referrals and second opinions]

5.4  Clients should not be obstructed from changing to another veterinary practice and should not be discouraged from seeking a second opinion.


Taking over a colleague’s case

5.5  Although both veterinary surgeon and client have freedom of choice, in the interests of the welfare of the animals involved, a veterinary surgeon should not knowingly take over a colleague's case without informing the colleague in question and obtaining a clinical history.

5.6  When an animal is initially presented, a veterinary surgeon should ask whether the animal is already receiving veterinary attention or treatment and, if so, when it was last seen; then, contact the original veterinary surgeon for a case history. It should be made clear to the client that this is necessary in the interests of the patient. If the client refuses to provide information, the case should be declined.

5.7  In an emergency, it is acceptable to make an initial assessment and administer any essential treatment before contacting the original veterinary surgeon.

5.8 There is no requirement to seek express consent from the client each time a history is requested by a superseding practice.  This is because superseding practices should inform the client that they will be requesting the history from the initial practice and therefore there is an implied consent.  Practices may however choose to verify the request with the client as a matter of policy or in circumstances where there are reasons to question the legitimacy of the request.  Whatever the situation, clients should not be obstructed from changing practices and any policies to verify requests with clients should not cause unnecessary delays to ongoing care.


Mutual clients

5.9  Where different veterinary surgeons are treating the same animal, or group of animals, each should keep the other informed of any relevant clinical information, so as to avoid any danger that might arise from conflicting advice, or adverse reactions arising from unsuitable combinations of medicines.

5.10  Even where two veterinary surgeons are treating different groups of animals owned by the same client, it is still advisable for each to keep the other informed of any problem that might affect their work.


New technology tests

5.11  Veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses involved with the use of tests using genomic or other similar new technology (including proteomic and metabolite technology) within the context of ‘recognised veterinary practice’, are subject to the same restrictions, safeguards and guidance as those involved with tests using biochemical or other technology, such as:

  1. compliance with the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966, to ensure that , subject to the specified exemptions in the Act and subordinate legislation, only veterinary surgeons practise veterinary surgery;
  2. consideration of the RCVS Code of Conduct the interface between the Veterinary Surgeons Act and the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986;
  3. consideration of the published information on the clinical benefits of the test, particularly if the test is new;
  4. consideration of the test as predictive or diagnostic;
  5. consideration of the specificity and sensitivity of the test;
  6. consideration of positive and negative predictive values;
  7. consideration of the environmental or other factors when the test relates to a complex condition;
  8. publicity is legal, decent, honest and truthful and therefore with no misleading claims;
  9. publicity is of a professional nature;
  10. consideration of responsibilities to patients and clients, such as informed consent from the client and, if appropriate, informed consent for the use of any excess collected with a sample and not used in the test;
  11. appropriate professional guidance and advice when test results are communicated to clients; and,
  12. consideration of responsibilities to the general public, including the use of professional status to provide only factual information to the general public about veterinary products and services and the need for cooperation with colleagues and other health care professionals when appropriate.


The usual safeguards should be applied, as appropriate, even if the genomic or other test provides no diagnosis of disease. For example, such information may be used for breeding purposes or by insurance companies and may have a significant effect on the welfare of the animal or animals tested. Client confidentiality will apply to the results of such tests.


Blood transfusions

5.12  Section 2(8) of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 exempts procedures conducted as part of any recognised veterinary, agricultural or animal husbandry practice. Taking blood from healthy donors with the permission of the owner and with the intention of administering the blood or its products to a recipient is recognised veterinary practice where there is an immediate or anticipated clinical indication for the transfusion. Such a clinical procedure would be acceptable on the scale of an individual veterinary practice or between other practices in the locality. However, the collection of blood for the preparation of blood products on a larger commercial scale for general therapeutic use in animals may require licences under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986; this larger commercial scale activity would need to be licensed under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations.

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