Today (22 July 2010) the Daily Mail has published an article by an undercover reporter, Alex Lee, who spent time filming in a number of Medivet veterinary practices in the South East of England over nine months. The article was written ahead of the broadcast of a Panorama special ‘It Shouldn’t Happen at a Vets’’ tonight.The following is a statement issued by the British Veterinary Association (BVA), in response to a report appearing in the Daily Mail by Alex Lee, the undercover Panorama reporter featured in ‘It Shouldn’t Happen at a Vets’.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) is very concerned by some of the issues raised by Alex Lee in the article. The article describes allegations of fraud and bad practice, as well as highlighting concerns about the adequate supervision of nursing staff.
The BVA has not seen the Panorama programme or the footage to which Ms Lee refers so cannot comment in detail about any of the alleged incidents.
However, the BVA would like to reassure pet owners that it does not condone bad practice and that the vast majority of veterinary surgeons provide a very high quality service and have the best interests of their patients at heart. Indeed the article also states that “many of the vets employed by Medivet are, indeed, diligent, skilled and scrupulous” and that Ms Lee “did observe care and kindness”.
The BVA, BSAVA and SPVS will be responding to the Panorama programme after it has been broadcast.
Allegations of fraud and bad practice
The article outlines a few incidents of alleged fraud relating to veterinary bills and charging, as well as incidents of bad clinical practice. The veterinary profession is robustly regulated by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Every veterinary surgeon must follow the Guide to Professional Conduct, which is a detailed rulebook covering all aspects of our work. Failure to comply with these rules can result in serious disciplinary proceedings and ultimately a vet can be “struck off” which means he/she is unable to practise veterinary medicine.
The BVA would encourage any member of the public, veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse to report any concerns they have to more senior members of the veterinary practice or to the RCVS. The majority of vets take pride in their profession and we all want to root out those who are acting in an unacceptable manner.
Supervision of nursing staff and levels of qualification
Qualified and student veterinary nurses are a vital part of the veterinary team, along with the reception team and animal nursing assistants. Each of the members of the team will be trained to perform particular tasks and under the law there are certain things that a listed or registered veterinary nurse (or a student nurse enrolled with the RCVS) can do, that the other members of the nursing team cannot do.
Ultimately the veterinary surgeon has responsibility for the care of the patient and he/she must ensure that the veterinary nurse or other member of staff working on the patient is qualified, trained and competent to carry out those tasks.
It is not clear what is meant by the term “trainee veterinary nurse” used in the Daily Mail article. Although not protected in legislation, the term “veterinary nurse” should only be used to describe a listed or registered veterinary nurse who is qualified. The term “student veterinary nurse” applies to students who are enrolled on an RCVS accredited course.
The BVA has advised its members to introduce all of the members of the veterinary team that will be caring for a pet to the client so that the client can ask questions about the individuals and feel confident about the care their pet will receive