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5. Communication between professional colleagues

Updated 11 January 2023


5.1  Overtly poor relationships between veterinary surgeons and/or veterinary nurses undermine public confidence in the whole profession.

5.2  Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should not speak or write disparagingly about another veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse. Colleagues should be treated fairly, without discrimination and with respect, in all situations and in all forms of communication.

5.3  Veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should liaise with colleagues where more than one veterinary surgeon has responsibility for the care of a group of animals. Relevant clinical information / information in the interest of the treatment of the animal should be provided promptly to colleagues taking over responsibility for a case and proper documentation should be provided for all referral or re-directed cases. Cases should be referred responsibly.

(Clinical and client records) (Referrals and second opinions)

5.4  Clients should not be obstructed from changing to another veterinary practice and should not be discouraged from seeking a second opinion.

Taking over a colleague’s case and requesting clinical histories

5.5  Although both veterinary surgeon and client have freedom of choice, in the interests of the welfare of the animals involved, a veterinary surgeon should not knowingly take over a colleague's case without informing the colleague in question and obtaining a clinical history.

5.6  When an animal is initially presented, a veterinary surgeon should ask whether the animal is already receiving veterinary attention or treatment and, if so, when it was last seen; then, contact the original veterinary surgeon for a case history. It should be made clear to the client that this is necessary in the interests of the patient. If the client refuses to provide information, the case should be declined.

5.7  In an emergency, it is acceptable to make an initial assessment and administer any essential treatment before contacting the original veterinary surgeon. 

5.8  Historically, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses may have acted in good faith in passing on a clinical history to another practice in response to a request without verifying the request with the client directly. The provisions of the GDPR now place significant emphasis on clear and specific statements of consent for the processing of personal data. This would extend to the transfer of personal data from one practice to another. As such, to the extent that the provision of the relevant clinical history will include provision of some of the client’s personal data, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses should seek the client’s express consent to pass on a clinical history to another practice. There is no specific format in which the consent must be obtained but evidence should be kept to show that the client has consented to the sharing of their personal data, when consent was obtained and what information the client was provided with when such consent was obtained. Ideally this evidence would be a signed consent form which states what personal data will be transferred, who it will be transferred to and for what purpose. If consent is given verbally, a note should be made recording that the client was informed as above, and that they gave their consent. If the clinical information is passed on with no personal data, or if the personal data is truly anonymised, the transfer would be outside the scope of the GDPR and therefore no consent would be necessary.

Mutual clients

5.9  Where different veterinary surgeons are treating the same animal, or group of animals, each should keep the other informed of any relevant clinical information, so as to avoid any danger that might arise from conflicting advice, or adverse reactions arising from unsuitable combinations of medicines.

5.10  Even where two veterinary surgeons are treating different groups of animals owned by the same client, each should keep the other informed of any problem that might affect their work.

5.11  Where veterinary surgeons share a mutual client, they should avoid transferring the client’s personal data between them, as they will need a legal basis for doing so, such as the client’s consent; or a legitimate interest (unless overridden by the client’s interests or fundamental rights and freedoms). They will also need to inform the client about the data sharing, the purpose of it, the legal basis for it and the client’s rights under the GDPR in relation to that data.