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Petition Create a Veterinary Services Ombudsman

An impartial Ombudsman is necessary. A Govt created Veterinary Services Ombudsman would bridge the gap between dissatisfied client and the service provider. At present the RCVS handles any issues brought to them by clients but cannot be seen to be impartial.

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The rising costs of Veterinary services is of great concern, not just to the pet owner but to the Insurance industry. The extraordinary cost of Out Of Hours practitioners is a particular worry as corporate organisation is closing the market leading to excessive costs for those owners at the most vulnerable time with little choice but to pay the enormous fees charged in an emergency.

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Government responded

This response was given on 20 August 2021

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has a statutory duty to supervise the conduct of veterinary surgeons. The Government does not plan to introduce an ombudsman or to regulate veterinary prices.

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I appreciate the concerns raised about the cost of treatment, including for out of hours services. However, the Government does not believe that a veterinary ombudsman is necessary for the regulation of the veterinary sector, nor does it intend to intervene in veterinary prices but is committed to maintaining high standards of animal welfare.

Fees set by veterinary surgeons or veterinary practices are a private matter between individual practices and their clients and are not a matter in which Government intervenes. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ guide to professional conduct parts 9.5.-9.8 states that all fees set by veterinary surgeons are at the discretion of individual practices and, as a result, they may vary between one practice and another. Concerns about the fees charged for veterinary services or about the veterinary market can be raised with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) at the following address:

Competition and Markets Authority
The Cabot
25 Cabot Square
E14 4QZ

Email: Telephone:020 3738 6000

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) regulates the veterinary profession in the UK in accordance with the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966. It has a statutory duty to supervise the professional conduct of veterinary surgeons, which it does through the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct and by investigating concerns. In addition, the RCVS Royal Charter 2015 states their objectives as to set, uphold and advance veterinary standards in the interests of the health and welfare of animals and in the wider public interest. Included within the Charter’s functions are:

• Promulgating guidance on professional conduct

• Setting standards for and accrediting veterinary practices and other suppliers of veterinary services

• Facilitating the resolution of disputes between registered persons and their clients;

Together the Act and the Charter underpin the RCVS disciplinary process and guidance.

The RCVS has a responsibility to investigate concerns raised with them about veterinary surgeons and registered veterinary nurses. Concerns about service or negligence may be dealt with through the Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme, while the most serious concerns about the professional conduct of veterinary surgeons are dealt with through the RCVS investigation process. In this case, an in-depth investigation takes place. Formal witness statements or expert reports may be obtained and, if a formal disciplinary hearing is needed, it is conducted in public following the structure of a court hearing. For each individual case, members of the disciplinary committee must declare any conflicts of interest. If there is a reasonable likelihood of the perception of bias, the relevant member is not permitted to sit on the Committee.

If, following the disciplinary hearing, a complainant wishes to take the matter further, they may ask the Privy Council to intervene. Section 22 of the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966) grants the Privy Council default powers to direct the RCVS if they are of the opinion that the RCVS has failed to discharge any of their functions under the Act. If the RCVS fails to comply with such a direction, the Privy Council may exercise the function themselves.

Although I realise that the signatories to the petition may be disappointed by this response, I would like to reassure them that this Government is committed to effective and proportionate regulation of the veterinary sector and maintaining high standards of animal welfare.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

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