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- I want to raise a concern about a veterinary surgeon
- I want to raise a concern about a registered veterinary nurse
- Confidential Reporting Line
What you need to know first
This information is for veterinary professionals wishing to raise concerns about a veterinary surgeon. Before you raise your concerns with us, please read the following.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) registers veterinary surgeons to practise in the UK and regulates their conduct, primarily through the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct and through the investigation of concerns. Our aim is to act in the public interest by safeguarding the health and welfare of animals and ensuring proper standards of conduct in veterinary practice.
Generally, veterinary surgeons conduct themselves properly and have good working relationships with their colleagues and peers. However sometimes things may happen which lead you to have concerns about a colleague's fitness to practise. If you find yourself in this situation, you may wish to raise those concerns with us.
The easiest way to raise a concern is to fill in a Concerns form. The following information explains what you need to know first and how you should go about this.
The sort of information we need includes:
- details about you – your name, address, email address, telephone number and whether you are a veterinary surgeon, nurse or other member of the practice team;
- If relevant, details about any animal involved, including name, species, gender, age and details of their owner;
- details of the veterinary surgeon you wish to complain about.
- details about what happened and the reasons why you are concerned;
- any supporting documentation, including copies of any correspondence between you and the veterinary surgeon, or copies of any clinical records (NB Please do not send original documents in the first instance. If we need these, we will ask for them).
We understand that you may prefer to discuss your concerns with us. If so, you can telephone us on 0207 2273509 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your query will be answered by a case manager or solicitor in the Professional Conduct Department.
Can I contact you anonymously/confidentially?
Yes, you may contact us anonymously or confidentially using the confidential reporting line on 020 3795 5600. You can also send an email to email@example.com. This is a dedicated service aimed at veterinary surgeons, nurses and other veterinary team members who wish to discuss concerns they have about a colleague. The confidential reporting line and email address are answered by members of staff who are legally trained or experienced in handling concerns.
You should, however, bear in mind that there are generally limitations to what we can do with your concerns if you do not complete a concerns form, consent to your identity being disclosed and provide full details of the incidents that you wish to tell us about. This is because the investigation process requires that the veterinary surgeon is given the opportunity to answer any allegations made against them. In order to allow the veterinary surgeon to do this, they need to know specifically what the allegations are and who has made them.
Can I raise concerns about anyone working in a veterinary practice?
We can consider concerns raised about individual veterinary surgeons and registered veterinary nurses (RVNs). (If you wish to raise concerns about an RVN, please view Raising concerns about a colleague who is a veterinary nurse).
Anyone can raise concerns about a veterinary surgeon, including clients, colleagues and other veterinary surgeons, however this guidance is aimed at veterinary professionals and colleagues who wish to raise concerns about a veterinary surgeon. Therefore, if you are a client wishing to raise concerns, please visit our website for animal owners.
What types of concerns can the RCVS deal with?
We can only deal with the most serious concerns that affect a veterinary surgeon’s fitness to practise, ie their right to work. This would involve behaviour that has fallen far short of what is expected of a veterinary surgeon and would include, for example:
- Very poor professional performance where there are serious departures from the standards set out in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct
- Fraud or dishonesty
- A criminal conviction or caution
- Physical or mental health problems affecting ability to work
We cannot, as part of our statutory regulatory process:
- fine a vet;
- resolve business disputes between practices;
- resolve employment issues
- order a vet to apologise to you; or
- resolve issues relating solely to negligence (read our note on negligence).
Can I raise concerns about something that happened a number of years ago?
Ordinarily, we will not investigate concerns that are more than two years old. If you wish to tell us about something that happened more than two years ago, you should explain to us why you have not raised your concerns with us before.
The matter will then be referred to the Chairman of the Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC) and the Head of Professional Conduct, who will decide if we can take it further.
Can you stop a veterinary surgeon from working while you look into my concerns?
No – we have no powers of interim suspension.
A decision to stop a veterinary surgeon from working can only be made after there has been a full Disciplinary Committee (DC) hearing.
The DC has a range of sanctions that it can impose – removal from the register is only one of these.
What do I need to do to raise a concern?
You will need to fill in a form – Raising concerns about a colleague who is a veterinary surgeon – and send it to us.
You can download this form, complete it electronically and email it back to us, or you can print it out, complete it by hand and post it to us. You can also telephone us to ask us to post a form to you.
It is important you give us as much information as possible. If we don’t have all the information we need, it will take us longer to consider your concerns.
What happens once I’ve sent in my form?
Once you send us your form, you should receive an acknowledgement within two working days to say that we have received it.
A Case Manager will then be assigned. Where you have disclosed your details and the complaint progresses under your name the case manager will generally contact you by telephone within two weeks to discuss your concerns and explain our three-stage investigation process, as explained below.
Stage 1 Preliminary Investigation Committee (Stage 1 PIC)
Concerns will be investigated by a Stage 1 PIC. The Stage 1 PIC will ordinarily be a quorum of three members: one veterinary surgeon, one lay member and one other.
Is the concern sufficiently serious to be passed on to a Stage 2 PIC?
If no we will write to tell you the reasons for this. The case may be closed with no further action, or closed with formal advice issued to the veterinary surgeon.
If yes, the case will be progressed to Stage 2.
Stage 2 Preliminary Investigation Committee (Stage 2 PIC)
The Stage 2 PIC will consider all the available information, and may request more details, before deciding whether to refer the case to Stage 3 — a public Disciplinary Committee hearing.
Is there a realistic prospect that the veterinary surgeon's conduct could affect their fitness to practise?
If no we will write to tell you the reasons for this. The Stage 2 PIC can close the case with no further action, or close the case and issue formal advice to the veterinary surgeon.
If yes the Stage two PIC will decide whether it is in the public interest for the matter to be progressed to Stage 3, or whether it should be referred to the Charter Case Committee.
The Charter Case Committee functions under the Royal Charter of the RCVS and can resolve cases where there is a realistic prospect of the concerns amounting to serious professional misconduct, but where it is not in the public interest for them to progress to a full hearing of the Disciplinary Committee (for example, because they are at the lower end of the scale in terms of seriousness). The Charter Case Committee can issue warnings to veterinary surgeons.
If the PIC considers that it is in the public interest to do so, the case will be progressed to Stage 3.
Stage 3 (Disciplinary Committee)
A Disciplinary Committee (DC) hearing is ordinarily held in public, similar to a court, to decide whether the veterinary surgeon is guilty of serious professional misconduct and must face formal action. Relevant witnesses may be required to attend to give evidence.
Is the veterinary surgeon guilty of serious professional misconduct?
If no we will write to tell you the DC's reasons for its decision.
If yes the veterinary surgeon may be struck Off the register; suspended for up to two years; or, given a formal reprimand. The case can also be held open for up to two years.
Can I see previous decisions?
All concerns raised with us are confidential unless and until they reach the final stage of our investigation process and are referred to the RCVS Disciplinary Committee (DC) for a (usually) public hearing.
View the DC’s charges, findings, decisions and judgments from the past three years. You can also see warnings issued by the Charter Case Committee here [link].
Will you keep me informed about progress?
Yes. You will receive regular updates from your Case Manager, who you may contact at any time during normal office hours if you need any information or have any uncertainties.
For more detailed information, please view How we assess and investigate concerns raised against a veterinary surgeon.