RCVS news: Independent support service launched for veterinary professionals being investigated by the RCVS

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is today (Wednesday 9 June 2021) launching an independent service to provide emotional support to veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses who are under investigation by the RCVS following complaints about their professional conduct.

The ProfCon Investigation Support (PCIS) service is a free, confidential listening and support service funded by the RCVS and its Mind Matters Initiative mental health project but delivered independently by VetSupport.me, an organisation that already offers general support services to veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses. It started off as VetSupport NI, and has expanded to include VetSupport Scotland followed by VetSupport Ireland. Under the banner of VetSupport.me it now accepts contacts from all across the UK and Ireland.

The service is provided by a group of trained and experienced volunteers who will be able to offer support to any veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse who is going through the RCVS professional conduct investigation process, as well as any members of the professions who are acting as witnesses in such cases.

Lizzie Lockett, RCVS CEO, said: “At the RCVS we recognise that being investigated in respect of alleged professional misconduct is a very stressful and trying experience that can knock confidence and, in some cases, lead to distress amongst practitioners.

“While part of the social contract of being members of regulated and protected professions is that, when accusations around professional misconduct are made, they have to be fully investigated by a regulator to determine if there is a case to answer. As a compassionate regulator we want to make sure that individuals going through this process can access the help and support they need.

“This service is staffed by a team of brilliant volunteers who already have experience in  providing help and support on matters of mental health and wellbeing and have received additional training to augment their ability to provide emotional support to vets and nurses who may be under investigation.

“In our Strategic Plan for 2020-24, one of our key ambitions is to strengthen our credentials as a compassionate regulator that acts with empathy and understanding. The ProfCon Investigation Support Service is an important step in fulfilling this ambition, and I hope that it can deliver help to the people that need it.”

David McKeown, from VetSupport, added: “Whether via a phone call, an email conversation, or a meet-up over Zoom, our team of trained volunteers, all of whom are registered vets or vet nurses themselves, will support service users through the duration of an RCVS investigation.

“Through their support we will aim to help individuals going through this process maintain good mental health and wellbeing and strive to prevent more serious issues arising. The service is completely confidential and no conversations that individuals have with our volunteers will ever be shared with anyone else, including the RCVS. Nothing will be fed back to the College nor be used as part of the investigation process. It is also completely within the individual’s control as to how much information is shared with the VetSupport volunteer. There is no obligation to disclose any information other than perhaps a first name.

“We look forward to working with the RCVS to provide this very important service. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on info@vetsupport.me or visit www.vetsupport.me to find out more about the service and meet our team of supporters.”

As well as fulfilling the RCVS ambitions as a compassionate regulator, the service also grew out of an audit conducted by Open Minds Health, a mental health and wellbeing consultancy, in March 2018 on the impact of the professional conduct investigation process on the welfare of the professions and recommendations on how this could be mitigated.

A full report, including the College’s responses to the recommendations, is available to view on www.rcvs.org.uk/publications

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