Skip to content

Our terms explained

Getting to grips with the terminology used in our investigation process can be a challenge, so we have explained some of the most frequently used terms below, including the main people and committees involved.


Only the Disciplinary Committee or the Charter Case Committee can issue a formal warning to a veterinary surgeon. However, situations may arise where Preliminary Investigation Committee (in deciding that there is no realistic prospect of a finding against the veterinary surgeon should the case  progress to a Disciplinary Hearing) may nevertheless still have concerns about what the veterinary surgeon has done (or not done).

In these situations, advice may be issued to the veterinary surgeon, for example:

  • change practice protocols or procedures
  • undertake additional continuing professional development (CPD),
  • reminder about the provisions in the Code of Professional Conduct or supporting guidance.

Advice from the College remains on a veterinary surgeon's records for a period of two years and if, in the future, similar concerns are raised, the fact that advice was issued may be taken into account.

Case Managers

Case Managers are part of the Professional Conduct Department and may be legally qualified. Case Managers assist the PIC in investigating and considering concerns.

Charter Case Committee

The Charter Case Committee is an independent Committee formed under the Royal Charter of 2015.  The Committee can issue warnings (either publicly or privately) to Registrants.  The Preliminary Investigation Committee may decide to refer a matter to the Charter Case Committee if it considers that there is a realistic prospect of serious professional misconduct in respect of a Registrant, but that it is not in the public interest for the matter to go to the Disciplinary Committee (for example because the conduct or conviction is of lesser seriousness).

Code of Professional Conduct

The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct sets out what constitutes good professional conduct. Further information on specific areas of this is set out in the supporting guidance.


See 'Disciplinary Committee'.

Disciplinary Committee (DC)

The RCVS equivalent of a court where charges are heard against a veterinary surgeon alleging that they are guilty of serious professional misconduct (the wording of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 is ‘disgraceful conduct in a professional respect’), or that he or she is unfit to practise because of a criminal conviction.

The DC hears evidence on oath and witnesses are cross examined. It currently has 16 members and the quorum is five members, of whom two must be non-veterinary surgeons and two must be veterinary surgeons. 

Judicial Review

A request to the Courts that an administrative decision, for example, a decision by the Preliminary Committee, be reviewed.


Please see our separate note on negligence.


See 'Preliminary Investigation Committee'

Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC)

The Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC) is a statutory committee under the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. Seven veterinary surgeons and six non-veterinary members are appointed to the PIC each year to assist the assessment and investigation of concerns.

Every concern raised is considered by a Stage 1 PIC, generally comprising three members (one veterinary surgeon, one lay member and one other). At Stage 1 the PIC will decide whether it has sufficient evidence to conclude that there is not a realistic prospect of proving serious professional misconduct and, if so, close the case (with or without advice). If that is not the case the matter will progress to consideration by a Stage 2 PIC.

The Stage 2 PIC meets monthly to decide if cases should be referred to the Charter Case Committee or a Disciplinary Committee hearing. The Stage 2 PIC generally comprises five members (two veterinary surgeons, two lay and one other). The PIC Chairman provides a report to RCVS Council at 4 meetings each year.

Privy Council

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council hears appeals made by a veterinary surgeon against a Disciplinary Committee decision that his/her name should be suspended or removed from the RCVS Register.


Professional Conduct Department

The Professional Conduct Department of the RCVS includes legally-qualified staff, Professional Conduct Officers and administrative staff. It manages complaints and provides advice on the Codes of Professional Conduct. The Department is based at the RCVS premises in London.


RCVS Council

The governing body of the RCVS, as provided for in the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966.

RCVS Register

The RCVS Register is a list of those persons who are entitled to practise as veterinary surgeons in the UK, in accordance with the provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. Veterinary surgeons on the register use the postnominal letters 'MRCVS' (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) or FRCVS (Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons).

Serious professional misconduct

This is a term used to describe conduct by a veterinary surgeon that is so serious as to warrant consideration of the veterinary surgeon’s continued registration with the RCVS, i.e. their fitness to practise as a veterinary surgeon. This is behaviour that falls far short of that to be expected of a veterinary surgeon.

A case will be referred to the Disciplinary Committee only if there is a real prospect of proving serious professional misconduct against a veterinary surgeon.


Veterinary Investigator

Veterinary Investigators (of whom there are currently three) are registered veterinary surgeons with appropriate experience (such as approved Practice Standards Inspectors) who we appoint to assist with investigations of concerns raised about veterinary surgeons.

Their responsibilities could include visits to veterinary practices and interviews with veterinary surgeons about whom concerns have been raised, practice staff; those who have raised concerns and other witnesses.