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REPLYING to David Mason's letter regarding the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) trial (May 16, 2015, vol 176, p 527), I make the following comments and offers a view perhaps from the other side.
In common with Mr Mason, I too recognise the real stress and anxiety suffered by all members of the profession, and especially the recent graduates, when faced with a dispute of this kind. We are very largely and with very few exceptions dedicated, caring professionals who perform our duties in an ever more arduous and demanding public arena. We genuinely face a challenging work environment every day with pressures commensurate with the stage of our professional careers at that time.
I have experienced first hand an RCVS complaint by the public against a young member of my staff in the past and recently within the ADR trial period and make the following comments.
Several years ago we experienced the RCVS procedure of the time and found it extremely protracted, distant and stressful with virtually no communication other than official and worrying communications.
Recently we have experienced a further complaint handled by the RCVS in regard to a very recent graduate. This was handled in an entirely different manner. We were approached with much more concern for both parties. We were kept up to date on a regular basis by e-mail and phone calls. The dispute was very protracted and stressful for the vet involved and lasted some nine months, and again the RCVS supported a finding that there was no arguable case for misconduct. It was, in fact, kind enough to inform me of its decision by telephone the day before Christmas Eve, allowing me to put my assistant's mind at rest, which avoided spoiling her Christmas – a phone call the RCVS should be applauded for. The client involved was still not satisfied.
The Veterinary Defence Society could see no case for negligence and, when the client appealed the RCVS decision, advised us to enter the ADR process if offered, which we duly did. This process was simple and had an effective portal allowing us to monitor the progress of the complaint. A point of contact was established and they were kind enough to contact us as needed by telephone. I was able to keep my young assistant updated regularly and effectively. The process was reasonably fast and would have been concluded within a few weeks had it not been for the poor health of the complainant (which could not be helped).
The veterinary surgeon at least had information and communication throughout the process and felt happier; the fear of not knowing was significantly greater than the knowing.
The ombudsman ruled again in her favour. This system, along with the excellent approach taken by the RCVS, definitely reduced the stress and anxiety to a manageable level. I appreciate that these situations will always be associated with high levels of stress but I feel strongly that the support and guidance of senior members of the practice, as obviously provided by Mr Mason, and the ability to have the complaint resolved rapidly, sensibly and visibly in the public arena (which satisfies the client's expectations) with both parties being well informed and treated respectfully, has to be the way forward.
We are already judged by the ever fickle public each and every day of our working lives and there is a public perception that Ombudsman Services are fair and open. This should result in an element of trust and a move away from the misguided feeling that we, as professionals, close ranks.
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