Have you seen your local practice advertising that they hold a particular accreditation? Wondering what that means? There are lots of different accreditations out there, run by many different organisations. But I will summarise the most common ones you are likely to see!

RCVS Practice Standards Scheme

The most common accreditation that you will see practices advertising is the RCVS practice standards scheme (PSS). The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the regulating body of the veterinary profession. It is an organisation, run by vets, of which every practicing vet and qualified veterinary nurse in the country must be a member in order to legally be allowed to practice. The practice standards scheme is a voluntary scheme (about two-thirds of UK practices are members), by which the practice submits itself to regular inspections by the RCVS in order to prove that it provides a certain level of service. 

There are different levels to which a practice can become accredited:

  • Core Standards: This is the minimal level which any veterinary practice must adhere to. The requirements for meeting this standard are quite basic. For instance all staff being appropriately trained, meeting minimal standards of cleanliness, and complying with the legal basics. 
  • General Practice: This is a higher level of accreditation than basic. It is designed for practices that provide a good level of general care, but do not provide any specialist level of hospital care, diagnostics or treatment. For instance, a general practice must have laboratory facilities so they can carry out some diagnostic tests. But they don’t have to have more advanced equipment such as endoscopes. 
  • Emergency Services Clinic: These clinics will meet all of the core standards criteria. As well as some other measures that are specific to working in an emergency setting. 
  • Ambulatory Practice: This is an accreditation that usually applies to equine practices only. They must meet all the core standards criteria. But the remaining criteria they must meet will take into account that the practice does not have any hospitalisation/stabling facilities. 
  • Veterinary Hospital: This is the highest level of RCVS accreditation. Practices that meet hospital status must have staff on site to care for your pets 24 hours a day. They must have a certain level of diagnostic equipment available to them and must have a system in place to monitor the outcomes of their treatments. 

As well as these levels of accreditation, there are also various awards that the practice can apply for. Such as client service, team and professional responsibility and diagnostic services. In order to get one of these awards, the practice will have to satisfy all the regular criteria for the PSS level and on top of that, demonstrate excellence in a particular area. 

ISFM Cat Friendly clinic awards:

Another organisation that accredits vet practices is the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM). This recognises practices who cater particularly well to our feline friends. Cats have some unique requirements and can become extremely stressed in the veterinary environment. So ISFM recognises those practices that take extra care to make your cats visit as stress-free as possible. 

There are 3 levels of accreditation – bronze, silver and gold. As you would expect, the criteria for bronze clinics are fairly basic, becoming much more specialised as you go up to gold. For instance, in a gold standard clinic you can expect there to be a separate waiting area for cats. This is so that they don’t have to see dogs waiting in the same room as them. There should be one consult room that is dedicated to just cat consults so that cats won’t be able to pick up the smell of dog in there, and cat hospitalisation facilities will be of a very high standard (separate cat wards with large, spacious kennels).

RWAF Rabbit Friendly Clinics:

Rabbits are prey species, and as such, like cats, they can be very susceptible to experiencing high levels of stress in the vet clinic. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) have created a list of accredited “rabbit friendly” clinics. These take extra care to ensure that rabbits have as stress-free a time as possible in the surgery. These practices will also practice a relatively high level of rabbit medicine and have appropriate diagnostic equipment. It is most likely that they will have a vet and/or nurse working there who has a particular interest in rabbit medicine and welfare. 

Other awards and accreditations

As well as these that I have discussed, there will also be other awards and accreditations that a practice can boast about. If your practice is part of a large group (such as IVC or CVS) then these groups often have awards that they will give to practices within their group for achieving a certain standard or excelling in a particular area.

Vet practice awards or accreditations however, are only one side of the story. It is worth remembering that they have their limitations. Not every practice will choose to take part in these schemes, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not as good a practice or that they don’t have just as high standards as those that do. Achieving these awards can take a lot of time and admin. Some practices simply don’t have the spare time or people for all this paperwork – that is perfectly understandable. 

If you want to know if your local practice aligns with your values, it is more important to go and speak to them. Perhaps ask if you can have a look around at their facilities and see what kind of feeling you get from the staff and the practice. This will tell you more than a plaque on the wall ever can!

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