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An overview of the Practice Standards Scheme

Illustration from the PSS video

About the Practice Standards Scheme

The Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) is a voluntary initiative to accredit veterinary practices in the UK. Through setting standards and carrying out regular assessments, the Scheme aims to promote and maintain the highest standards of veterinary care.

The Scheme was first launched in 2005 and has been a great success, with a current membership comprising well over half of all veterinary practice premises.

Vet and VNThe current version of the Scheme, which was launched in November 2015, builds on this success whilst acting upon much of the feedback we received from practices about where improvements could be made. For example, it has a greater focus on how practices use their resources to create a positive outcome for patients and clients, rather than just premises and equipment.

Membership of the Scheme is recognised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), meaning RCVS accredited practices will not be visited by the VMD as the PSS standards meet its inspection criteria.

The Scheme is run by the profession, for the profession. The Practice Standards Group (PSG) is responsible for the ongoing development of the Scheme and its standards, and comprises representatives from major veterinary organisations.


What does the Practice Standards Scheme mean for you?

The Practice Standards Scheme provides:

Vet and cat

  • A clear pathway to improvement for all types of practice.
  • A means for practices to demonstrate where they excel through awards.
  • A new IT system (Stanley) to speed up the accreditation process and provide a central hub for communications.
  • A new team of PSS assessors undertaking behaviour based inspections.
  • A tool for practices to market their services to the public.



Practices can apply to be accredited at different levels depending on the services they offer.

Core Standards, General Practice and Veterinary Hospital are the core accreditations, with criteria based on services provided by the practice, as well as other factors such as facilities and equipment. Emergency Services Clinic reflects the work of a practice that can deal with emergency and critical care cases without an appointment. Equine General Practice (Ambulatory) accreditation is for those equine practices without physical premises.

Practices will be assessed across a range of different criteria encompassing areas such as client experience, clinical governance and the practice team.

The standards that need to be met at each level are set out in the Practice Standards Modules documents:


Benefits of accreditation


  • Receipt of guidance and support to meet the requirements e.g. advice and assistance with compliance on Veterinary Medicine Regulations.
  • Encourages communication and team work amongst staff at the practice.
  • Focuses staff on aspects of running a veterinary practice which can sometimes be overlooked due to the busy nature of the profession.
  • Accreditation provides reassurance to members of the public.
  • Scheme members are authorised to use the PSS brand for the purposes of advertising to members of the public, for example by displaying accredited practice-logos, signage, certificates and plaques.
  • Advertised as accredited on the RCVS Find a Vet service.
  • Scheme membership can help practices to market their services.
  • Free e-newsletter 'The Practice Standard' provides information and guidance about changes to the Practice Standards requirements and tips for assessment.
  • Scheme Membership is recognised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) and so practice premises accredited by the Practice Standards Scheme are not subject to routine inspection from the VMD as the Scheme's standards meet the VMD inspection criteria.



In addition to the PSS accreditations, practices can apply to be assessed for optional awards, to demonstrate where they excel. Practices may be designated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ within each award.

In order to be designated as ‘Good’ a practice will need to achieve 60% of the available scores and more than 80% to be designated as ‘Outstanding’.

Practices are able to achieve awards in:

Small animal




Farm animal
  • Team and professional responsibility

  • Client service

  • Patient consultation service

  • In-patient service

  • Diagnostic service

  • Emergency and critical care service


  • Team and professional responsibility

  • Client service

  • Ambulatory service

  • In-patient service

  • Diagnostic service 


  • Team and professional responsibility

  • Client service

  • Advisory/consultation service

  • In-patient service
  • Diagnostic service

PSS Awards rosettes

The awards are available to all accredited practices.


Benefits of the Awards


  • Focus on behaviours and other factors that impact upon the veterinary care of animals, the practice team and the experience of clients.
  • Provide greater differentiation between accredited practices and recognise excellence.
  • Provide significant marketing benefits, as practices will be free to market their awards as they choose.
  • Follow a similar format to that used by Ofsted in the inspection of schools and should therefore be easily recognisable and understood by the public.


The Assessors

AssessorsPractice assessments are carried out by a team of PSS Assessors. They are hired based on their experience, attitude and desire to help practices improve their standards. They have been professionally trained to ensure high and consistent standards of assessment.

The assessment process is focused on assessing behaviours in practice rather than just facilities and equipment. During assessments advice and guidance will be provided to help practices improve.

  • An employed Lead Assessor monitors inspections and provides guidance.
  • External professional advice has been sought to help train assessors in behavioural based inspections.
  • Documents will be checked prior to the inspection, freeing up the assessor to spend more time talking to team members and to provide guidance to the practice.


Stanley - the PSS IT system

The Practice Standards Scheme is administered through a bespoke IT system, Stanley, which aids practices through the assessment process and can be accessed from


  • StanleyProvides a step-by step guide to practices on the requirements of the Scheme.
  • Acts as the central point for all communications between practices, assessors and our staff.
  • Holds practice-related certificates, reports and other relevant documents and provide a reminder service when these are due to expire.
  • Speeds up the accreditation process.


What’s next?

If your practice is already in the Scheme, the routine assessment cycle continues as normal. The PSS team will contact you approximately 3 months before your assessment is due to give you access to Stanley. Existing practices can also apply for the awards at any time.

Practices new to the Scheme can apply for their initial accreditation. Please note that your practice needs to be accredited before you can apply for the additional awards.