LONDON, June 21/PRNewswire/ -- The Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons yesterday (20 June 2007) directed that a veterinary surgeon from the Isle of Wight should be suspended from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons having found him guilty of serious professional misconduct.
At the conclusion of the three-day hearing, Mr Paul Hallum, formerly in practice at Green, Forster and Hallum in Newport, was found guilty on a charge of professional misconduct that involved his omission of key information from a veterinary certificate.
The Committee heard that, in 2002, Mr Hallum had examined a nine-year old gelding called Noah, owned by Mr and Mrs King, for intermittent hind leg lameness. The case was referred for more specialised investigation and treatment and, later that year, Mr Hallum re-examined Noah and noted no apparent lameness. In 2004, Noah collapsed when mounted and was examined and treated by Dr Green, Mr Hallum's then partner. Dr Green verbally reported this incident to Mr Hallum, who then referred Noah for physiotherapy, subsequently receiving verbal and written communications from the physiotherapists on Noah's condition.
Later in 2004, Mrs King wanted her insurance company to remove its exclusions on Noah's insurance policy following the injury in 2002, and asked Mr Hallum to certify that Noah was in good health. The Committee heard that Mr Hallum had agreed to do this, but found no evidence to suggest that he knew at this time of Mrs King's intention to sell the horse.
A message from Mrs King was recorded in the practice message book which stated: "Letter - but don't include the slip in the field". Mr Hallum denied that he had ever seen this. A few weeks later, Mrs King phoned the practice again to ask for the letter whilst Mr Hallum was on rounds.
Mr Hallum then dictated a letter over the telephone to the practice receptionist, certifying "that to his knowledge the horse had not suffered any further lameness episodes relating to the incident in November 2002 and was currently in good health" and instructed her to pp it and send it to Mrs King. On the basis of this letter, Mrs King was able to sell Noah to Mrs Heather Mills.
When Noah fell lame on his left foreleg in 2005, Mrs Mills asked Mr Hallum whether Noah had suffered any further lameness. Mr Hallum had checked the clinical notes and 'readily reported' the incident involving Dr Green and the physiotherapist. In a subsequent meeting with Mrs Mills, Dr Green was unable to account for these inconsistencies but reported that an undated veterinary certificate was poor practice.
Mr Hallum told the Committee that he had made the mistake of wording the certificate based on memory, rather than referring to the clinical records, and admitted there was no date on the certificate. He also stated that there was no intention to mislead the insurance company and he had not been asked by Mrs King to omit anything from the certificate.
Considering the Legal Assessor's advice that they must be sure the evidence proved Mr Hallum had deliberately withheld information from the insurance company - tantamount to an allegation of fraud - the Committee was not convinced there was sufficient evidence to support such an allegation.
However, the Committee felt that supplying an undated certificate that was not checked for accuracy nor signed by the veterinary surgeon himself was far below the standard to be expected of any veterinary surgeon and concluded that Mr Hallum's actions did constitute disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.
Mr Brian Jennings, Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, said: "We wish to make clear the importance and status of any document signed by a veterinary surgeon that another body might rely on. Whilst inaccurate information on such documents referred to this Committee would normally result in severe penalty for the veterinary surgeon concerned, we find that Mr Hallum genuinely believed the contents were correct and was not aware it would be used to assist in the sale of the horse.
"In view of the considerable number of testimonials we have seen, Mr Hallum's financial circumstances, and the Privy Council's previous decisions regarding financial implications [of being unable to practise], we have taken an unusually lenient view in this case and direct that Mr Hallum should be suspended from the Register for two months."
1.The RCVS is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons in the UK and deals with issues of professional misconduct, maintaining the register of veterinary surgeons eligible to practise in the UK and assuring standards of veterinary education.
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:
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.Further information, including the charge against Mr Hallum and the Disciplinary Committee's findings can be found via RCVSonline at http://www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary
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