Complaining about a vet
When you buy veterinary care for your pet, you are buying a service. Your vet must deliver this service with reasonable care and skill.
As a consumer, you can complain if the service wasn’t delivered with reasonable care and skill. When you complain to the vet, you can ask them to:
correct the problem for free
give you a full or partial refund if they can’t correct the problem
Find out how to complain about poor service.
If a vet has been negligent
A vet is guilty of professional negligence if they don’t meet the standard of care based on what other vets would reasonably do in the same circumstances.
Negligence must result in harm, loss, injury or damage of some sort. For example, a vet might prescribe an inappropriate course of treatment and your pet dies or is permanently injured as a result.
If you think your vet has been negligent and you want to complain, you’ll need to decide what outcome you want. For example, you might want:
a formal apology
free corrective treatment
You can claim reasonable compensation on top of the cost of the treatment if the vet’s negligence costs you extra money or injures your pet.
Complaining about negligence
You should try to negotiate with your vet first. Check their complaints procedure - it’ll tell you what to do. If you can’t solve the problem through your vet’s complaints procedure, you can contact the Veterinary Client Mediation Service - they’re impartial and free to use.
If this doesn't work, you could take legal action - you should get expert legal advice first.
You must start legal action for negligence within 6 years of it happening. If it’s been longer than 6 years, get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service to see if you can still start legal action.
It can be very difficult to prove negligence. Often, it comes down to your vet’s professional judgement about what the most appropriate treatment was for your pet. You might need to get a second opinion, but another vet might be reluctant to get involved in a complaint against a member of their profession. If they agree to give you a second opinion, they will probably charge you.
If a vet has been unprofessional
All vets must follow the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ code of professional conduct.
If you think your vet is guilty of professional misconduct, report them to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons - they regulate the professional conduct of vets and will investigate your complaint.
It might be professional misconduct if your vet has:
taken advantage of your age or inexperience
acted against your instructions
If the Royal College finds the vet guilty of misconduct, it could discipline them. The Royal College doesn't have the power to compensate you. If your pet has been injured, you might still want to pursue the vet for compensation.
If a vet has broken the law
If you think the vet has broken the law, report them to the police by calling 101.
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Page last reviewed on 25 September 2019