FAQs

How do I apply for a new VDS Policy?

If you would like to apply for a new VDS Policy, please contact our Membership Department on +44 (0) 1565 652737 Option 2 , by email to admin@thevds.co.uk or via our website. We are not able to process new applications over the phone, but would be delighted to discuss our Policy with you and can then send you the relevant forms for application, by post or email.

What is included in the VDS Policy?

See the Our Policy page, for full details of the cover that the VDS can provide, and to download policy documents.

How does the VDS define different Risk Groups and types of veterinary work?

For the purpose of providing Professional Indemnity Insurance, the VDS assigns all Normal Veterinary Work to one of three ‘Risk Groups’. More detail is provided below, but briefly:

  • Veterinary work in respect of Domestic Pets is assigned to Risk Group D
  • Veterinary work in respect of Equines is assigned to Risk Group E
  • Veterinary work in respect of Farm Animals is assigned to Risk Group F

Veterinary practices working predominantly with Domestic Pets (Risk Group D) must declare any occasional work the Practice may undertake in respect of Equines (Risk Group E) or Farm Animals (Risk Group F) – other than food animal species kept non-commercially, as pets. Practices can do this by declaring the appropriate percentage for Risk Group E and/or Risk Group F against one or more of the veterinary surgeons to be covered under this insurance.

Cover provided to veterinary practices that deal with Equine and/or Farm work (Risk Groups E and/ or F) will automatically include an indemnity limit of £250,000 (€300,000) for Risk Group D.

Cover will be provided for Emergency Veterinary First Aid and Pain Relief in animals not included in the Risk Groups detailed in your Practice’s Policy Schedule. Please consult the VDS Policy for details of the indemnity limit that will apply.

Allocation of veterinary work to the appropriate Risk Group

Risk Group D includes veterinary work involving:

  • Small animals kept as domestic pets, including exotic animals (e.g. birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, fish)
  • Small animals (as above) kept for breeding, research, showing, display to the public (to include small animals kept in zoos/safari parks/aquaria/wildlife parks/marine zoos) and in private collections
  • Working/sporting/farm dogs
  • Guide dogs
  • Greyhounds kept for racing/breeding
  • Greyhound racing track veterinary duties
  • Racing and fancy pigeons
  • Native Wildlife
  • Food animal species kept non-commercially, as pets
  • Work as a Named Veterinary Surgeon
  • Diagnostic laboratory work to all of the above

But EXCLUDING (i) equine animals; (ii) food animals (i.e. species of animal normally used for the production of human or animal food or fibre, skin or hide) kept for commercial purposes.

Risk Group E includes veterinary work involving:

  • Equine animals
  • Racecourse work
  • Riding establishment inspections
  • Equines kept in zoos/safari parks/wildlife parks
  • Competition and race horse regulatory work
  • Diagnostic laboratory work relating to equine animals

But EXCLUDING animals in Risk Groups D and F.

Risk Group F includes veterinary work involving:

  • Food animals i.e. species of animal normally used for the production of human or animal food or fibre, skin or hide (excluding equine animals)
  • Animals other than those in Risk Group D (and excluding equine animals) kept for display to the public: to include animals kept in zoos/safari parks/aquaria/wildlife parks/marine zoos
  • Any animal not included in Risk Group D or E
  • Veterinary services relating to meat hygiene and Animal Feed production
  • Diagnostic laboratory work relating to food animal species
  • Export/import certification of food, food products, pet-food, animal feed, eggs, animal products, skins, hides, agricultural machinery

But EXCLUDING animals in Risk Groups D and E.

Allocation of work in specific veterinary disciplines

Certain types of work or activity might relate to more than one Risk Group, or might appear initially to fall into a separate category altogether. When completing the Proposal Form and checking the allocation of work for all the veterinary surgeons in your Practice, you should allocate this work proportionately to Risk Groups D, E, and F only.

