What does ‘Veterinary Hospital’ mean on a vets website and is it important?

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All veterinary practices have a minimum standard of care they must provide to all animals. Above this minimum standard, veterinary practices are able to offer varying levels of care with varying numbers of diagnostic tests, medications and hospitalization lengths. Being a ‘Veterinary Hospital’ means the practice is often able to offer the highest level of quality care, due to the facilities, space, working hours and skill level within the practice. This is administered through the Practice Standards Scheme.

What is the Practice Standards Scheme?

The “PSS” is run by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), our regulator. The idea is that it provides a level of quality assurance for people requiring veterinary care for their pets. While every veterinary surgeon within England must be registered with the RCVS in order to practice as a veterinary surgeon, and is regulated by them, there is no legal regulation for the practices they work within.

In an attempt to make sure that different practices all abide by certain minimum standards, RCVS has created the PSS to classify and improve the standard of veterinary practices (rather than vets and nurses). Within this voluntary scheme, different business models within the veterinary sector can be assessed as meeting baseline requirements; allowing more detail to be obtained about the veterinary business from the name. This scheme has many different levels allowing practices to have scope and details on how they can improve to achieve the next level within the scheme. This scheme is completely voluntary, so don’t panic if your veterinary practice doesn’t have any accreditation!

What is a Veterinary Hospital?

The ‘Veterinary Hospital’ accreditation is the highest standard and the practice must meet certain requirements which will be assessed. The assessment includes checking equipment, facilities, space and consultations. As well as looking at the rota and opening hours to ensure these requirements are met. The assessor will provide a detailed report with as much information as possible; and suggesting methods in which the practice can improve.

While all veterinary practices will employ veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, care assistants and receptionists, hospitals tend to be larger organizations. That said, quality, exceptional patient care will be provided by many veterinary practices without the hospital accreditation. Although practices without the hospital accreditation may require referral to a hospital, cases should need intensive care or require services that their practice is not able to offer.

How does a veterinary practice become a Hospital?

In order to gain the Veterinary Hospital accreditation, a practice must have the facilities to investigate and treat complex cases, reducing the likelihood of needing to refer cases. These practices will have protocols for maintaining a high quality of care and cleanliness; as well as performing audits to monitor their outcomes. Having these things in place helps to identify areas of weakness. This is where they can set goals to improve these specific areas.

Crucially, it must also have nursing staff on site 24 hours per day / night and veterinary surgeons available 24 hours night / day. Having these two professionals able to work together allows the practice to provide an emergency critical care service. This means that any hospital will always have people in the building if there are in-patients – it won’t just be a matter of periodic checks. This is why they are considered suitable for more complex emergency and critical care patients.

In addition to the requirements listed above, veterinary hospitals must follow the RCVS code of conduct strictly. They must monitor the outcome of all treatments, commit to education and further training, provide a high standard of cleaning and maintenance, and have a feedback policy in place. All of these specifications will enable the practice to continue to consistently provide a high standard of care.

Why are there veterinary hospitals though?

Many people will have their pets registered at a general veterinary practice. This is because there are many more of these practices. Therefore they are normally much closer and more convenient for regular health checks. These general veterinary practices are able to offer a referral to a veterinary hospital should the pet and situation warrant it. Your pet must be deemed fit to travel in order to be transported to another veterinary practice for further care. So don’t worry if your practice isn’t a hospital. Just be glad that they do exist in case your pet ever needs one!

To conclude, signing up to the Practice Standards Scheme and receiving an accreditation tests your veterinary practice is keen to be analyzed and focus on improving to develop. Having a ‘Veterinary Hospital’ accreditation is a great achievement and shows the veterinary practice is able to offer a very high standard of service, although other practices without this accreditation may also be able to offer the same standard.

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