Updated 17 September 2015
Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in 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. Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses have a personal professional responsibility to comply with the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct.
17.2 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should fully understand the scope and any limitations of their role and ensure that they work within these.
17.3 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.
17.4 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who have concerns about the professional conduct (including health and performance) of a colleague are encouraged to discuss the matter with the appropriate senior person, for example, the appointed 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.
17.5 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should be aware of and adhere to all of their responsibilities as set out in the relevant equalities legislation* and should take steps to challenge unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation where it arises.
(*For further information see www.equalityhumanrights.com)
Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in leadership roles
17.6 Some veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses are responsible for leading or managing other members of the veterinary team or running the practice in full or in part. Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in such roles have additional responsibilities. Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses continue to have responsibility for animal health and welfare when they perform non-clinical duties and they remain accountable to the RCVS for their decisions and actions.
17.7 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in leadership roles should ensure that any working systems, practices or protocols allow veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses to practise in accordance with the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct. If in the course of an RCVS investigation into a concern it appears that a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse has followed working systems, practices or protocols which contravene the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct, the veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse responsible for the working systems, practices or protocols will be at least as accountable as the veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse who has followed them.
17.8 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 in leadership roles should make sure that staff are clear about the proper scope of their role and responsibilities.
17.9 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 checking the Register online or by checking with the RCVS.
17.10 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses supervising veterinary nurses undertaking Schedule 3 procedures should confirm that their names are currently in 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 VN Disciplinary Committee.
17.11 Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should ensure that support staff for whom they are responsible are competent, courteous and properly trained. They should ensure that 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.
17.12 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 in leadership roles should lead on clinical governance. They should enable and encourage staff to raise concerns and should act on concerns brought to their attention.
The appointed senior veterinary surgeon
17.13 Veterinary surgeons provide veterinary services through a variety of entities such as limited companies, charities, partnerships or sole practitioners and may be managed by non-veterinary surgeons. At all times, veterinary surgeons remain subject to their professional responsibilities and the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct. To provide appropriate professional direction, the RCVS expects the organisation to appoint a senior veterinary surgeon.
17.14 The appointed senior veterinary surgeon should:
a. Have an appropriate level of seniority, for example, director, head of clinical services or other equivalent status within the organisation.
b. Have overall responsibility within the organisation for professional matters; for example, this includes ensuring that clinical policy guidelines and procedures for addressing clients’ complaints about the provision of veterinary services are in line with the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct.
c. Have overall responsibility within the organisation for the procedures by which medicines are obtained, stored, administered, sold or supplied, and disposed. POM-V medicines may only be obtained by a veterinary surgeon (even though they may be paid for by a business entity) and may only be sold or supplied from veterinary practice premises registered with the RCVS (see further guidance).
d. Ensure that their colleagues within the organisation, especially those who are not veterinary surgeons or veterinary nurses, recognise the professional responsibilities of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses, in particular those set out in the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct and supporting guidance issued by the RCVS.
Professional indemnity insurance and equivalent arrangements
17.15 Veterinary surgeons must ensure that all their professional activities are covered by professional indemnity insurance or equivalent arrangments.
17.16 For ‘equivalent arrangements’ to be satisfactory, they must cover four key areas:
a. There must be sufficient funds available to cover potential future claims;
b. 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;
c. 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
d. 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.
17.17 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.
17.18 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 and these are to be used directly by a veterinary surgeon acting in their professional capacity treating individual patients, Home Office licences for the possession and supply of controlled drugs are not required and (2) it is desirable for the appointed senior veterinary surgeon to be responsible for company procedures by which these drugs are obtained, stored, administered, sold or supplied, and disposed of by employee (and locum) veterinary surgeons.