For example:

  • Export/import certification (of animals, embryos, semen etc.) should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Veterinary work in specialist disciplines (e.g. anaesthesia, pathology, ophthalmology, cardiology, dermatology, nutrition, advanced breeding – AI, ET, semen/fertility testing etc.) should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Education (research, teaching, lecturing, training, CPD, examining etc.) should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Consultancy (insurance, legal, nutrition, pet food, pharmaceutical, forensic, expert witness, charity, animal welfare, health schemes etc.) should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Inspections (riding establishments, boarding kennels, breeding establishments, zoos, dangerous wild animals, dangerous dogs, Home Office, labs, biotech establishments, pet shops, practice standards etc.) should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved. 
  • OVS/Local Authority/State/County Council/Public Health/trading standards etc. should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Shows (agricultural, horse, pets, dogs, cats, birds etc.) should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Quarantine establishments – inspection and treatment of animals etc. should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Film supervision etc. should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Tele/on-line consulting, advising, sales etc. should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Work for charitable organisations and unpaid work etc. should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Practice management/advising practice colleagues etc. should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.
  • Sales of medicines (including Prescription Only and lower categories), pet-food, accessories etc. should be allocated proportionately to the relevant Risk Group depending on the species involved.

How do I choose my indemnity limits?

Assessment of your or your practice’s requirements for professional indemnity insurance is a matter for you.

You must specify the indemnity limit that you require in respect of cover for civil liability for damage to property such as animals or intangible property such as business losses. You should only choose an indemnity limit for a Risk Group if the Practice carries out work in that Risk Group.

The indemnity limit you choose also applies to the legal costs that the VDS incurs in defending the claim, and the claimants' legal costs when a claim is settled. When significant claims are contested in court, it is not uncommon for the total legal cost to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, all of which comes out of your total indemnity limit.

The Policy allows you to choose a separate indemnity limit for each of the three Risk Groups. The VDS allocates all Normal Veterinary Work to one of three risk groups. Broadly speaking, domestic pet veterinary work is assigned to Risk Group D, equine work to Risk Group E and farm animal work to Risk Group F.

There are some important exceptions. Risk Group D does include veterinary attention to farm animals, but only if they're kept as pets and not for commercial purposes. In addition, veterinary work involving export/import certification of food, food products, pet food, animal feed, eggs, animal products, skins, hides and agricultural machinery is classed as being within Risk Group F of the VDS PI policy. For more detail information about the risk group allocations and indemnity limits, please refer to the Policy wording and 'About the VDS Practice Policy' document for further information which contains the Risk Group Listing in Annex A.

It is very important that you carefully consider and review the Risk Groups and indemnity limits you require to be included in the Policy Schedule, to ensure that they are sufficient for your needs and those of the Practice. All indemnity limits are inclusive of any damages you or the Practice may be liable to pay, as well as the defence costs and the costs of any other party which you or the Practice may be liable to meet.

When choosing your Indemnity Limits, you should be aware that, in addition to considering the value of individual animals under your care, the larger claims handled by the Society often involve numerous animals and/or business losses that flow from a single occurrence. Examples of these types of claim include:

  • Allegations of negligence in respect of infectious disease at a racing greyhound kennels leading to a large claim for the loss of valuable greyhounds and significant business losses caused when the Kennels were closed down by the authorities.
  • Allegations of negligent transmission of infectious disease between several equestrian establishments leading to movement restrictions imposed by the State on affecting numerous horses prompting a large claim for associated business losses and costs associated with loss of amenity.
  • Allegations of negligent advice in respect of a dairy farm herd health plan resulting in a large claim for significant production losses extending back over a period of several years.

If you undertake work as a veterinary locum or sub-contractor your professional indemnity insurance needs to align with the needs of the practices where you provide your services. The sub-contractor may wish to ensure that their chosen indemnity limit will be equal to the indemnity limit carried by the practice to whom they are supplying their services. Due enquiries as to the indemnity limit carried by each practice and the type of work you will be expected to perform may assist you to reach a decision on this matter. If the sub-contractor carries an insufficient indemnity limit, the sub-contractor may be left personally liable in the event of a claim.

Cover for civil liabilities is written on a "claims made" basis. This means that the indemnity limit applicable to a claim is the indemnity limit carried on the Policy which is in place at the time a Circumstance is noted or when the Claim is made, whichever is the earlier. This means that if you change your indemnity limit this will have implications for claims arising after the change has been made. For example, if you reduce your indemnity limit, any future claim/circumstance which has not already been reported under the higher limit will be allocated to the Policy with the lower indemnity limit held at the time the claim is made. For more information on this and to explain how the Policy responds following cancellation of a Policy please refer to Advice Note 'Claims Made', 'Occurrence' and 'Retroactive Date of Inception' and Cancelling or not renewing your VDS Professional Indemnity Policy.

