Choosing a Veterinary practice for the first time can be quite an overwhelming task. A quick search in your local area is likely to give you a wide selection of results to choose from. There can be lots of factors for you to consider when choosing a Veterinary practice. There may be certain aspects that are more important to you, for example, the location may be the key to your decision-making process. Whether the practice is part of the ‘RCVS Practice Standards Scheme’ may or may not affect your decision. This may be a scheme that you are already familiar with, but this article aims to explain what the RCVS Practice Standards scheme is, as well as discussing where and how it plays a role in the Veterinary industry. 

What is the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme?

The Practice standards scheme (PSS) is a voluntary quality assurance accreditation scheme for Veterinary practices. The scheme was first introduced in 2005 to maintain and promote high standards of Veterinary care and to keep up to date with legislative and clinical developments. The scheme also ensures that the practices are following the RCVS professional code of conduct. This scheme is run by Veterinary professionals within the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the veterinary regulator – a bit like OfCom or the GMC).

Is every Veterinary Practice in the UK part of the scheme?

No, the RCVS Practice standards scheme is voluntary for UK Veterinary practices. Approximately two thirds of Veterinary practices in the UK are part of the practice standards scheme.

Practices that have achieved RCVS accreditation will display the badge on their website, leaflets and throughout their clinics.

How is it relevant to Veterinary practices?

Once a practice has been approved and accredited on the RCVS Practice standards scheme, it does not stop there. In order for practices to maintain their position on this scheme, each Veterinary practice must have a spot-check inspection by RCVS accreditors every four years. External assessment of practices via the standards scheme can be invaluable to recognise validation and accreditation.

Within the Practice standards scheme, there are various levels of accreditation that the practice can apply for. The accreditation level can be dependent on variable factors including the type of building/premises, services offered such as out of hours cover and animal species treated. The accreditation category level is not reflective of professionalism. 

The five accreditation category levels are:

  • Core standards
  • General practice
  • General practice (ambulatory)
  • Emergency services clinic
  • Veterinary hospital

Each of the above categories vary with their individual requirements. To expand on this, to be accredited as ‘RCVS core standards’ amongst other criteria the practice must have access to 24-hour emergency cover for patients. Furthermore, to be accredited as ‘RCVS general practice’ amongst other criteria the premises must have access to laboratory facilities for diagnostic tests.

What does it mean if my practice is NOT part of the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme?

If your Veterinary practice is not currently part of the Practice standards scheme please do not panic! Being part of this practice standards scheme absolutely does not prove that a practice is better than one that is not part of the scheme. As mentioned previously, being accredited does not reflect the level of professionalism. In the UK, the overall Veterinary standard is exceptional in most practices. Practices that are not accredited by the RCVS Practice standards scheme can also demonstrate this exceptional standard of care. However, it can provide assurance that accredited practices have been externally assessed by the RCVS accreditors and confirmed to provide a high standard of care.

So what do you think?

Working in a UK accredited practice myself, I feel as though this scheme is very important. It gives me confidence knowing that we have a standard of care validation that has been approved by RCVS external assessors. It is clear that Veterinary practices who are not part of the practice standards scheme can provide equally high standards. To conclude, I hope that this article has provided an insight into what the RCVS Practice standards scheme is. And how it plays a role within the Veterinary profession.

Looking for a new vet? Try our online Find a Local Vet service – and you can now even search for vets who hold RCVS Practice Standards accreditation!

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