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RCVS Council approves mediation service
"Importantly the service does not look at who is right or wrong, but focuses on finding an outcome that both parties can live with..."
Update on ADR scheme one year on 

A service to help resolve lower-level complaints about veterinary services has been approved by the RCVS Council.

The college-funded service aims to resolves complaints between animal owners and veterinary practices that do not meet the threshold for serious professional misconduct.

Over the past three years, the college trialled two different services for alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Since October 2016, this took the form of the Veterinary Client Mediation Service (VCMS), delivered by Nockolds Solicitors.

During its trial period, 165 of the 870 enquiries the service received went to mediation, of which 129 were successfully mediated and 36 are unresolved.

Out of the remaining enquiries:
  • 297 resulted in the client being referred back to the practice to allow internal complaints processes to be exhausted first
  • 93 cases did not progress as the animal owner did not pursue the complaint
  • 73 were dealt with through advice
  • 66 did not progress as the practice declined to engage
  • 76 were outside the service’s remit
  • 100 cases are currently ongoing.

The Veterinary Defence Society (VDS) assisted more than 150 practices who agreed to take part in the ADR trial. A spokesperson said: “In the vast majority of cases mediation has resulted in a satisfactory outcome with little or no financial consequences.

“The Society considers this voluntary scheme particularly suited to the many client care complaints that are directed at the RCVS due to public misunderstanding of the College’s role, but the investigation of which creates disproportionate concern to the professionals involved.”

Jennie Jones, a partner and Nockolds Solicitors, added: “Complaints are referred to the VCMS by clients and practices where the relationship has become strained or communication may be difficult. Importantly the service does not look at who is right or wrong, but focuses on finding an outcome that both parties can live with and bringing an end to the complaint.”

So far outcomes have ranged from reassuring clients and helping them to come to terms with what has happened, refunding fees, offering further explanations or apologies, small goodwill payments, securing procedural changes within practice, and getting clients to agree to settle any outstanding fees withheld due to the complaint.

“We understand complaints are highly emotional and stressful for both parties, so the VCMS team will not ask parties to speak to one another directly,” Jennie added. “It is also not about assigning blame but is about moving forward to allow both parties to bring the complaint to a conclusion.

“When we hear from practices and clients alike that they can now sleep at night, or their relief that a complaint is resolved, I know ADR and the VCMS does help and make a difference.”

Council agreed that Nockolds should continue to administer the scheme, with a review in 18 months to take experience and learning into account as the scheme evolves.

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Sale of microbeads now banned

News Story 1
 The sale of products containing microbeads is now banned across England and Scotland, Defra has confirmed.

As part of government efforts to prevent these plastics ending up in the marine environment, retailers can no longer sell rinse-off cosmetics and personal care products containing microbeads. These tiny plastics were often added to products including face scrubs, soaps, toothpaste and shower gels.

Just a single shower is thought to send 100,000 of these beads down the drain and into the ocean, where it can cause serious harm to marine life. A ban on manufacturing products containing microbeads previously came into force in January this year. 

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George Eustice announces funding for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea

Farming minister George Eustice has announced a 5.7million funding package to help farmers tackle Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD).

The funding will be available in England for three years through the Rural Development Programme and farmers will be able to apply for one-to-one farm advisory visits by a veterinary practitioner.

The project will recruit local vets who will then work with keepers of breeding cattle to tackle BVD on their farms.