The VDS PI Policy includes a set indemnity limit for civil liability for death or bodily injury to a person, of ten million pounds or twelve million euros. This is a separate indemnity limit that applies to damages and legal costs associated with a claim involving injury to a human, when it has been caused by a breach of professional duty, and is separate to the indemnity limit you choose for your risk groups. No indemnity will be provided for death or bodily injury to a person associated with veterinary work in a Risk Group that you haven't declared on your proposal form.

The VDS Practice Policy also includes a set indemnity limit for Representation Costs in Criminal and Disciplinary Proceedings for veterinary surgeons and Registered Veterinary Nurses named on the Policy of £200,000/€240,000 and £150,000/€180,000 respectively. This is a separate indemnity which applies to legal costs associated with criminal and disciplinary proceedings.

For more information on choosing your indemnity limits for each Risk Group, please see FAQs titled:

  • Choosing my indemnity limit - Risk Group D Considerations
  • Choosing my indemnity limit - Risk Group E Considerations
  • Choosing my indemnity limit - Risk Group F Considerations
  • Choosing my indemnity limit - Considerations for the Mixed Practice

What is my trading status?

The organisation of your Practice is likely to be via one of the following business entities:

A Sole Trader - If you work for yourself, you may class yourself as a self-employed sole trader. As a sole trader, you run your own business as an individual. You may employ staff. ‘Sole trader’ means you are responsible for the business, not that you have to work alone. Examples of sole traders would include veterinary surgeons who provide independent veterinary services directly to their clients, or to other practices.

A Partnership - This is the traditional veterinary practice model where two or more veterinary surgeons co-operate to form a Practice in a business partnership. The partnership may or may not employ ‘assistant’ veterinary surgeons. Partners who are not veterinary surgeons are not entitled to become members of the VDS and will not be personally covered under the Policy.

A Limited Partnership (LP) - Liability in a limited partnership is split among partners. Partners’ responsibilities differ as ‘general’ partners can be personally liable for all liabilities while ‘limited’ partners may have limited liability. General partners are also responsible for managing the business. Limited partnerships are not entitled to become Corporate Members of the VDS. Partners who are veterinary surgeons, however, can be insured as members in respect of their own liability. However, partners who are not veterinary surgeons are not entitled to become members of the VDS and will not be personally covered under the Policy.

A Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) - This is an organisation you can set up to operate your Practice through. Limited liability partnerships must be registered with Companies House and the registration number belonging to the company must be included in your Proposal.

A Limited Company (Ltd) - A limited company is an organisation that you can set up to operate your Practice through. Limited companies must be registered with Companies House and the registration number belonging to the company must be included in your Proposal.

If you are an individual employee applying for insurance in your own name, independent of your employer, you should describe the nature of your veterinary employment in the Proposal.

For the purpose of this insurance it is possible that your Practice may have an alternative legal structure such as a Charity, or a Research/Educational establishment. In this case, please advise us of the underlying legal entity via the appropriate box on your Proposal.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Veterinary Practice Act 2005 (amended 2012) prevents a Corporate Body from engaging in the practice of veterinary medicine.

The VDS Policy can provide cover for more than one limited company or LLP if they are associated, subsidiary or holding companies which are part of a Corporate Group. These must all be controlled by the same person or persons. Full details must be provided in your Proposal.

The structure of your Practice is important and you may wish to take legal or accountancy advice on this if you have not already done so.

If my practice has a VDS Practice Policy and a claim arises after I have left, will I be covered?

Members who are leaving their employment at a practice where they are insured under a VDS Practice Policy may have concerns whether or not they are covered for any claims arising in the future relating to their veterinary work whilst they were employed by the practice.

The VDS Practice Policy has two sections which differ in how they respond under these circumstances:

Section 2 provides cover for civil claims (financial compensation) where a client alleges there has been a breach of professional duty (veterinary negligence). These types of claims are usually (but not always) made against the practice or business with which the client holds the contract, rather than the individual employee.

