There are three stages to our investigation procedure, as explained below.
Assessment and investigation
Your Case Manager
Once we have received a concern about you, we will assign you with a Case Manager.
He/she will generally contact you by telephone within two weeks to introduce themselves, provide you with his/her contact details and discuss your case.
We disclose details of the concern to you and inform your employer.
We may ask you to write to us to comment on the concerns raised. We will send a copy of the information you provide to the person who has raised the concern so that they can tell us if they disagree with anything you have written.
We may need to gather additional information so that we can decide what action we can take.
Your Case Manager may therefore seek information over the telephone, by email, in writing or in meetings, for example:
- from you;
- from the person who has raised concerns about you;
- from others at your veterinary practice (such as your employer or veterinary/non-veterinary colleagues);
- from anyone who may have witnessed or have knowledge about any of the incidents involved; and/or
- from any other veterinary surgeon who may have treated the patient.
Your Case Manager may also ask for copies of the clinical records relating to the patient's treatment.
Our investigations could also involve:
- instructing our Veterinary Investigators to visit you, and/or the person who has raised concerns, and/or anyone else who may have knowledge about the incidents, and to report back to your Case Manager;
- obtaining formal witness statements (from you and others); and/or
- obtaining expert reports.
Your Case Manager may, at any time, seek guidance about an investigation from the Chairman of the Preliminary investigation Committee or the Head of Professional Conduct at the RCVS.
Consideration by the Case Examiner Group
Once your Case Manager considers that sufficient information has been obtained to enable the concern to be assessed, it will be considered by a Case Examiners Group.
This Group is made up of your Case Manager; a veterinary Case Examiner and a non-veterinary Case Examiner.
[Please see 'Our terms explained' for information about veterinary and non-veterinary Case Examiners and Veterinary Investigators]
The Case Examiner Group makes its decisions in private, so neither you, nor the person who has raised the concern, will attend any of its meetings.
The Group will decide whether there is an arguable case that what you have done, or not done, could affect your fitness to practise, ie whether it amounts to serious professional misconduct.
The Case Examiner Group can:
- close the matter with no further action;
- close the matter and issue advice to you; or,
- decide that there is an arguable case against you and that the case should be referred to Stage 2, the Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC). The PIC's role is to decide whether a case should proceed to Stage 3, a Disciplinary Committee (DC) hearing.
Decisions by the Case Examiner Group must be unanimous. Where there is no agreement, the case will be referred to the PIC for it to consider.
Upon the authorisation of the PIC Chairman and/or the Head of Professional Conduct, concerns and/or convictions/cautions that are identified by the Case Examiner Group as being of a potentially serious nature may be referred directly to the PIC for investigations to be carried out.
We will write to both you and the person who raised the concern about the Case Examiner Group's decision, and the reasons behind it.
Preliminary Investigation Committee
The PIC meets to consider whether there is a realistic prospect that what you have done, or not done, could affect your fitness to practise and amounts to serious professional misconduct, and whether the case should therefore be referred to a DC hearing.
PIC meetings are in private, so neither you, nor the person who raised the concern, will attend any of the meetings.
The PIC will receive all the information and documents previously made available to the Case Examiner Group.
Both you and the person who raised the concern will be notified if a matter is going forward to the PIC and will have the opportunity to provide any additional comments and information that you would like it to consider.
When the PIC considers matters, it may require more information before making a decision (see above for the sort of information that it may ask for).
The PIC will, in any event, ask you to supply details of your continuing professional development records for the last three years, as well as to confirm your indemnity insurance details.
What the PIC can do
The PIC may decide to:
- close the case with no further action;
- close the case and issue advice to you;
- hold a case open (with or without a follow-up visit by our Veterinary Investigators);
- refer a complaint to the DC for a hearing. It will do this where it considers that there is a realistic prospect of the DC finding that your alleged conduct falls far short of the standard expected of a reasonably competent veterinary surgeon. The PIC will do so in particular when it takes the view that the behaviour, if proved, is fundamentally incompatible with your being a veterinary surgeon and this may include any behaviours in the following (non-exhaustive) list:
- Very poor professional performance where there has been a serious departure from the standards set out in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct;
- Causing, or causing risk of, serious harm to animals or the public, particularly where there is a breach of trust;
- Offences of a sexual nature;
- Offences involving violence and/or loss of human life;
- Evidence of a harmful or deep-seated personality or attitude problem; and/or
- Dishonesty (including false certification), particularly where persistent or concealed;
- retain a case for ongoing monitoring under the RCVS Health Protocol; or,
- retain a case for ongoing monitoring under the RCVS Performance Protocol.
Disciplinary Committee hearing
If a case is referred to the Disciplinary Committee, there will be a formal hearing.
A DC hearing is like a court hearing and the person who raised the concern will probably be asked to attend to give evidence under oath or affirmation (a solemn promise to tell the truth). Other witnesses will also usually be called to give evidence.
Generally, a DC hearing date will be offered within 12 months of the date we received the concerns form.
You may appeal to the Privy Council against a DC decision to suspend or remove you from the register.
Visit the Disciplinary Committee page for further information about what the DC can do.