The RCVS Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee has given a nine-month suspension to a Paisley-based veterinary nurse for taking items from her veterinary practice without paying for them and for asking a colleague to dishonestly input one of her pet’s clinical details against the records of another one of her pets, which was also registered at the practice.
The hearing for Laura Benson RVN took place between 14 and 17 June 2021 and involved six charges against her.
Charge 1 alleged that between 1 January 2018 and 11 November 2019 she took a number of bags of dog food and two horse wormer syringes from the practice, located in Paisley, without paying for them.
Charge 2 alleged that between 1 November 2018 and 11 November 2019 she took a number of items of animal food and one or more boxes of horse wormer and paid less than the correct amount for them.
Charge 3 alleged that between 1 October 2018 and 11 November 2019 she arranged for or allowed a friend to receive a discount on items from the practice, without consent from the practice.
Charge 4 alleged that on or around 21 December 2019 she asked a veterinary surgeon colleague to input details of treatment and/or medicine for her cat into the clinical records of another of her animals that was also registered to the practice.
Charge 5 alleged that in relation to charges 1, 2 and 3, her conduct was dishonest.
Charge 6 alleged that in relation to charge 4, her conduct was dishonest, potentially compromised the integrity of a professional colleague and was potentially detrimental to animal welfare.
At the outset of the hearing, Ms Benson admitted to charges 1,2,3,4 and 6 of the allegations and the Committee accepted these admissions. The Committee considered evidence from Ms Benson’s colleagues including witness statements, written testimonial and clinical records for her animals.
When asked about taking items from the practice, Ms Benson explained that she did not intend to take items without paying for them and that she had not realised how much she had taken. She also explained that she had paid back in full what she owed to the practice. The Committee considered that Ms Benson’s conduct had involved a degree of premeditation as she had repeatedly taken items over an extended period. They also considered that there had been a potential risk of injury to animals resulting from Ms Benson’s request to incorrectly write up her animal’s veterinary records.
The defence attested that no actual harm had come to any animal because of Ms Benson’s actions and that she previously had an unblemished career in veterinary nursing. She had also admitted most of the charges against her and paid for the items she had taken in full.
“The Committee accepted that Ms Benson had developing insight in making her admissions and we give her credit for her long unblemished career. She admitted to a large part of the allegation, expressed remorse for her actions and has repaid the practice. We have also heard a number of positive testimonials which spoke positively of Ms Benson’s recent conduct,” Cerys Jones, Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee Chair
Cerys Jones, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee considered that in the case of Ms Benson, there had been a potential risk to animals had her pet’s records been incorrectly completed, although no harm resulted. The request to alter the records had been a short, single event, but the taking of items had been repeated over a period. The Committee also considered that Ms Benson had abused the trust placed in her as a senior nurse with managerial responsibility. We took into account that there was some evidence of Ms Benson being overloaded by work, but there was no evidence of any health condition during the time of the misconduct which might explain her actions.”
The Committee found Ms Benson guilty of serious professional misconduct and in deciding on sanction, the Committee considered all the evidence before it and the submissions from both parties. The Committee decided that a nine-month suspension from the Register was the most appropriate sanction and was one that best took the public, and Ms Benson’s, interest into account.
Cerys Jones, speaking on behalf of the Committee, said: “The Committee accepted that Ms Benson had developing insight in making her admissions and we give her credit for her long unblemished career. She admitted to a large part of the allegation, expressed remorse for her actions and has repaid the practice. We have also heard a number of positive testimonials which spoke positively of Ms Benson’s recent conduct.
“However, dishonesty is a serious matter in relation to professional practice and taking no action in response to the serious nature of Ms Benson’s disgraceful conduct would not be proportionate or serve to protect animals and maintain public confidence in the profession.
“Having carefully considered matters, the Committee decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction, was to suspend Ms Benson’s registration for nine months.”
Ms Benson has 28 days from being informed of the outcome of the hearing to appeal the Committee’s decision.
Please note: This news story is a summary of the hearing written on behalf of the Disciplinary Committee to assist in understanding the case and the Committee’s decision. The full findings for the case can be found here.