The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) has restored a vet to the register two years after he was struck off for serious professional misconduct.

Joseph Lennox Holmes – who sold his two practices in Lincolnshire to concentrate on his RCVS case – was struck off after the disciplinary committee (DC) found him guilty on two separate complaints:

  • numerous charges regarding the treatment of a king Charles spaniel between October 2007 and March 2008; and
  • several charges regarding treatment of three cats in 2008.

Following the decision in January 2011, Mr Holmes lodged an appeal, which was heard and dismissed by the privy council in December 2011. Mr Holmes was removed from the register in February 2012.

At the time of his original hearing, the DC said it found the majority of the charges against Mr Holmes amounted to serious professional misconduct. In removing Mr Holmes from the register, the committee said it found “aggravating factors” in both cases included “actual injuries to the animals” and a “serious breach of trust“. In addition, it cited 10 further aggravating factors including:

  • lack of reference to CPD in clinical policies and practices;
  • lack of reference to accepted practice;
  • lack of appreciation of the importance of adequate pain relief when performing painful surgical procedures;
    reluctance to consider referral as an option; and
  • lack of understanding about what information is required by a client to enable fully informed consent to be given.

Mr Holmes’ successful restoration to the register was his second attempt. His first application, in February 2013, failed as the DC said it was “not satisfied” because his application was “premature” and he had “failed to truly appreciate the seriousness of the findings against him“. The committee said it was also “unimpressed” with the efforts he had made to keep up-to-date with skills and developments in practice and with his CPD.
 
However, in the most recent two-day hearing, the DC ruled Mr Holmes was fit to be restored to the register after hearing he had made a “concerted effort” to engage in CPD and bring his skills and knowledge up-to-date. During a period of observation at a veterinary practice, for example, he had gained insight into modern practice and the need for veterinary general practitioners to be aware of the advantages in referring patients to specialists.

Chairman of the committee Noreen Burrows said: “The DC has concluded that, in the course of genuine efforts to do what was necessary to address the deficiencies identified during the original Inquiry and at the last restoration hearing, the applicant has at last understood the seriousness of his previous misconduct and has learned new skills and, most importantly, to recognise his limitations from the extensive course of study, reflection, and other training that he has undertaken.”
 
The DC said it was also satisfied Mr Holmes had gained a “proper understanding” of the importance of securing the informed consent of his clients and building a relationship of trust with them and, in addition, recognising the importance of maintaining close relations with fellow professionals and engaging with CPD opportunities.
 
Additional factors considered when making the decision included:

  • Mr Holmes’ period of absence from the register
  • his moves to equip himself to treat animals appropriately through “self-improvement
  • the impact in both personal and financial terms of his removal;
  • his conduct since removal; an
  • a number of positive testimonials from previous clients and professional colleagues.
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