As of 1 October 2022, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) will be introducing a streamlined new concerns investigation process, with cases being considered by Preliminary Investigation Committees from the outset.
Under the previous system, complaints made about a veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse would, at Stage One, be considered by a Case Examiner Group (CEG) which would determine if there was an arguable case of serious professional misconduct. If the CEG found there was an arguable case, it would then refer it to Stage Two of the process – this being consideration by the Preliminary Investigation Committee.
Now, however, the CEG stage of the process has been replaced by Stage One Preliminary Investigation Committees which, rather than using the ‘arguable case’ threshold, will consider from the outset whether there is a realistic prospect that the alleged conduct constitutes serious professional misconduct and that there is sufficient evidence to prove this.
The new Stage One Preliminary Investigation Committees will comprise members of the professions and lay people, and will be assisted in their investigations by an RCVS Case Manager who will also be the first point of contact for those raising concerns, witnesses and respondents in the case.
Eleanor Ferguson, RCVS Registrar and Director of Legal Services, says: “By keeping to one consistent threshold for serious professional misconduct throughout the concerns investigation process, we hope that these changes will help to simplify our investigations while still ensuring that the process remains robust and thorough. We also hope that, in time and when the changes are fully bedded in, we may also see a swifter resolution to some cases, as concerns that may previously been referred on to Stage Two of the process can now be closed at Stage One.”
If a Stage One Preliminary Investigation Committee cannot close a case it will refer it on to a Stage Two Preliminary Investigation Committee. This will gather additional information and evidence and then determine if there is a realistic prospect of finding serious professional misconduct and if it is in the public interest for the case to go to Stage Three – a full, public Disciplinary Committee hearing.
Eleanor adds: “The introduction of these new stages is the first step in the programme of reform of our concerns investigation and disciplinary processes. Next year we will be looking to introduce our Charter Case Protocol which will be a way of resolving some less serious cases of alleged misconduct where it would not necessarily be in the public interest to hold a full Disciplinary Committee hearing.”
Further information about the new concerns investigation process can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/concerns from 1 October onwards.