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RCVS: concerned about Panorama allegations and will investigate

22 July 2010

We are concerned about allegations raised by tonight’s Panorama programme, and would like to reassure the public that we will investigate the claims made, says veterinary regulatory body, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, commenting on ‘It Shouldn’t Happen at a Vet’s’ (BBC 1, 9pm 22 July).

“It would be impossible to watch such a programme and not feel concern for the animals featured or sympathy towards their owners, and indeed any member of the public or profession who may have been distressed by what they have seen,” says RCVS President Peter Jinman.

The programme has been in the pipeline for some time. The College first met with Panorama over a year ago but, as has been acknowledged in the programme, tonight’s airing was our first opportunity to see it. However, one of the veterinary surgeons featured in the programme – Kfir Segev – was under RCVS investigation well before the Panorama interest began. He has since been ‘struck off’ the RCVS Register for the fraudulent recommendation of unnecessary treatments, meaning he is no longer able to practise as a veterinary surgeon.

“The veterinary profession has a robust regulatory system and allegations have been made which deserve full investigation,” says Mr Jinman. “The BBC has given assurances that they will provide us with the information we need and we will immediately ask for their co-operation. It would be inappropriate to prejudge the outcome of our investigations by commenting on any specific aspects of the programme at this stage.”

The programme covered many issues, with allegations ranging from inappropriate delegation to unqualified staff members, through to fraud. The RCVS regulates veterinary surgeons and considers charges of serious professional misconduct, which might include, and have in fact included, inappropriate delegation to support staff, such as veterinary nursing assistants.

We have also developed non-statutory systems for the regulation of registered veterinary nurses and the maintenance of practice standards.

Some of the allegations made in the programme were of serious offences and the BBC ought to pass details of those to the relevant authorities, such as the police or Trading Standards. The RCVS has a good track record of working with such authorities.

What can you do?

While we understand that the majority of animal owners have great confidence in their veterinary surgeon, where there are concerns, we would encourage people to contact the RCVS.

Any veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse who witnesses behaviour that they believe falls below the high standards expected of the profession is encouraged to report this to us. A number of complaints received by the College each year are from veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and other members of practice staff.

“We appreciate that ‘whistleblowing’ may not be an easy choice, but belonging to a profession brings responsibilities as well as rights, and it is up to every member to ensure that high educational, ethical and clinical standards are maintained,” says Mr Jinman.

Guidance on whistleblowing is available on RCVSonline and further sources of support are available at www.vetlife.org.uk.

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