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DC reprimands Manchester-based vet for inadequate care and advice

24 January 2020

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has reprimanded and given a warning as to future conduct to a Manchester-based veterinary surgeon for providing an inadequate level of care and advice regarding a Jack Russell terrier.

The hearing of the case against Dr John Gunn MRCVS took place between 28 October and 8 November 2019 and also on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 January 2020, when the Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Mr Stuart Drummond, considered six charges against him.

The first charge alleged that, between 11 January 2018 and 3 February 2018, Dr Gunn failed to provide appropriate and adequate care to the dog. In particular, having removed a mass from the right thorax, Dr Gunn undertook an excess number of surgical procedures, including under general anaesthetic, within a 13 day period; performed these procedures without offering alternative treatments or discussing referral with the owners; failed to recognise infected wounds; and administered an antibiotic when the dog was infected with MRSA and E-coli.

The second charge alleged that Dr Gunn failed to communicate adequately, openly and honestly with the owners of the terrier on multiple occasions between 16 January and 3 February 2018. This included but was not limited to: failing to provide the owners with an estimation of fees; failing to inform them in advance of the procedures performed; failing to inform them of options for treatment; and failing to inform them that the terrier had an infection when he knew or ought to have known that she did.

The third charge alleged that Dr Gunn failed to obtain informed consent in relation to the further procedures performed on the terrier in charge one.

The fourth charge alleged that Dr Gunn failed to maintain adequate clinical records in relation to the management of the dog, and that he failed to record the prescription and administration of drugs to treat the terrier.

The fifth charge alleged that, on 3 February 2018, Dr Gunn indicated to the owners that euthanasia was the most appropriate treatment option and/or that there were no other realistic treatment options, when this was not the case and when he ought to have known this was not the case.

The sixth charge alleged that, during the course of a referral of the terrier to another practice, Dr Gunn failed to provide an adequate history of his management of the dog and that he informed the practice that the owners had no finances when this was not true, amounting to an incomplete account of his dealings with the owners and to a breach of their confidence.

At the outset of the hearing the respondent admitted to a number of the allegations within the main six charges, which were found proved by the Committee.

Of the charges not admitted to, a number were found proved and the Committee then went on to consider whether or not, in relation to these proved charges, Dr Gunn’s conduct amounted to serious professional misconduct. In coming to its decision, the Committee took into account written and oral submissions from the College and from the Respondent.

In considering the aggravating factors, the Committee took into account that the dog’s suffering was prolonged because of the persistence of Dr Gunn in pursuing a single ineffective treatment approach.

With regards to mitigating factors, the Committee found that Dr Gunn was remorseful as to his actions, that there was no financial motivation on the part of Dr Gunn in respect of his treatment of the terrier, and that there is a low risk of repetition because Dr Gunn has sought to learn from this experience. A number of relevant and high-quality testimonials were also provided by colleagues and many satisfied owners on behalf of Dr Gunn.

Considering both the aggravating and mitigating factors, the Committee was satisfied that Dr Gunn’s conduct fell far below the standard expected of a registered veterinary surgeon for a number of the charges.

The Committee then considered what sanction to impose on Dr Gunn. The Committee was satisfied that the misconduct found proved was in relation to the treatment of one dog only and therefore it was at the lower end of the spectrum. However, the conduct took place over a prolonged period of two weeks which in the Committee’s view required a sanction. In such circumstances, and with the significant mitigation, the Committee decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was to reprimand Dr Gunn and to warn him about his future conduct.

Speaking on behalf of the Committee, Mr Stuart Drummond said: “The Committee concluded that the effect of a reprimand alongside the Committee’s findings on disgraceful conduct in a professional respect was a sufficient and proportionate sanction. The Committee found Dr Gunn to have developed sufficient insight into his failings and it was satisfied that the disciplinary process had been a salutary experience and that he is very unlikely to pose a risk to animals in the future or to contravene professional standards.

“The Committee decided that a warning as to future conduct was necessary to reduce the risk of any repetition of any similar conduct for Dr Gunn in the future. It therefore concluded that the sanction of a reprimand and warning would be a sufficient in the circumstances of this case having taking into consideration all the powerful personal mitigation.”

Please note: These news stories are intended to be a summary of the case to assist in understand the circumstances of the case and the Disciplinary Committee's decision. The Committee's full facts and findings are the only authoritative documentation and can be found on our disciplinary hearings webpage.

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