If the practice or business on whose Policy you were named when the work was done maintains a continuous VDS Practice Policy, the Policy will respond (subject to its terms and conditions), even if the claim arises after you have left the practice. 

Section 2 of the Policy is written on a “Claims made” basis which means the policy in place at the time the claim is made/circumstance is reported will respond. This does also mean that if there is no Policy in place at the time the claim is made/circumstance is reported the Practice will not be covered unless the Practice is able to rely on one of the Extended Reporting Periods provided within the Policy (see Advice Note Cancelling or not renewing you VDS PI Policy). 

Section 3 provides indemnity for Representation Costs arising from disciplinary and/or criminal proceedings brought by the RCVS or VCI where they relate to Normal Veterinary Work. This section of the Policy is written on an “Occurrence” basis which means that as long as you were named as a Covered Person on a VDS Practice Policy at the time of the incident, that Policy will respond, subject to its terms and conditions, even if the Period of Insurance has expired.

For more information on the different types of insurance please see our advice note ‘Claims Made basis’, ‘Occurrence basis’ and ‘Retroactive Date of Inception (RDI)’: Implications of your VDS Policy

What is an Extended Reporting Period (ERP)?

The policy now provides an Extended Reporting Period (ERP) for civil claims and RCVS/VCI complaints for six years from the expiry of the policy, in particular circumstances which include:

- the practice ceasing to trade,

- or an insured veterinary surgeon dying, retiring, becoming permanently disabled or commencing a career break (i.e. is not engaged or employed by the practice and does not undertake veterinary work or veterinary nursing work elsewhere).

The Society will provide cover in respect of claims made up to six years after the end of the policy period, subject to the terms set out in the policy. The VDS only requires notification of any practice cessation, death, permanent disablement, permanent retirement or career break of the relevant veterinary surgeon before the expiry of the period of insurance. These ERP terms are included in the practice policy and, like many of our services, we believe they are unique to the VDS policy, and the very sort of practical element you would expect from a mutual insurer run by vets for vets, responding to the needs of the profession. Of course, we’re only ever a phone call away if you’d like further advice or clarification.

Choosing your indemnity limit - Risk Group D Considerations

Practices which routinely undertake work with domestic pets should choose an indemnity limit for Risk Group D. If this is the only veterinary work you undertake, there is no need to select an indemnity limit for veterinary work in risk group E (equine), or F (farm).

Risk Group D does include veterinary attention to farm animals, but only if they’re kept as pets and not for commercial purposes. Unless you specifically declare that you undertake work in risk group F, there will be no cover for any claims that relate to any commercial farm animals apart from emergency care in exceptional circumstances. 

Risk Group D does not cover veterinary work involving export/import certification of food, food products, pet food, animal feed, eggs, animal products, skins, hides and agricultural machinery, this is all classed as being within Risk Group F of the VDS PI Policy. If vets require VDS insurance cover for this work, they will need to declare the appropriate percentage of their time spent doing this work and should choose an appropriate indemnity limit for Risk Group F. 

Similarly, Risk Group D does not cover any routine equine work. If you require cover for this type of work, you must declare the appropriate amount of work when filling in your proposal form and then choose the indemnity limit you require for your equine work in Risk Group E. Unless you declare on your proposal form that you undertake work in Risk Group E, there will be no cover for any claims that relate to veterinary attention to horses other than the provision of emergency first aid in exceptional circumstances.

Most claims associated with domestic pet practices handled by the VDS, involve individual animals. Claimants will often look to recover the cost of a replacement animal when things go wrong. You should consider whether any of the animals you treat have a unique quality that increases its value. In addition, when pets are injured as a result of a veterinary mistake, owners will often feel justified in seeking to have the damage repaired, and the cost of veterinary fees for remedial work can run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Other factors to consider when choosing your indemnity limit for your domestic pet work are whether there are any businesses that you might become involved with in connection with your work in Risk Group D. These might range from pet shops, boarding kennels and catteries to breeding establishments, small zoological collections or falconry centres through to greyhound kennels or track work. Claims involving animal related businesses can involve not only the value of damaged animals, but loss of business revenue as well. Business losses can be extensive depending upon the size of the business involved.

