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Veterinary mediation scheme passes one-year milestone

31 October 2018, at 3:54pm

This month the Veterinary Client Mediation Service (VCMS), established and funded by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), has passed the one-year mark having dealt with over 2,000 cases of dispute between veterinary practices and clients in this time.

The VCMS, which is administered by Nockolds Solicitors, was formally launched by the RCVS as an alternative dispute resolution service in October 2017 following a year-long trial. The aim of the service is to resolve, by mediation, disputes between clients and veterinary practices that do not meet the threshold of serious professional misconduct that is needed for the RCVS to investigate a concern through its formal processes.

Since the service’s trial, which started in October 2016, the VCMS has given preliminary mediation advice on how to resolve a case in more than 1,700 instances with over 580 cases having gone to full mediation of which 89% have concluded with a resolution.

Eleanor Ferguson, RCVS Registrar and Director of Legal Services, commented: “From the perspective of both the public and the profession, the establishment of the VCMS has been a “win-win” situation. For the public it has provided them with an additional route to solve those complaints which wouldn’t cross the threshold to progress in the concerns investigation process.

“For the profession it has provided a more appropriate format for resolving a client dispute that doesn’t involve the time, effort and formal process of an RCVS investigation for those cases that will never amount to serious professional misconduct. I think this has been demonstrated by the fact that the vast majority of the profession are willing to engage with the VCMS process, even though it is entirely voluntary.

“The VCMS has also had a positive impact on the College and its concerns investigation process, allowing us to focus greater resources on those cases that do meet our threshold of serious professional misconduct. This has had a very clear impact on the speed with which we either close cases or move them on to the next stage of consideration by the Preliminary Investigation Committee (PIC), which, again, is important to both the public and the profession.”

Figures from the RCVS demonstrate that some 90% of cases investigated at Stage 1 of the process are either closed or referred to PIC within four months – the College’s key performance indicator at this stage. This compares to around 50% of these cases being closed or referred within four months at Stage 1 in 2016.

Figures from the VCMS also demonstrate that, in total (including both preliminary and full mediation cases), 86% of the cases dealt with by VCMS were successfully mediated and that feedback from both clients and veterinary practices is largely positive. For example, the collated veterinary client feedback from the third quarter of 2018 shows that 93% would use the VCMS again and 79% considered it to be fair, while the equivalent figure amongst veterinary practices was 94% and 87% respectively.

Jennie Jones, a partner at Nockolds Solicitors who heads up the VCMS, said: “It is a good sign that mediation is largely working as it should when both parties are reporting similar satisfaction rates and we pride ourselves on negotiating resolutions that are acceptable and beneficial for both the clients and the practices.

“It is great to see that our efforts are also having an impact on the RCVS concerns investigation system by allowing it to concentrate on more serious cases.”

More information about the RCVS concerns investigation process, including the different stages of an investigation, can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/concerns

Further information about the VCMS can be found on its website at www.vetmediation.co.uk or by calling 0345 040 5834.