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Somerset-based veterinary surgeon reprimanded for failing to respond to CPD requests

16 August 2017

The RCVS Disciplinary Committee has reprimanded a Somerset-based veterinary surgeon for failing to respond, on two separate occasions, to repeated requests from the College for his continuing professional development (CPD) records.

The hearing for Arturas Zukauskas took place on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 August 2017 and, at the outset, he admitted to the charge against him. The first part of the charge was that, between 3 November 2014 and 10 December 2016 he did not provide CPD records to the College requested in four separate letters dated November 2014, September 2015, November 2015 and November 2016. The second part of the charge was that, between 11 December 2016 and 26 July 2017, he did not provide the College with his CPD records despite requests.

The Committee then considered whether Mr Zukauskas’ failure to respond to requests for his CPD records constituted serious professional misconduct. The Committee found that he had breached the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons by not responding to the repeated requests for information from the College, although the Committee noted that there had not been total silence. Mr Zukauskas had made email contact on at least two occasions in response to letters from the College and gave evidence that he had attempted to phone the authors of the letters. The Committee also noted that in early February 2017 Mr Zukauskas had made repeated attempts to give the College access to his online CPD account, which he had been updating to reflect CPD work that he had undertaken.

Mr Zukauskas’ explanation for his failure was that he had not fully appreciated the importance of the letters, that his English was poor, and that he failed to obtain appropriate advice about the content of the letters until recently. It was only in a witness statement dated 27 July 2017 that he finally disclosed his full CPD records.

The Committee noted Mr Zukauskas’ admission in his evidence that his English was not good, particularly in light of the obligation, brought into the Code in February 2016, for veterinary surgeons to be able to communicate effectively in written and spoken English.

Chitra Karve, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “From that date, if not earlier, the respondent should have been concerned to understand English sufficiently well to address the correspondence from the College. Whilst the Committee did not consider that his conduct in this respect amounted to disrespect, it did consider that he had shown a disregard of his obligations.

“At all times he could and should have made appropriate efforts to respond to the correspondence from the College and obtain appropriate advice. In effect he put off dealing with these matters and put his head in the sand.”

Regarding his failure to respond to requests between December 2016 and July 2017, Ms Karve added: “This caused the College a considerable amount of concern and extra work. Had he done so much earlier, much of this matter would have been avoided. The respondent was once again in breach of his obligations.”

Having found Mr Zukauskas guilty of serious professional misconduct in relation to both parts of the charge the Committee then considered its sanction against Mr Zukauskas, taking into account the fact that the Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee had recently suspended a veterinary nurse from the Register for a period of two months having found her guilty of similar charges.

In mitigation the Committee considered a number of testimonials from colleagues and clients, his hitherto long and unblemished career in the United Kingdom, and his open and frank admissions and subsequent efforts to avoid repetition of his behaviour. Language problems were also considered as an explanation for why the situation had occurred. However, it also considered the aggravating factor that the misconduct was sustained over a period of time and that there was unacceptable disregard for the obligations he had to the College as a veterinary surgeon.

In summing up Ms Karve said: “The Committee has determined to impose a reprimand. In doing so it acknowledged that the respondent has shown considerable insight into his behaviour. He had acknowledged that he has needed help in communicating with the College. It noted that he is a good and proficient veterinary surgeon in the work which he undertakes. He expressed remorse for his behaviour. He has carried out sufficient CPD and since December 2016 has been communicating with the College. The Committee considers it unlikely that he will transgress again.

“The Committee has decided that it is appropriate in this case to add a warning to the decision to impose a reprimand. It is mindful of the fact that other veterinary surgeons registered with the College have a duty to discharge their CPD obligations and they honour those obligations. Moreover, the conduct of the respondent has involved a considerable amount of work and expense for the College.”

The warning was that in future Mr Zukauskas must respond in a timely and appropriate manner to any communications from the RCVS.

NOTE: This summary is provided to assist in understanding the RCVS Disciplinary Committee’s decision. It does not form part of the reasons for the decision. The Committee’s full findings and decision is the only authoritative document.

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