The indemnity limit you choose also applies to the legal costs that the VDS incurs in defending the claim, and the claimants’ legal costs when a claim is settled. When significant claims are contested at court, it is not uncommon for the total legal cost to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, all of which comes out of your total indemnity limit.

Before reaching your decision as to which level of indemnity limit you should choose, you should read the full policy wording and the accompanying policy guidance notes, which you can find on our the Our Policy page of our website. You may also wish to seek independent professional advice.

Choosing your indemnity limit – Risk Group E Considerations

Types of work

Practices which routinely undertake work with equines should choose an indemnity limit for Risk Group E. If this is the only veterinary work you undertake, there is no need to select an indemnity limit for veterinary work in Risk Group D (domestic pet) or F (farm).

Policies with an indemnity limit for Risk Group E automatically include an indemnity limit of £250,000 or €300,000 to cover any occasional veterinary work involving domestic pets (Risk Group D). This cover is in place where the vet may be required to attend to the occasional dog, cat or other small pet whilst working at an equine establishment but does not apply if you routinely work with small animals in addition to your equine work. In this case you should declare the appropriate amount of work when filling out your proposal form and then choose the indemnity limit you require for your domestic pet work in Risk Group D.

If you require cover for any routine farm work at all, then you must declare the appropriate amount of work when filling in your proposal form and choose the indemnity limit you require for the farm work in Risk Group F.

Veterinary work involving export/import certification of food, food products, pet food, animal feed, eggs, animal products, skins, hides and agricultural machinery is classed as being within Risk Group F of the VDS PI Policy. If any of your vets require VDS insurance cover for this work, they will need to declare the appropriate percentage of their time spent doing this work and you should choose an appropriate indemnity limit for Risk Group F.

Indemnity limit

When choosing your indemnity limit for work in Risk Group E you may wish to think about the value of the individual horses that your clients own and whether or not you require indemnity for undertaking equine pre-purchase examinations (PPE). The indemnity limit you select will apply to all claims that arise from a single occurrence. Some of the largest claims the VDS has handled have involved infectious disease outbreaks, where multiple claims arise from multiple owners which all originate from one mistake. As well as considering injury to the horses you treat, it is important to think about whether the horses you attend are linked with businesses which might suffer due to veterinary mistakes, such as livery yards, studs, riding schools, polo clubs and racing stables. 

The indemnity limit you choose also applies to the legal costs that the VDS incurs in defending the claim, and the claimants’ legal costs when a claim is settled. When significant claims are contested at court, it is not uncommon for the total legal cost to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, all of which comes out of your total indemnity limit.

Before reaching your decision as to which level of indemnity limit you should choose, you should read the full policy wording and the accompanying policy guidance notes, which you can find on the Our Policy page of our website. You may also wish to seek professional advice.

Choosing your indemnity limit – Risk Group F Considerations

Practices which routinely undertake work with farm animals should choose an indemnity limit for Risk Group F. If this is the only veterinary work you undertake, there is no need to select an indemnity limit for veterinary work in Risk Group D (domestic pet) or E (equine).

Policies with an indemnity limit for Risk Group F automatically include an indemnity limit of £250,000 or €300,000 to cover any occasional veterinary work involving domestic pets (Risk Group D). This cover is in place where the vet may be required to attend to the occasional dog, cat or other small pet whilst working at a farm establishment but does not apply if you routinely work with small animals in addition to your farm animal work. In this case you should declare the appropriate amount of work when filling out your proposal form and then choose the indemnity limit you require for your domestic pet work in Risk Group D.

If you require cover for any horse work at all, then you must declare the appropriate amount of work when filling in your proposal form and then choose the indemnity limit you require for equine work in Risk Group E.

Veterinary work involving export/ import certification of food, food products, pet food, animal feed, eggs, animal products, skins, hides and agricultural machinery is classed as being within Risk Group F of the VDS PI Policy.

When choosing your indemnity limit for work in Risk Group F you may wish to think about the value of the individual animals that your clients own and whether or not you require indemnity for undertaking TB testing or similar subcontractor work on behalf of APHA (U.K. Policy). Most of the farm animal claims we handle on behalf of our members involve individual animals. The larger claims we see usually relate to herd or flock problems, where claimed losses can involve large numbers of animals. You may wish to consider the number of animals involved in any one farming business and estimate the total value of the stock on that farm.

