As part of our new series of blogs, we offer insights and detail our procedures and processes when engaging in mediation with the VCMS.
The purpose of our new series is to help both the public and profession to understand how the VCMS works, to provide greater clarity and manage the expectations of all involved.
Our process is voluntary at every stage for the client and the veterinary professional. Our mediation process works to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome for both parties and on agreeing to mediation both parties sign our legally binding document which outlines the process itself.
Once a complaint has been referred to the VCMS and assessed to fall within the remit of the VCMS, a resolution manager is assigned to the case. VCMS mediation takes place by the VCMS gathering the relevant information and complaint history, with the VCMS Resolution Manager then confirming the next steps.
This may involve getting further information or moving directly to separate conversations with the veterinary client and veterinary professional. Where possible, mediation calls are scheduled for a set date that is agreeable to all involved.
In the spirit of openness and before mediation begins, both parties are encouraged to reflect on the issues and possible options for resolution – this is to help make best use of the mediation process. Mediation aims to improve each party’s understanding of what has happened, acknowledge the perspective of the other party, and then start to look, at practical ways finding a resolution.
Mediation is about dispute resolution, and helping the parties move forward benefitting all involved. The Resolution Manager will manage the timing and length of the conversations. By using their experience and expertise, the Resolution Manager will also indicate issues or areas of focus, and also how best to proceed if the mediation appears to be approaching a stalemate.
The Resolution Manager is not there to judge or to decide who is right or wrong. Most complaints coming to the VCMS are not that straightforward. By asking questions and posing alternative points of view, the Resolution Manager helps the parties to look at a complaint from a different angle and find a way through the issues. In doing so, they are not taking sides but helping to unlock the areas of disagreement.
Our mediation processes have been specifically designed and created to efficiently work with those involved to achieve an agreeable outcome.
At every stage, our neutral teams work to resolve the issue based on our set methods. We can adapt how we mediate and will look to find a way that is most likely to help resolve the complaint for the parties involved.
Mediation has to be a confidential and a ‘without prejudice’ process. This means that the discussions within the mediation must remain within the mediation ‘bubble’. This enables a more constructive conversation as everyone can focus on addressing the issues raised and not protecting their position. This is one of the reasons that mediation is so effective at helping to resolve complaints.
If a resolution is agreed, this will then be legally binding on both parties. If the mediation ends without a resolution being agreed, then either party can take further action. The VCMS can provide confirmation the parties have tried an ‘alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process’ but neither party can refer to the discussions within the mediation.
It is important to note that both parties and the VCMS are able to end the mediation at any stage if they feel that it is not appropriate or helpful to continue.
A confidential and alternative method of tackling disputes which avoids going to court, mediation can be a very beneficial option to choose.
We understand that complaints involving the care provided to our pets can be very distressing. Many people contacting the VCMS will be upset, angry, experiencing grief or worried about the outcome. The VCMS team understands and appreciates that this can make it difficult to discuss a complaint or the other party’s point of view. The Mediation Co-ordinators and Resolution Managers will help with this, whether you are coming into the mediation as a pet owner or a member of the practice team.
As a neutral, approaching a complaint impartially, we can facilitate dialogue and move towards a resolution. Part of the process involves helping both parties to explain their perspective in a clear and concise way to address any misunderstandings, and to also be able to listen to the other party’s perspective.
The VCMS asks that all parties communicate in a courteous and polite manner and any offensive language or behaviour will bring the mediation process to an immediate end.
As mediators, we help those in disputes to communicate about their issues of concern and assist the participants in finding solutions that are acceptable to everybody involved.
Mediation is a three-way dialogue between the veterinary professional, the client and our own, neutral Resolution Managers. We use a shuttle approach, so we do not involve the consumer and the veterinary practice in the same telephone call or email exchange.
In next month’s entry we will examine the role of the Resolution Manager and confidentiality when entering mediation with the VCMS. For more information about our mediation services, contact our team on 0345 040 5834, via firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our online complaint form.