Notifications and complaints information for vets

The Council’s statutory responsibilities include receiving, investigating, and hearing complaints about, inquiring into the conduct of, making assessments of, and disciplining veterinarians.
 
See Concerns about your vet for information on how the Council handles concerns raised about veterinarians and the role of its Notification Review Group and Complaints Assessment Committees.
 
 
Who can raise a concern?
 
Any person may notify the Veterinary Council of their concerns about a veterinarian. This is an important aspect of the maintenance and improvement of veterinary standards.
 
The explanatory notes to paragraph 10 of 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 referred to the Council’s Health Advisory Group in the first instance. Click here for detail on Council’s approach to health impaired veterinarians.
 
The Notification Review Group (NRG) considers all other issues raised as concerns.
 
If the concern raises significant questions about the professional conduct of a veterinarian it will likely be referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee (CAC) to investigate. 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.
 
In all cases it is likely that the notification will be provided to the veterinarian for comment.
 
There is no financial cost to the complainant and no provision in the process for compensatory payment.
 
Click here for more information on what clients can expect from their veterinarian and what they can do if unhappy with the services provided. It also contains detail on NRG and CAC processes.
 
For further information on the membership of the Committees click here.
 
 
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.
 
 
How long does it take?
 
The length of time taken to address notifications depends on their seriousness and complexity.
 
We aim to have a decision in 80% of the matters referred to a Complaints Assessment Committee within 6 months of receipt. The Notification Review Group process is usually quicker.
 
 
What advice and assistance is available?
 
New Zealand Veterinary Association: If the veterinarian is a member of the New Zealand Veterinary Association or if his or her employer has VPIS insurance 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.
 
It is recommended 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. It is suggested that veterinarians notify their employer of the notification or provide consent for the Committee considering their case to notify their employer. The Committee may need to access records as part of its consideration and as such there may be a need to involve the employer. 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 the Veterinary Council of New Zealand, PO Box 10-563, Wellington 6143, New Zealand, Phone 04 473 9600, Email: info@vetcouncil.org.nz
  • Reviewing previous CAC outcomes here

See also:
 
Judicial Process
Judicial Committee findings