The provision of veterinary clinical services is known to elicit a range of challenges which require an ethical appraisal. In a recent Policy Delphi study, referrals/second opinions and 24 h emergency care were identified as matters of key concern by veterinary professionals in Ireland. In this case study (the first in a series of three resulting from a research workshop exploring challenges facing the veterinary profession in Ireland; the other two case studies investigate the on-farm use of veterinary antimicrobials and emergency/casualty slaughter certification) we aim to provide a value-based reflection on the constraints and possible opportunities for two prominent veterinary clinical services in Ireland: referrals/second opinions and 24 h emergency care. Using a qualitative focus group approach, this study gathered evidence from relevant stakeholders, namely referral and referring veterinarians, clients, animal charities, and the regulatory body. Six overarching, interrelated constraints emerged from the thematic analysis: the need to improve current guidance, managing clients' expectations, concerns with veterinarian well-being, financial issues, timeliness of referral, and conflicts between veterinary practices. Possible solutions to improve veterinary referral and out-of-hours clinical services included clarifying the terms used in current norms and regulations (namely 'referral', 'second opinion', '24 h emergency care' and '24 h cover'), improved communication (making the client aware of the different levels of veterinary care that are being offered, and transparent and full disclosure of clinical records), and the promotion of Continuing Veterinary Education in communication, business management and ethical decision-making. These findings may help inform the Veterinary Council of Ireland about future recommendations and regulatory measures.
University College Dublin ->