As reported in Veterinary Times (February 9 issue), the RCVS would like all veterinary practices to comply with at least the lower rung of the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS).
This is a lovely headline, and a worthy ideal. I think a mandatory system will level a very uneven playing field, allowing practices to compete, particularly at the lower price-point end of the market.
You know there’s a “but” coming, don’t you?
BUT… I can’t help thinking this might be counterproductive, may well increase costs to practices – and therefore owners – and make use of a system that doesn’t work very well in the first place.
I’ve worked in a broad spectrum of practices – some of the low-budget, one-vet lock-up practices, in particular, would make an inspector’s toes curl (half-inch thick dust in the consulting room, anyone?) – and it cannot be good to allow this kind of practice to compete with a higher-quality practice down the road?
It does make me wonder: when you consider the number of people who have animals and who cannot (or won’t) afford veterinary services, there must be a place in the standards scheme for a welfare level of practice.
By “welfare level” I mean one geared towards alleviating pain and suffering, with less emphasis on work-ups, which often means taking a try-it-and-see approach to diagnosis. A practice standard at that level would emphasise behaviours (such as cleanliness, ethics and informed consent) over equipment and staff.
I’m also not sure the PSS I have experienced from my side of the inspection really does what it sets out to do. All you can say is that a practice met the standards required of its level of practice on a particular day. When the inspectors are expected, everyone is on their best behaviour and the practice is often sparkling and polished. When the inspectors aren’t around, how do we know the practice is just as clean and organised?
There needs to be ongoing verification between the bigger visits or the standards inspections are only a measure of how well a practice “scrubs up”.