A new scheme to “vet” veterinary practices was launched this week. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the regulatory body for vets in the UK, has set up the voluntary accreditation scheme to offer owners quality assurance and peace of mind when choosing a practice.

“Since the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 there’s been a lot of changes to the way vets work,” said RCVS spokesman Lizzie Lockett. “It used to be enough to regulate vets, but it’s not now. Practices have changed with the rise of para-professionals, vet nurses, managers and the introduction of corporate practices.”

The scheme was devised by a group including the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the British Veterinary Hospitals Association, and launched to vets in January 2005.

Practices will be accredited on three levels — for meeting core standards; species/discipline-specific general practices; and as a hospital, either small animal or equine.

Inspections will take place every four years, with yearly self-certification and spot checks in between. Minimum standards for qualification include 24hr emergency cover, staff training, hygiene, cost estimation procedures and certain types of equipment. With almost half of UK practices signed up, the scheme has been launched to the public, who can search for accredited practices online at www.findavet.org.uk

“It’s reassuring horse owners that we’re doing what we say we are,” said Chris House from BEVA. “We hope more practices will sign up as awareness of the scheme grows, it’s likely to become compulsory under the new Vet Surgeons Act [currently awaiting parliamentary time].”

“It’s useful for the public to be aware that not all vets are equal with their standards and facilities and it’s worth knowing that an independent body has checked up,” said vet Karen Coumbe, a partner in Bell Equine, now a top-level accredited equine hospital. “If you drop your animal into a vet you don’t currently know whether anyone will be there to check it in the middle of the night.

Of 3,800 vet practices in the UK, 1,808 have joined the scheme so far.

Ms Lockett added: “It doesn’t mean practices not on the scheme aren’t any good — this is voluntary.”

Accredited equine hospitals

  • Endell Veterinary Group Equine Hospital
  • The Ashbrook Equine Hospital
  • The Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital
  • Kearns & Rea Three Counties
  • Ridgeway Veterinary Group – Valley Equine Hospital
  • Du Preez, Lyall, Matthews, Waterhouse & Van Pelt
  • Chine House Equine & Small Animal Veterinary Hospital
  • The Liphook Equine Hospital
  • Rossdale & Partners MsRCVS
  • Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic
  • Charter Veterinary Hospital Group
  • This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (6 April, ’06)
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