The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has adjourned its consideration of an application for restoration to the Register of Veterinary Surgeons made by for a former Official Veterinarian (OV) who was struck off for falsifying certificates, to allow her an opportunity to gather further evidence to prove that to the Committee’s satisfaction that she is fit to be restored to the Register.
Laura Padron Vega was originally removed from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons in December 2018 following an RCVS Disciplinary Committee hearing at which she was found, whilst undertaking her responsibilities as an Official Veterinarian (OV), to have dishonestly backdated two statutory Certificates of Competence submitted to the Food Standards Agency under the Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing Regulations 2015. Furthermore, she was found to have failed in her duties as an OV because she was unprepared for, and unaware of, the new regulations and did not take adequate steps to ensure that the two individuals for whom she had given veterinary certification were licensed to perform slaughter in accordance with these regulations.
The restoration hearing took place on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 December 2020. At the outset Ms Padron Vega said that she fully admitted her guilt and responsibility for the conduct that had seen her removed from the Register and made representations that she appreciated the seriousness of her actions and that there was no chance of her repeating them. She also produced a number of testimonials, including some from former veterinary colleagues, in addition to evidence that she had endeavoured to keep up-to-date with her continuing professional development while off the Register although this had been difficult due to her financial circumstances.
“While the Committee did not consider that the applicant was in a position to return to practice at this point, it did consider that if the applicant applies herself to a properly structured and focused Return to Practice Plan and is able to produce evidence of how she has fulfilled the requirements of that plan, then her application could prove successful within a short time,” Cerys Jones.
In considering her application for restoration, the Committee found that Ms Padron Vega had accepted the reasons for her removal from the Register and the seriousness of the findings. It found that she was unlikely to repeat the behaviour and that her conduct had been entirely acceptable since she was removed from the Register. It also considered her financial and personal circumstances, noting the difficulty she had in securing well-paid, full-time employment since her removal from the Register, and the impact that this had on her being able to keep up-to-date with her continuing professional development (CPD).
However, the Committee expressed concerns over her efforts to keep up-to-date with the knowledge and skills she would need to return to practice and said she demonstrated “no real appreciation of what she needed to put in place to demonstrate that she can return to work safely”.
In particular it found that the CPD she had undertaken was unstructured and insufficient and that therefore she had not done enough at the present time to demonstrate that she was fit to be restored to the Register, especially as she signalled that, if restored, she hoped to work in small animal practice, an area that she had not worked in for some time.
Cerys Jones, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “While the Committee did not consider that the applicant was in a position to return to practice at this point, it did consider that if the applicant applies herself to a properly structured and focused Return to Practice Plan and is able to produce evidence of how she has fulfilled the requirements of that plan, then her application could prove successful within a short time. The outcome of the plan for a return to practice will need to ensure the continued protection of the welfare of animals as well as the interests of clients whose animals she might be called upon to treat and, most importantly, the public interest which is founded on a belief that the veterinary certification processes are beyond question or doubt.”
In order to allow Ms Padron Vega sufficient time to develop this plan, the Committee adjourned the restoration hearing for seven months (until July 2021).
Ms Jones added: “This adjournment will afford [Ms Padron Vega] an early opportunity to reflect on the concerns of the Committee… and to return with a properly supported programme for the future which will show her understanding of the problems that are likely to face her on her return to practice and her proposals to meet those inevitable difficulties.”