RCVS response to Daily Mail article

1 December 2009

We were concerned to read the Daily Mail’s account today of vet Matthew Watkinson’s experiences of the veterinary profession over the last eight years, and hope the following information about how standards within the profession are maintained might help to put some of his claims into context.

Bad apples

Although, as with any profession or group of people, there might be some ‘bad apples’ in the veterinary profession, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons provides a robust regulatory system to ensure high standards of education and professional conduct are set, met and maintained.

We receive about 700 complaints a year about a profession of over 16,600 UK practising vets. In terms of the number of vet/client interactions, this represents about one complaint per 15 years of every vet’s practising life. The majority of vets work hard to deliver an excellent service to their clients and patients.

Treatment options

Mr Watkinson discusses his concerns about treatment options. However the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct, by which vets need to abide, already requires vets to offer a range of treatment options to the client (ie animal owner or keeper), including information about the likely charges, so that the client is in a position to make an informed choice.

Advances in veterinary medicine mean that the range of treatment options is ever-increasing and it is often the pet owner who is pushing to extend the pet’s life as long as possible because they are aware of what is available on the human medicine side. The vet and owner need to fully discuss a range of options to ensure they do what is right for the pet, while taking account of cost and practicality.

Mr Watkinson is right to point out, however, that euthanasia can be a viable treatment option that is in the best interests of the animal.

Pet insurance

Whilst by no means a ‘necessity’, pet insurance is in the interests of the pet and its owner to ensure the broadest possible range of treatment options can be considered, but it is up to both the vet and the animal owner to ensure that the animal’s welfare is at the heart of the decision-making processes. Further guidance is also available on this issue in our Advice Note 31: Veterinary Surgeons and Insurance Matters - which you can download from the 'Related documents' section on the right.

We take extremely seriously any complaint about inappropriate treatment and/or fraudulent use of pet insurance policies. A recent example was the case of Kfir Segev, who was struck off the Register by the RCVS Disciplinary Committee for recommending treatment for an insured pet that was not necessary. Mr Segev is no longer allowed to practise veterinary surgery.

Value for money

It is important to remember that there is no NHS for animals. In order to continue to provide professional, reliable and effective veterinary care for the animal-owning public 24 hours a day, veterinary practices, as small businesses, must remain financially viable.

Final word

Despite Mr Watkinson’s statement that he has left the veterinary profession altogether, he remains on the RCVS Register as a non-practising member. We would also urge Daily Mail readers to consider this article in light of the fact that his new book is about to be published. 

Anyone with concerns about their veterinary surgeon’s fitness to practise, should visit RCVSonline (www.rcvs.org.uk/concerns) or contact the RCVS Professional Conduct Department for advice (020 7202 0789 / profcon@rcvs.org.uk).

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