The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has directed that an Essex-based veterinary surgeon be removed from the Register after he carried out an act of veterinary certification while off the Register, failed to have professional indemnity insurance in place and failed to respond to reasonable requests from the College as his professional regulator.
The hearing for Andrew Michael Dobson MRCVS took place from Monday 2 to Wednesday 4 August 2021. At the start of the hearing the RCVS applied for it to take place in the absence of Mr Dobson who had failed to respond to the RCVS when informed about the hearing. The application was granted by the DC on the basis that Mr Dobson, by refusing to respond to communications from the College – including by letter, telephone and email – had voluntarily waived his right to attend the hearing.
There were three sets of charges against Mr Dobson about which the Committee considered the evidence. The first charge was that, on 21 June 2018 while he was not on the Register of Veterinary Surgeons, Mr Dobson had carried out an equine pre-purchase examination (PPE) and used the postnominals MRCVS – which only registered veterinary surgeons may use – to sign the associated PPE certificate and covering letter. The Committee found this charge proven after it was presented with evidence of the certificate and covering letter alongside the fact that Mr Dobson had been removed from the Register on 1 June 2018 for non-payment of the annual renewal fee needed to remain on the RCVS Register. He was only restored to the Register upon paying his outstanding fee on 23 November 2018.
The second charge related to Mr Dobson’s failure to have professional indemnity insurance (or PII) or other equivalent arrangements in place for the period 21 June 2018 to 1 August 2020 and for failing to provide adequate details of his PII when requested to by the RCVS for the period between 17 March and 4 August 2020. The requirement for veterinary surgeons to have PII arrangements or other equivalent arrangements in place is contained in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct and the Committee was presented with evidence that Mr Dobson had failed to confirm that he had this in place prior to 1 August 2020 and that, furthermore, he had failed to respond to numerous requests for evidence from the College. On this basis the Committee found these charges proven.
“The respondent demonstrated a pattern of behaviour in not responding, which was sustained and persistent. He asked for extensions of time but did not make good on his assurances that he would provide information,” Cerys Jones, Disciplinary Committee Chair.
The third and final charge was that Mr Dobson had failed to respond to numerous reasonable requests from the RCVS, including: between 8 October and 12 December 2019 failing to provide written comments on concerns relating to the equine PPE; between 17 March and 21 July failing to provide written comments on the concern that he had carried out the PPE and used the postnominals MRCVS while not on the Register; that between 18 June and 18 November 2018 he failed to provide details of his continuing professional development (CPD) for the previous three years; and that between 12 August and 18 November 2020 he failed to provide copies of his Day Book and/or Controlled Drugs Register for the period 1 June 2018 to 1 August 2020. All elements of this charge were found proven when the Committee was presented with evidence of numerous attempts to contact him that went unacknowledged and unanswered.
Having found the charges proven, the Committee next considered if they amounted to serious professional misconduct, both individually and cumulatively. Regarding the first charge, the Committee recognised that Mr Dobson had not intentionally allowed his registration with the College to expire and that it was down to administrative error. However, it also considered that he had not responded to or taken action upon receiving numerous reminders to pay his fees. It considered that Mr Dobson had therefore acted recklessly in not only allowing his registration to expire but in continuing to practise veterinary surgery while not registered, a criminal act in contravention of the Veterinary Surgeons Act. The Committee therefore found that the first charge amounted to serious professional misconduct.
“The respondent demonstrated a wilful disregard of the role of the RCVS and the regulatory processes by way of his disgraceful conduct. In addition, his lack of engagement with the hearing process indicates to the Committee that he is not engaging with his regulator and, along with the limited insight and lack of remediation with respect to the disgraceful conduct, this demonstrates a lack of insight into the seriousness of his actions or their consequences,” Cerys Jones.
In relation to the remaining charges, the Committee also found that these constituted serious professional misconduct.
Cerys Jones, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf said: “The respondent demonstrated a pattern of behaviour in not responding, which was sustained and persistent. He asked for extensions of time but did not make good on his assurances that he would provide information. Due to the length of time during which the respondent failed to comply with the requests, as well as the proliferation of issues in respect of which he did not comply, the Committee was of the view that he demonstrated a wilful disregard of the role of the RCVS and the regulatory processes. This was particularly serious in light of the reliance which the RCVS places upon its members to cooperate with providing it with information relating to their professional practice which is relevant to the RCVS’s regulation of the profession.
“There was no harm caused to animals or the public, and the Committee acknowledged that practice circumstances have been made more difficult in general by the Covid-19 pandemic. However… the respondent’s failures to comply were serious and undermined the functions of the RCVS. The Committee was satisfied that the respondent’s failures fell so far below what was expected as to amount to serious professional misconduct.”
Having found that all the charges amounted to serious professional misconduct the Committee then considered the most appropriate sanction for Mr Dobson. In terms of aggravating factors, the Committee considered Mr Dobson’s recklessness in failing to renew his registration and practising while it was lapsed, his pattern of not responding to the RCVS, the fact that financial gain was obtained as a result of misconduct, a wilful disregard to the RCVS and regulation, and limited evidence of insight. In mitigation the Committee considered Mr Dobson’s previous good character, a long and otherwise unblemished career, the fact that no animals were harmed and increased demands on time and processes due to Covid-19.
However, taking all of the information into account, the Committee decided that removal from the Register was the appropriate and proportionate sanction due to the sustained and prolonged nature of the misconduct.
Cerys Jones said: “The respondent demonstrated a wilful disregard of the role of the RCVS and the regulatory processes by way of his disgraceful conduct. In addition, his lack of engagement with the hearing process indicates to the Committee that he is not engaging with his regulator and, along with the limited insight and lack of remediation with respect to the disgraceful conduct, this demonstrates a lack of insight into the seriousness of his actions or their consequences.”
Mr Dobson has 28 days from being notified of his removal from the Register to lodge an appeal with the Privy Council.
Please note: this news story is intended to be a summary of the hearing to aid in understanding the case and the Committee’s decision. The Committee’s full decision can be found on our Disciplinary Committee hearings webpage.