Claims involving a failure to detect or properly treat endemic disease will usually include substantial damages for economic business losses, due to the impact of the disease on production stretching back over several years. If a claimant can demonstrate that a veterinary mistake has adversely affected the farm’s business plan, there will usually be large, associated financial losses.

There are two types of claims we see regularly involving farm animals. Firstly, claims associated with a mistake involving one animal or a small group of animals, that leads to problems or disease spreading through the farm, this in turn can cause heavy losses. Some examples are: a failure to properly address a laboratory report, leading to a simple misdiagnosis of an infectious disease in an animal being introduced to a naïve herd or flock; or an ineffective vasectomy, leading to a large number of pedigree cows or ewes inadvertently becoming pregnant.

The second type of claim involves advice or treatment provided on a herd or flock basis; for example, a dispensing error resulting in the wrong vaccine being provided as part of a herd immunisation program, leading to clinical disease and a loss of herd health status.

The indemnity limit you choose also applies to the legal costs that the VDS incurs in defending the claim, and the claimants’ legal costs when a claim is settled. When significant claims are contested at court, it is not uncommon for the total legal cost to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, all of which comes out of your total indemnity limit.

Before reaching your decision as to which level of indemnity limit you should choose, you should read the full policy wording and the accompanying policy guidance notes, which you can find on the Our Policy page of our website. You may also wish to seek independent professional advice.

Choosing your indemnity limit - Considerations for the Mixed Practice

Practices which routinely undertake work in all three risk groups will need to state which risk groups are required on the proposal form. The flexible structure of the VDS professional indemnity insurance policy allows you to select the indemnity limit you require for each risk group.

Cover for pet dogs, cats, parrots and snakes, falls into Risk Group D. Most claims associated with domestic pet practices that we handle involve individual animals, and claimants will often look to recover the cost of a replacement animal when things go wrong, but you should also consider the occasional special case such as an animal that has a unique quality which may increase its value. When pets are injured as a result of a veterinary mistake, owners will often feel justified in seeking to have the damage repaired, and since advanced veterinary care comes at a cost, it's quite possible the veterinary fees for remedial work could run into tens of thousands of pounds. Other factors to consider when choosing your indemnity limit for your domestic work are whether there are any businesses that you might become involved with in connection with your work in Risk Group D. These might range from pet shops, boarding kennels and catteries to breeding establishments, small zoological collections or falconry centres through to greyhound kennels or track work. Claims involving animal related businesses can involve not only the value of damaged animals, but loss of business revenue as well. Business losses can be extensive depending upon the size of the business involved.

When choosing your indemnity limit for work in Risk Group E you may wish to think about the value of the individual horses that your clients own and whether or not you require indemnity for undertaking equine pre-purchase examinations (ePPE). The indemnity limit you select will apply to all claims that arise from a single occurrence. Some of the largest claims the VDS has handled have involved infectious disease outbreaks, where multiple claims arise from multiple owners which all originate from one mistake. As well as considering injury to the horses you treat, it is important to think about whether the horses you attend are linked with businesses which might suffer due to veterinary mistakes, such as livery yards, studs, riding schools, polo clubs and racing stables. 

When choosing your indemnity limit for work in Risk Group F you may wish to think about the value of the individual animals that your clients own and whether or not you require indemnity for undertaking TB testing or similar subcontractor work on behalf of APHA (U.K. Policy). Most of the farm animal claims we handle on behalf of our members involve individual animals. The larger claims we see usually relate to herd or flock problems, where claimed losses can involve large numbers of animals. You may wish to consider the number of animals involved in any one farming business and estimate the total value of the stock on that farm.

There are two types of claims we see regularly involving farm animals. Firstly, claims associated with a mistake involving one animal or a small group of animals, that leads to problems or disease spreading through the farm, this in turn can cause heavy losses. Some examples are: a failure to properly address a laboratory report, leading to a simple misdiagnosis of an infectious disease in an animal being introduced to a naïve herd or flock; or an ineffective vasectomy, leading to a large number of pedigree cows or ewes inadvertently becoming pregnant.

