Some of you may be aware of the Practice Standards scheme which is run by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS).

The Practice Standards initiative aims to accredit veterinary practices throughout the UK. The aim of the scheme is to assist pet owners when they are choosing a Veterinary Practice for their pet. It allows pet owners to make a more informed decision when choosing a practice and gives reassurance as to the quality of premises, equipment, training and procedures in place to care for patients.

Through setting standards and carrying out regular inspections, the Scheme aims to promote and maintain the highest standards of veterinary care. Practices who sign up for the scheme are regularly inspected by an RCVS inspector. Donaldson’s Vets first signed up for the scheme 5 years ago when it was developed and a couple of months ago, all four surgeries were due for re-inspection.

With a few weeks warning of the impending inspection, we were issued with the inspection dates. Because we have 4 surgeries, the inspection team would require 2 days to complete all the checks at all of the sites. The first morning would be taken up with a review of all the required documentation and the remaining time would be occupied with the physical inspection of premises and equipment.

Alongside our regular clinical duties, we formed a small working party to pull together everything that was required for the inspection.

A huge number of documents were pulled together for the inspection and as we gathered them together, I was suddenly struck by what a complex operation a modern Veterinary Practice is.

From employment contracts, job descriptions, on-going staff training and protocols for dealing with members of the public, through to the monitoring systems for recording clinical outcomes, to the records of clinical waste disposal and X-ray dose monitoring. From night time emergency provision, theatre and lab equipment and cleaning protocols in theatres and kennels to prescription medicine storage and batch tracing. In all, over 1,100 separate documents were pulled together for inspection.

Typically, on the days of inspection, our Vets were pulled in all directions dealing with a series of Small Animal, Equine and Farm Animal emergency calls but this only served to demonstrate how our systems for reacting to the demands of the local animal owning population work.

At the end of the inspection, the inspectors are not able to formally indicate their thoughts and so we have a tense wait over the last couple of months while their report is written and a decision was made as to whether we passed or failed.

Last week, a letter from the RCVS arrived in the post and thankfully, it contained full pass certificates for all four surgeries. All the hard work in preparation had paid off.