Cheshire vet cleared of disgraceful conduct allegation

The Disciplinary Committee of the RCVS has found a Cheshire-based veterinary surgeon not guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.

The hearing for Paul Stuart Thomason MRCVS took place on August 6-9, 2018, and concerned the pre-purchase examination (PPE) of a horse named Reba in April 2016.

The charges raised against him related to a potential or actual conflict of interest between Dr. Thomason and the vendor and a failure to inform the prospective buyer of this conflict.

Dr. Thomason initially denied both heads of charge, but on the third day of the hearing, he changed his plea and admitted the charge in its entirety.

The first part of the charge related to the fact that the vendor of Reba was a client of Dr. Thomason’s practice and a personal friend of his, and he, therefore, had a potential conflict of interest.

The professional and personal relationship was not disclosed by Dr. Thomason to the prospective purchaser before the vetting took place.

Evidence on social media

The prospective purchaser only discovered Dr. Thomason’s client relationship with the vendor when reading the vetting certificate at home, and stated that, in the past, she had had a similar experience in which the horse was then found to be lame.

She later found out the extent of the personal relationship when invited to join the vendor on a social media site.

The committee found that, in this set of circumstances, Dr. Thomason should not have undertaken the PPE at all, and, at the very least, disclosed his personal and professional relationship with the vendor.

The committee also found that, although Dr. Thomason did have a system in place to inform any prospective purchasers if the vendor was a client of his practice, this failed to work on this occasion and neither the practice nor Dr. Thomason told the prospective buyer that the vendor was a client before booking the PPE.

Dr. Thomason did not consider there was a conflict of interest as he felt confident he could carry out the PPE impartially.

In addition, it was his belief that the vendor had been alerted to the conflict through a system in place at his practice, implemented to safeguard against this type of error. He stated that he in no way attempted to hide his relationship with the vendor to the prospective purchaser.

It was not alleged that Dr. Thomason had acted dishonestly.

Ultimately, the Committee found Dr. Thomason not guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.

Ian Green, chairing the committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “Whilst the committee concluded that the respondent’s view of his obligations to disclose both the professional and personal relationships he had with the vendor was mistaken, it did not find any improper motivation on his part.

It has already noted that he sought to disclose to the prospective purchaser through his system the fact that the vendor was a professional client of his.

“The committee has weighed all these matters very carefully. It is for the client to determine whether or not to proceed with a PPE when in possession of all relevant facts in relation to any potential conflict of interest, and not for the veterinary surgeon to decide. The autonomy of the client must be respected.

“The committee was firmly of the opinion that a failure to comply with the code is very serious. However, taking into account the particulars of this case, the committee does not consider that the actions of the respondent amount to disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.”