The second type of claim involves advice or treatment provided on a herd or flock basis; for example, a dispensing error resulting in the wrong vaccine being provided as part of a herd immunisation program, leading to clinical disease and a loss of herd health status.

Veterinary work involving export/ import certification of food, food products, pet food, animal feed, eggs, animal products, skins, hides and agricultural machinery is classed as being within Risk Group F of the VDS PI Policy.

Before reaching your decision as to which level of indemnity limit you should choose, you should read the full policy wording and the accompanying policy guidance notes, which you can find on the Our Policy page of our website. You may also wish to seek independent professional advice.

What is the difference between Professional Negligence and Professional Misconduct?

The terms Professional Negligence and Professional Misconduct can appear to mean the same thing. However, there are important differences between these terms and allegations of either one may have different implications. 

Professional Negligence

Professional negligence arises from the failure of a professional to act as a reasonable body of similarly qualified professionals might be expected to act in a given set of circumstances. 

If a claimant can demonstrate that they were owed a duty of care, that this duty was breached (i.e., the professional was negligent) and that as a direct result of that breach they suffered a financial loss, then they have a legitimate claim against the professional to be restored financially to the position they would have enjoyed but for the negligent act. The Courts are the ultimate arbiters of such ‘civil’ claims. 

So, for example, if you operate to spay a cat and inadvertently sever a ureter in the process, your client is due to pay for the spay but not for their losses arising from your negligence – such as a replacement cat or remedial treatment necessary to manage the severed ureter. The law also requires the claimant to mitigate or minimise their losses. 

The VDS Professional Indemnity Policy provides cover for civil liabilities arising from alleged breaches of professional duty which occur in connection with the provision of veterinary services. This cover is for veterinary surgeons, companies, and limited liability partnerships.

For full details of the cover provided please refer to the VDS’s Practice Policy and About the VDS Policy documents

The VDS Professional Indemnity Policy also provides up to £10million (€12million) indemnity for any civil claim relating to a human injury arising from a breach of professional duty during the course of Normal Veterinary Work subject to the Terms and Conditions of the policy. 

For the avoidance of doubt, the VDS Professional Indemnity Policy does not include public liability or employer’s liability insurance.

Professional Misconduct

Professional misconduct results from a failure of the professional (vet or RVN) to behave in accordance with the standard of behaviour expected of him or her by his or her regulator, or a failure to abide by the regulating body’s Code of Professional Conduct. The final arbiter in the UK is the RCVS and in Ireland the VCI. Acting deceitfully or fraudulently are examples of professional misconduct.

The VDS Policy for Representation Costs in Criminal and Disciplinary Proceedings provides cover for representation costs in criminal and disciplinary proceedings for veterinary surgeons and Registered Veterinary Nurses incurred in connection with veterinary work conducted during the policy period.

This cover extends to provide representation costs in criminal proceedings for companies and limited liability partnerships operating a veterinary practice.

For full details of the cover provided please refer to the appropriate policy document available through the VDS website.

If you have any questions about Professional Negligence and Professional Misconduct, or you would like to find out more about what is covered by the VDS Policy, please contact the VDS’s Membership Team.

Do Locums and other Veterinary Sub-contractors need their own Professional Indemnity cover?

Veterinary surgeons who work as independent Veterinary Sub-contractors may wish to consider their own Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance Policy for the following reasons:

  1. You are required by the RCVS and VCI to have PI insurance in place for your Veterinary work.
  2. You may be vulnerable to civil claims for financial compensation relating to accusations of negligence regarding your work.
  3. You may be vulnerable to representation costs relating to allegations of criminal behaviour and/or professional misconduct.

Independent Veterinary Sub-contractors may wish to consider the risks they are exposed to and ensure that they have in place a PI Policy which is sufficient for their needs. Important points to consider include:

  1. The level of Indemnity which you may require
  2. The species you will be treating
  3. The amount of hours you will be working.

Your own PI Policy ensures that you are in control of all the elements which are important for your cover.

For more information about providing your services as a Veterinary Sub-contractor, members can see our advice note: Veterinary Locums and other Sub-contractors: Providing your services to Practices and other Veterinary Businesses.

For more information about a personal VDS PI Policy, please see the ‘Choose VDS’ section of our website or contact the VDS Membership team on +44 (0)1565 652737 or by email.