The VCMS is an independent mediation services funded by the RCVS to help resolve complaints by animal owners regarding a veterinary practice.
The service operated under a trial from October 2016 for one year. Following the success of the trial, the service is now continuing on a long term basis from 1 November.
Jennie Jones, Head of the VCMS explains how the service sits within the veterinary sector.
During the trial, the VCMS team attended a number of events to meet with vets, veterinary nurses and practice managers to raise awareness and answer any questions about the service. There were two most frequently asked questions:
The VCMS is an independent mediation service. We receive calls, emails and online referrals from animal owners and also practices. Our first step is to establish whether the complaint falls within our remit and that the practice has had the chance to resolve the complaint.
If local resolution has not been successful, we can mediate and help to see if a resolution can be found. We do not represent either party, which is the big difference between us and the VDS. The VDS will advise the practice and provide indemnity where appropriate. We do not represent the animal owner. We are impartial and that independence is key.
Mediation involves us helping the parties to understand the other parties’ perspective and get to the bottom of why the issue has escalated. Diffusing emotion, helping communication to be constructive and focusing on moving forward are key elements of mediation. The VDS is regularly involved in complaints within our mediation process and we have a constructive working relationship.
Our process is flexible enough to allow the most appropriate person in the practice to be the key contact with the VCMS resolution manager and to involve the VDS either directly or indirectly in the discussions.
No. The VCMS is a telephone based service and while a practice may include a face to face meeting within their complaint process, this would not be part of the VCMS mediation process.
During the mediation there is no direct communication between the practice and animal owner.
While resolutions may include providing further explanation or treatment, this is only possible where the parties agree and are willing to do so.
We are sensitive to the emotional nature of complaints by veterinary clients and understand the impact on the animal owner and the practice team. Concerns and emotions may need to be acknowledged but within a confidential and without prejudice process that does not give a judgement and looks for resolution without blame.