Complaints: The Client

It is inevitable that there will occasionally be misunderstandings regarding treatment, payments or emergency cover.

How to avoid complaints

Most complaints can be avoided by clear explanations about practice policies, treatment schedules and cost of treatment before a case is admitted or a course of investigations or treatment embarked upon.

Making sure you know what is in the RCVS Codes of Professional Conduct for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses can help to avoid complaints.

What to do

When a client has a complaint, it’s important that you:

  • Remain calm and polite
  • Listen to the problem
  • Try not to interrupt the client
  • Acknowledge the issue raised
  • Reiterate the perceived problem, as you understand it
  • Do not attempt any explanation for the practice’s action
  • Complete a practice complaint form and ensure that the client is happy with what it says
  • Assure the client that the matter will receive attention immediately
  • Give the client a realistic indication of exactly when he or she will receive a letter or telephone call
  • Contact an appropriate member of staff (partner or practice manager) with the full details of the complaint
  • Alternatively, if a client expresses dissatisfaction or is unhappy following treatment, then you can request that they put their complaint in writing to the practice

Handling an abusive client

If a client becomes abusive staff should:

  • Not put themselves at risk – physical safety should be paramount
  • Remain polite but firm
  • Seek assistance from a senior member of staff
  • If the situation is dangerous, call the police and/or use the panic alarm

Remember, you are paid for your clinical expertise, not as an emotional football – you have a right to be treated respectfully and a right to refuse to engage if this respect is not forthcoming.

Contact your insurer

If a complaint is made against the practice, it is imperative that you contact your professional indemnity insurer at the earliest possible opportunity and follow scrupulously their advice on how to proceed in preference to any other advice.

The Veterinary Defence Society produce a very useful booklet “Complaints and dealing with them”, available to members on their website.