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Blame and shame in the veterinary profession: barriers and facilitators to reporting significant events
  1. Catherine Oxtoby1 and
  2. Liz Mossop2
  1. 1 Veterinary Risk Manager, The Veterinary Defence Society, Knutsford, UK
  2. 2 Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence; coxtoby{at}


Significant event reporting is an important concept for patient safety in human medicine, but substantial barriers to the discussion and reporting of adverse events have been identified. This study explored the factors that influence the discussion and reporting of significant events among veterinary surgeons and nurses. Purposive sampling was used to generate participants for six focus groups consisting of a range of veterinary professionals of different ages and roles (mean N per group=9). Thematic analysis of the discussions identified three main themes: the effect of culture, the influence of organisational systems and the emotional effect of error. Fear, lack of time or understanding and organisational concerns were identified as barriers, while the effect of feedback, opportunity for learning and structure of a reporting system facilitated error reporting. Professional attitudes and culture emerged as both a positive and negative influence on the discussion of error. The results were triangulated against the findings in the medical literature and highlight common themes in clinician’s concerns regarding the discussion of professional error. The results of this study have been used to inform the development of the ‘VetSafe’ tool, a web-based central error reporting system.

  • clinical practice
  • practice management
  • veterinary profession
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests CO works for the Veterinary Defence Society as a veterinary risk manager.

  • Ethics approval The research was approved by the University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine and Science ethical control panel, approval number: 1 70 203.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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