RCVS News: Disciplinary Committee Reprimands and Warns Hampshire Vet

By Royal College Of Veterinary Surgeons, PRNE
Monday, November 21, 2011

LONDON, November 22, 2011 -

At a resumed hearing last week [18 November 2011], the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) reprimanded and warned as to his future conduct a Hampshire veterinary surgeon found guilty of serious professional misconduct for cumulative failures to provide adequate professional care, and insufficient regard for animal welfare whilst treating a dog that had ingested broken glass. This sanction was decided following a 12-month postponement of a decision ordered at a hearing on 19 November 2010.

At last week’s hearing, the Committee was asked to decide what sanction would be appropriate in the case of Peter Ardle MacMahon for his treatment of a Cocker Spaniel called Wilfred, while working as a locum in Portsmouth. In 2010, the Committee found that Mr MacMahon had not removed the ingested glass from Wilfred’s stomach or adequately checked that he had done so; had inadequately prevented abdominal contamination; and, had failed to communicate this contamination problem to Wilfred’s usual veterinary surgeon. Considering these charges cumulatively, the Committee found that the treatment Mr MacMahon provided to Wilfred had fallen far short of the standard to be expected in the profession and amounted to serious professional misconduct.

Shortly prior to treating Wilfred, Mr MacMahon had returned to practice after a ten-year absence and, at last year’s hearing, agreed to comply with undertakings regarding his professional development. These included performing at least 70 hours of medical and surgical continuing professional development (CPD); providing the Disciplinary Committee Chairman with quarterly CPD reports and two employer reports regarding his competence; observing 24 days of current practice by shadowing another veterinary surgeon; and, providing reports from this veterinary surgeon as to his competence and a case diary.

The Committee considered the factual findings from the November 2010 hearing and the concerns then expressed about Mr MacMahon’s conduct and capabilities as a veterinary surgeon, as well as his compliance with the agreed undertakings. As advised by the Legal Assessor, the Committee’s considerations of sanction began at the lowest level that would ensure that the welfare of animals was properly protected; that proper standards would be maintained among practitioners in the profession; and, that would be in the interests of the public.

Speaking on behalf of the Disciplinary Committee, Chairman Professor Peter Lees said: “The Committee is satisfied that the respondent had complied fully with the spirit of the requirements of the undertakings he had entered into on 18 November 2010. Indeed, the view is that the respondent has done well to achieve the level of compliance that he has, given that he had suffered a period of significant ill-health during the period since he entered into those undertakings.

“The ultimate decision is that the respondent’s conduct [...] warrants the imposition of at least a reprimand,” he continued. “However, it is also the Committee’s firm view that the respondent must be warned about his future conduct so that he will know the Committee considers he needs to maintain the level of continuous professional development that he has achieved [over the last] 12 months, and to have constantly in mind the paramount obligation of all veterinary surgeons to ensure the welfare of animals under their care. ¬†

“Such a warning as to future conduct should, and the Committee believes that it will, serve as a constant reminder to the respondent that he must undertake only those procedures, and only proffer professional advice, in the areas where he has the requisite up-to-date skills, knowledge and experience.”

The Committee reprimanded Mr MacMahon and warned him as to his future conduct.

1) The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in the UK and deals with issues of professional misconduct, maintaining the Registers of veterinary surgeons and of veterinary nurses and assuring standards of veterinary education. It also has a ‘Royal College’ role, which means that it is responsible for postgraduate veterinary and veterinary nursing qualifications.

2) RCVS disciplinary powers are exercised through the Preliminary Investigation and Disciplinary Committees, established in accordance with Schedule 2 to the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (the 1966 Act). The RCVS has authority to deal with three types of case:

a) Fraudulent registration

b) Criminal convictions

c) Allegations of disgraceful professional conduct

3) The Disciplinary Committee is a constituted judicial tribunal under the 1966 Act and follows rules of evidence similar to those used in a court of law.

4) The burden of proving an allegation falls upon the RCVS, and the RCVS must prove to the standard that the Committee is sure.

5) A respondent veterinary surgeon may appeal a Disciplinary Committee decision to the Privy Council within 28 days of the date of the decision. If no appeal is received, the Committee’s judgment takes effect after this period.

6) Further information, including about the hearing in November 2010 and the charges against Mr MacMahon, as well as the Committee’s decision, can be found at www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary.

For more information please contact:

Claire Millington, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons +44(0)20-7202-0783 / c.millington@rcvs.org.uk  


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