RCVS news: ADR trial nearing completion with two-thirds of cases referred
The alternative dispute resolution (ADR) trial launched by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) at the end of last year is now nearing completion with over two-thirds of its target number of cases either resolved or in process.
The year-long trial, which began in November 2014, aims to gather the evidence needed to develop a permanent scheme which would provide a way of adjudicating on concerns raised about a veterinary surgeon that do not meet the RCVS threshold of serious professional misconduct.
The aim of the trial, which is administered by the independent, not-for-profit Ombudsman Services, is to make determinations on around 100 cases in order to gather information about types of concern, time taken to resolve disputes, recommendations and how likely each party is to accept recommendations. As of this week some 72 cases have been referred to the trial scheme, with final decisions made in relation to 54 of these cases.
Nick Stace, Chief Executive Officer, was responsible for pushing forward the trial believing that “what is good for the consumer is good for the profession”. Furthermore, it also brings the RCVS in line with a European Union Directive on alternative dispute resolution which, while not legally binding on the College, does specify that regulators and other ‘competent authorities’ should have consumer redress systems in place.
Nick says: “The majority of cases are either being determined in the veterinary surgeon’s favour or finding that they need take no further action in order to resolve the dispute. Where recommendations have been made in favour of the client, the suggested remedies have generally been for a small goodwill payment to be made.
“However, the trial has not been without some frustrations so far. The fact that participation in the trial is entirely voluntary has meant that, in many cases, members of the profession have chosen not to take part.
“With this in mind, it is very important to stress the benefits of the trial to the profession – chiefly that many of the vets who chose to take part have had their actions exonerated by Ombudsman Services in a way that a concern being closed by our Professional Conduct Department does not. For clients, where a vet does have a case to answer, it gives them the chance to seek recompense without having to resort to legal action.
“Regardless of which way the decision goes in any of these cases, participating in the trial can bring these often long-standing and burdensome disputes to a close.”
The trial will continue to run until the end of October and a full report and recommendations will be presented to RCVS Council at its meeting on Thursday 5 November 2015. Full details of the trial and its parameters can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/adr