Complaints and concerns – information for vets

We are responsible for receiving, investigating, and hearing complaints about veterinarians.
See Concerns about a vet for information on how we handle concerns raised about veterinarians and the role of its Notification Review Group and Complaints Assessment Committees.

Who can raise a concern?

Any person can notify us of their concerns about a veterinarian. This is an important aspect of the maintenance and improvement of veterinary standards.
The Professional Integrity section of the Code of Professional Conduct provide guidance on when veterinarians should notify the Council if they believe that the health, conduct or competence of a colleague is adversely affecting patient care or undermining the public’s trust in the profession.

Who reviews the concern?

Concerns about a veterinarian’s health will normally be dealt with by the Registrar with advice from the Health Advisory Group.
The Notification Review Group (NRG) considers all other issues raised as concerns.
If the person contacting us insists, or if the concern raises significant questions about the professional conduct of a veterinarian, it will be referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC). CACs make recommendations to Council about what action to take but also have the power to lay charges of professional misconduct before the Council’s Judicial Committee.
Concerns about a veterinarian’s poor performance or possible health impairment are likely to be addressed under the Council’s competence or health processes.    

What rights does the veterinarian have?

The veterinarian has the right to be treated fairly. It includes the right to know what allegations are made (and almost always by whom) and to have the opportunity to respond to allegations. It also includes the right to have legal or other support and the right to see information on which any charges are laid.

What responsibilities does the veterinarian have?

There is the responsibility under the Code of Professional Conduct for veterinarians to "respond to complaints in a timely, honest and constructive manner".

What criteria do the NRG and CAC use in their decision making?

The Code of Professional Conduct sets out the Council's expectations of professional and ethical conduct. The Committees consider whether a breach of the Code of Conduct has occurred (and if so to what degree).

Is the process confidential?

Yes, to the parties involved and those considering it. Council staff and representatives do not provide identifying information to people who aren't involved in the assessment of the notifications received (although anonymised outcomes may be published on our website or summarised in our updates to the profession). The Council is provided with a general outline of each case considered and the outcome.
If a veterinarian is seeking registration overseas and there any current inquiries underway in relation to their health, conduct or competence, the Registrar may not be able to issue a letter of good standing until the matter has closed or they may need to share the investigation on the letter (with your permission).

How long does it take?

The length of time taken depends on their seriousness and complexity. We aim to have a decision in 50% of the matters referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee within 6 months and 80% in 9 months. The Notification Review Group process is usually quicker.

What advice and support is available?

Professional indemnity insurance

Many indemnity insurance policies include cover for complaints to the professional regulator (VCNZ for vets).

If the veterinarian or their employer has insurance (such as VPIS) help may be available in the form of personal legal or (limited) financial support.

Personal Support

VCNZ and NZVA jointly maintain a contract with Vitae Counselling Services which provides, 24-hour freephone access (0508 664 981) to confidential counselling services.
We recommend that veterinarians contact their professional indemnity insurance provider, or other appropriate support when they receive a notification of concern or complaint about them.
If a veterinarian is employed within a clinical practice or organisation, they may find that their employer will provide them with support and access to advocacy assistance. We suggest] that veterinarians notify their employer of the notification. Employers have responsibilities outlined in the Code of Professional Conduct for managing the veterinary activities of clinics and for providing support to their employees.

Where can veterinarians find out more about the investigation of concerns raised?

By contacting us.