June 19th 2019

Why Do Complaints Arise?

Mediation allows us to understand more about WHY complaints arise and why they are continuing. Talking through a disagreement with an independent, trained third party can bring underlying issues and misunderstandings to the fore and can seek a viable solution for both client and professional. 

At the VCMS, our independent mediation approach helps practices and animal owners to reach a resolution without the need for escalation. 

More often than not, there are a particular set of circumstances that arise that can led to difficulties and complaints between the owner and the practice. In today’s blog post we have chosen four of the most common complaints, detailing the consequences involved and offer advice for the practice. 


Generally one of the first points of contact between the practice and the owner, the diagnostic pathway will be the cornerstone and building block for the relationship between the practice and the owner. 

If the owner considers there to have been a misdiagnosis or is unhappy with the diagnostic pathway (too slow, invasive or unnecessary), then trust may start to erode which often leads to the involvement of a second practice.

Initial Consultation

The initial consultation which can be similar to the diagnosis, generally focuses on:

  • Consent; and
  • Acknowledging the owner’s concerns and the account of the animal’s condition and/or suspected diagnosis. 

The initial consultation is an opportunity for both parties to understand how the relationship can develop, a chance to allay concerns and offer information around the expected procedures. 

Clear communication can assist in allowing both parties to voice their views and wants.


A central tenet of how the VCMS operates is to explore the communication between the parties involved. 

Strong and clear communication allows for the client’s expectations to be appropriately managed. Likewise, the practice can build rapport and empathy with a client and understand how they are feeling and what their concerns may be. 

A breakdown in communication, or a perceived lack of communication or accessible information at the appropriate time can cause issues such as a perceived lack of empathy or the owner feeling that they are unable to ask for further information. 

Unexpected Complications

Despite all of the professionalism and skill of the practice, there can be unforeseen outcomes or complications during the surgery or treatment such as varying complications or an unexpected condition on discharge. 

These circumstances can cause the owner to question the appropriateness of the discharge, particularly when this leads to out of hours care and the costs that may be incurred for the treatment involved. 

With all of the aforementioned common complaints there is no one answer that can assist professionals. However, we believe that in order to provide the very best in care and to match the owner’s expectations, it may helpful for practices to consider:

  • How do we invite questions or clarification from owners? Allowing owners to ask questions can allay their fears and concerns and to develop rapport between practice and client. 
  • How can we check what has been understood, particularly in stressful and upsetting situations? Whilst the situation may remain stressful empathy and clear communication can allow practitioners to assess what the owner has understood and offer clarity if needed. 
  • How can I best stand in the owner’s shoes? What would help them? Empathy, support and caring are the hallmarks of a strong relationship between both parties. Whilst the outcome may not be what was expected, empathy and support can help the client through a stressful situation. 
  • How can practices try to understand and manage particular concerns of individual owner? Concerns may not at first be apparent and owners, under stress, may find it hard to articulate their concerns or worries. We encourage practitioners to develop a relationship that gives owners the freedom and support to ask questions. 
  • Owners should also be encouraged to ask questions and not to make assumptions. Clarity in communication can foster rapport and give the owner confidence to answer questions.

For more information on the VCMS and our mediation services, call our team on 0345 040 5834, email us via enquiries@vetmediation.co.uk or complete our online complaint form

April 20th 2022

Vets Are Human Too

It is the human condition to be fallible sometimes. This includes pet owners, their veterinary surgeons and mediators. Fallibility takes many forms, but a key cause is communication and, more importantly, miscommunication.
April 14th 2022

The Importance of Helping a Client to Feel Heard and Valued

As part of our mediation service, the VCMS assist both the public and the veterinary profession in finding mutually beneficial outcomes to complaints.
March 1st 2022

Returning to Work and Your Dog

With restrictions easing across the UK and many returning to full time work, the RSPCA has warned about dogs being abandoned as owners struggle with returning to work and the cost of living rises.