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Welcome to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

1. Referrals and second opinions

Updated 10 March 2016


1.1  Veterinary surgeons should facilitate a client’s request for a referral or second opinion.

1.2  A referral may be for a diagnosis, procedure and/or possible treatment, after which the case is returned to the referring veterinary surgeon, whereas a second opinion is only for the purpose of seeking the views of another veterinary surgeon. Neither a second-opinion veterinary surgeon nor a referral practice should ever seek to take over the case, unless the client chooses to change practices.


When to refer

1.3  Veterinary surgeons should recognise when a case or a treatment option is outside their area of competence and be prepared to refer it to a colleague, organisation or institution, whom they are satisfied is competent to carry out the investigations or treatment involved.

1.4  The referring veterinary surgeon has a responsibility to ensure that the client is made aware of the level of expertise of appropriate and reasonably available referral veterinary surgeons, for example, whether they are veterinary specialists or advanced practitioners. They must not describe a referral veterinary surgeon as a specialist, or as an advanced practitioner, unless they are on the respective list.  

1.5  Both the referring veterinary surgeon and the referral veterinary surgeon have a responsibility to ensure that the client has an understanding of the likely cost arising from the referral.


Referring a case

1.6  The initial contact should be made by the referring veterinary surgeon, and the referral veterinary surgeon should be asked to arrange the appointment. 

1.7  The referring veterinary surgeon should provide the referral veterinary surgeon with the case history and any relevant laboratory results, radiographs, scans etc. Any further information that may be requested should be supplied promptly.   

1.8  The referral veterinary surgeon should discuss the case with the client including the likely costs of the referral work and promptly report back on the case to the primary veterinary surgeon. When reporting back to the referring veterinary surgeon, there should be transparency as to who dealt with the case.


Second opinions

1.9  Veterinary surgeons may follow similar procedures for second opinions and should ensure that any differences of opinion between the veterinary surgeons are discussed and explained constructively.

See also the supporting guidance on ‘Providing the service – referrals’, 3.5-3.7

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