An unanticipated use of mediation hit the news this month; a Veterinary Mediation service has proven to be “surprisingly successful“ in resolving disputes between vets and clients. Set up to adjudicate disputes raised by both clients whose animals have received veterinary care and for the veterinary professionals providing that care, the service began in 2016. Since then it has received over 1,600 complaints. Of the cases accepted, only 3% have failed to reach a successful conclusion.
Pet Lovers and Business Owners
Research in 2016 suggested that nearly half of all UK households have a pet. People develop deep emotional attachments to their pets, so it’s understandable that it can be very upsetting when third party care for them goes wrong. Business owners are also affected. Loss or illness of livestock can negatively impact the livelihoods of farming communities.
There are thousands of complaints each year involving animal care. What is relatively new is the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a means of resolving them. These contentious and sometimes highly emotive cases have benefitted from mediation because the process is flexible enough to be moulded to suit any scenario.
Veterinary Mediation Cases
Vets are used to diagnose illness, perform operations or assess the health and overall wellbeing of an animal. At all times, the owner should be kept abreast of the care being given, the associated fees and the anticipated outcomes. Where a vet fails to do this or where an owner fails to disclose critical information which could lead to care failing, disputes often occur. Very often these disputes will fall into one of these three categories:
Monetary disputes over the cost of care are the most common complaint. Whether fees were not disclosed, renegotiated or disputed, bills can run into tens of thousands of pounds.
Disputes about the quality of care an animal receives can also be brought into question.
Lack of care resulting in harm, loss, injury or damage of some sort is classed as negligence. An example might be failing to prescribe the appropriate course of treatment and, as a result, the animal suffers permanent injury or dies. Standards of care are judged from what other vets would reasonably do under the same circumstances.
Misconduct is behaviour such as dishonesty, taking advantage of your age or inexperience, or acting against your instructions.
As standard all veterinary practices will have a robust complaints procedure in place which will clearly lay out the way in which it will handle any complaint made. However, allegations of professional misconduct are very serious and need to be investigated by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. They will deliver a verdict on the case but have no power to compensate as a result of the outcome.
Where the findings of any case result in the possible need for compensation, or a fee complaint cannot be resolved within the practice, mediation could be successful in finding an agreeable outcome.
Why is Veterinary Mediation successful?
Mediation resolves complaints in a fair, cost efficient manner that is unbiased and non-judgemental. This is something which seems to worked extremely well in veterinary dispute cases. The whole process is based on communication and reaching a mutually agreeable outcome. This is achieved by appointing an independent mediator who will gather information, explore what the cause of the dissatisfaction, listen to both sides, and support everyone in working towards a fair solution.
If you need help or advice about mediation, get in touch with The Resolution People.