Disciplinary Committee suspends an Oxfordshire-based vet for six months

24 May 2019

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Disciplinary Committee has suspended a veterinary surgeon based in Witney, Oxfordshire from the Register for six months for failing to communicate with clients, professional colleagues and the College.

The hearing for Dr Susan Catherine Mulvey MRCVS took place on 9 and 10 May in relation to two charges against her. The first charge was that, between 9 May 2018 and 30 October 2018, she failed to provide the clinical history for an English Cocker Spaniel named Henry to the Tremain Veterinary Group, despite requests on numerous dates. Furthermore, the charge stated that between 7 August 2018 and 30 October 2018, she failed to respond adequately or at all with Henry’s owners in relation to their requests for information, particularly in relation to his clinical records and details of insurance claims made for Henry by her practice.

The second charge was that, between 4 January 2019 and 19 February 2019, she failed to respond to reasonable requests from the RCVS, particularly in relation to her treatment of Henry, her continuing professional development (CPD) and the status of her Professional Indemnity Insurance. The College deleted a charge relating to Dr Mulvey failing to have in place any adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance for the period 9 May 2018 to 19 February 2019 as it had recently received confirmation that such insurance was in place.

At the beginning of the hearing, Dr Mulvey admitted the facts and conduct alleged in the charges and further admitted that as a result of her conduct when considered cumulatively she was guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect. The Committee, having considered the evidence provided by the College and Dr Mulvey’s admissions found all the facts and conduct to be proved.

The Committee further concluded that in relation to each individual request made by Tremain Group for Henry’s records following their second request on 10 May 2019 and the requests of Henry’s owners and the College for information as set out in the charges was each individually considered to be disgraceful conduct in a professional respect. The Committee considered that the charges when considered cumulatively also amounted to disgraceful conduct.

The Committee decided, in respect of the first charge, that Dr Mulvey had breached the Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons by failing to provide clinical records or details of insurance claims. This was an administrative part of the function of a veterinary surgeon’s role and that failure to provide clients with such information was unacceptable and fell far short of acceptable professional standards. The Committee noted that Dr Mulvey’s failure to provide details of insurance claims had occurred because she had not made those claims, despite offering to do so.

”The Committee considered that a warning or reprimand was not an appropriate sanction that would meet the public interest. Instead, the Committee decided that a suspension order for a period of six months would allow Dr Mulvey sufficient time to focus on ensuring her practice met the Core Standards set out in the Practice Standards Scheme, without the daily demands of practising as a veterinary surgeon, and was a proportionate and sufficient sanction to meet the public interest. The Committee was satisfied that a period of six months met the public interest as it was sanctioning Dr Mulvey for two sets of similar misconduct which we had determined overall as serious. The Committee also believed that during these six months Dr Mulvey could reflect and reorganise her practice, and there would be little risk to animals and the public in her returning to practice.”

In respect of the second charge, the Committee concluded that Dr Mulvey’s conduct in failing to respond to five requests from the College for information relating to Henry was unacceptable. The Committee also considered that the omissions took place in the context of Dr Mulvey’s previous Disciplinary Committee hearing in April 2018 during which she agreed to a number of undertakings including supervision on her professional practice by an appointed supervisor. It therefore decided that her failure to provide evidence of her CPD and Professional Indemnity Insurance to the College each individually amounted disgraceful conduct in a professional respect

The Committee then went on to consider the sanction for Dr Mulvey in relation to the both charges that it had found proved on 9 May 2019 and also in respect of the charges it had found proved at its earlier hearing on 26 April 2018 for which sanction had been postponed for a period of 1 year to enable Dr Mulvey to comply with Undertakings she gave to the Committee to ensure that her practice met RCVS Core Standards by May 2019.  

The Committee heard from Mr Stuart King MRCVS who had been appointed to act as a Workplace Supervisor for Dr Mulvey during the period of her Undertakings. Mr King provided the Committee with a report upon the extent to which Dr Mulvey had complied with the terms of her Undertakings including the extent which she had implemented Dr King’s numerous recommendations. The Committee also heard from Dr Byrne MRCVS an inspector for the RCVS’s voluntary Practice Standards Scheme that Dr Mulvey’s practice, when inspected by him in early April 2019, had not met RCVS PSS Core standards in a number of areas.  

The Committee heard from Dr Mulvey and her Counsel that she accepted that she had not met RCVS Core standards as she had undertaken to do.

In reaching its decision as to sanction for all the matters, the Committee took into account that Dr Mulvey’s misconduct overall was serious because it was repeated. It also considered aggravating and mitigating factors. Aggravating factors included the fact that the misconduct was sustained or repeated over a period of time (in relation to charge 1 for a period of approximately 4 months and in relation to charge 2 for approximately 6 weeks). Other aggravating factors include the fact that Dr Mulvey’s conduct contravened advice issued by the Professional Conduct Department in letters sent to her, and that she had wilfully disregarded the role of the RCVS and the systems that regulate the veterinary profession.   

Mitigating factors included that: there was no harm to any animal; there was no financial gain for Dr Mulvey or any other party; there was no ulterior motive behind Dr Mulvey’s conduct; and that Dr Mulvey had in fact both completed her minimum CPD requirement and secured Professional Indemnity Insurance, demonstrating that she had not attempted to hide such information from the College. It also took into account that Dr Mulvey, prior to the first Disciplinary Committee’s hearing in 2018, worked without any previous disciplinary findings against her from 1976 to 2018. The Committee also noted that she had made efforts to comply with some of the undertakings.

Mr Ian Green, Chair of the DC and speaking on behalf of the Disciplinary Committee, said: ”The Committee considered that a warning or reprimand was not an appropriate sanction that would meet the public interest. Instead, the Committee decided that a suspension order for a period of six months would allow Dr Mulvey sufficient time to focus on ensuring her practice met the Core Standards set out in the Practice Standards Scheme, without the daily demands of practising as a veterinary surgeon, and was a proportionate and sufficient sanction to meet the public interest. The Committee was satisfied that a period of six months met the public interest as it was sanctioning Dr Mulvey for two sets of similar misconduct which we had determined overall as serious. The Committee also believed that during these six months Dr Mulvey could reflect and reorganise her practice, and there would be little risk to animals and the public in her returning to practice.”

Dr Mulvey has 28 days from being informed of the Committee’s decision to lodge an appeal with the Privy Council.

Please note: This news story is a summary that is intended to assist in understanding the case and the Committee's decision but does not form part of the decision itself. The full facts and findings of the Disciplinary Committee are the only authoritative documents and are available to download from the DC hearings page.

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