The disciplinary committee (DC) of the RCVS has reprimanded a Slough-based veterinary surgeon after finding him guilty of failing to provide adequate care for a dog.

Belgravia house clock.
Mr Shah’s DC hearing at Belgravia House took four days to complete.

Following a four-day hearing, the DC found Rahul Shah guilty on three charges concerning a castration operation conducted on Shadow, a six-year-old Newfoundland dog, which took place on 20 June 2014.

The charges were:

  • Mr Shah discharged Shadow from his surgery on the date in question into the care of his owner, Gemma Ballantyne, when Shadow was not in a fit state to be so.
  • That, having been alerted in a telephone call to concerns about Shadow’s condition later that evening after he had been brought home, Mr Shah failed to advise Miss Ballantyne Shadow should receive veterinary attention as a matter of urgency. Mr Shah accepted in his evidence he did not give this advice and, therefore, the issue for the DC was whether he should have done.
  • That, during that same telephone call, Mr Shah failed to ensure Miss Ballantyne was fully informed as to out-of-hours (OOH) care.

Separate charges

According to the DC, no complaint was made as to the undertaking of the operation itself and it followed legal advice in considering each charge separately.

When making its decision, the DC also said it did not take into account the fact Shadow had died, as it was “impossible” to say whether he would have survived, had Mr Shah acted differently.

In respect of the first charge, the DC heard from two expert witnesses, who agreed the decision to discharge Shadow at about 6pm on the day of the operation was inappropriate, given his condition. The DC therefore considered this “grossly negligent” and “a serious error of judgement”.

Poor judgement

On the second charge, Mr Shah was found to have “exacerbated” the situation through “inadequacy” of his response when Miss Ballantyne telephoned the practice 30 and 45 minutes after discharge. This, in the committee’s view, represented a continuation of his previous poor judgement.

On the final charge, and in the same telephone call, the DC found Mr Shah gave no further details about the OOH care available to Miss Ballantyne, other than to inform her there would be an additional cost. He also did not seek confirmation any such information had been supplied by his colleague, Emma Martin – who at the relevant time was a student nurse – and at no time did he see Miss Ballantyne in possession of the discharge sheet.

The DC said it did accept there was no element of dishonesty, nor an aim of financial gain, and that Mr Shah was acting “in good faith” at all times.

The DC said it also accepted he was entitled to assume normal practice had been followed in that Miss Ballantyne had received a previously compiled discharge sheet, containing the number of the OOH provider concerned.

Strong advice

Chairing the DC, Ian Green said: “Balancing all of the factors, as the DC must, it is clear on this occasion Mr Shah’s conduct fell far short of that expected and it therefore finds he conducted himself disgracefully in a professional respect.

“In imposing the sanction of a reprimand, the committee urges Mr Shah in the strongest possible terms to ensure his future conduct by way of training and support systems within his practice are such as to avoid any possibility of a future incident such as this occurring.

“The DC notes that in her evidence, Miss Martin said the working practices at the surgery have been changed and the DC expects all animals kept in the care of Mr Shah to be fully monitored, examined and assessed before being discharged.”

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