There were 65 complaints registered against veterinary professionals in Ireland in 2021, which represents a 71% increase from 2020.
On the back of this increase in complaints received by the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI), it published a report offering an analysis of the complaints received.
Some 38 of the complaints received by the VCI in 2021 were regarding the treatment of dogs, 10 were regarding cats, four were regarding horses and one was regarding cattle.
The remaining nine complaints related to employment matters, permitting the practice of veterinary medicine by unregistered persons, prescribing practices, certifications, pre-purchase examinations and failure to declare a conviction.
As detailed in the VCI annual reports, the majority of complaints received every year relate to companion animals, with a minority of complaints relating to large animal treatment and care.
Inadequate care and treatment
In 2021, 35 complaints received were concerning inadequate veterinary care and treatment.
Five related to registrants’ communication with clients, five related to failure to provide evidence of professional indemnity insurance, four were regarding out of hours service and another four were regarding animal welfare.
All complaints received are considered and determined by the VCI’s preliminary investigation committee, which comprises veterinary practitioner and non-veterinary practitioner members who objectively consider the subject of the complaint.
Of the complaints received in 2021, 10 were determined to warrant an inquiry before the council’s fitness to practice committee, which was the highest figure ever referred to the committee in a single year.
The VCI fitness to practice committee conducts oral inquiries or hearings in public to consider allegations of professional misconduct.
Findings of professional misconduct give rise to sanctions imposed by the VCI.
Such disciplinary structures are in place to protect the high standards of veterinary medicine and nursing in Ireland and uphold the reputation of the professions in society.
In conclusion, the VCI said that the spike in complaints in 2021 was likely due to a number of factors, including increased companion animal ownership alongside altered arrangements in veterinary practices for interaction with clients in the context of COVID-19 health and safety measures broadly introduced in 2020.
VCI CEO and registrar Niamh Muldoon said: “Following our analysis of the complaints received in 2021, we noted that the highest number of complaints related to areas such as standards of care and communication.
"The veterinary council’s updated codes of professional conduct, which were launched in January, support and inform veterinary professionals’ awareness in these areas.
"We will continue to regulate the veterinary sector ensuring the delivery of high standards and trust in veterinary care in Ireland.”
Currently, the number of complaints received by the VCI’s preliminary investigations committee in 2022 stands at 24 as at end of August 2022.