Cheltenham-based vet suspended from Register for dishonesty over bTB testing - Veterinary Practice
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Cheltenham-based vet suspended from Register for dishonesty over bTB testing

RCVS Disciplinary Committee found his conduct to risk undermining government testing procedures designed to promote public health

The RCVS Disciplinary
Committee has directed that a Cheltenham-based veterinary surgeon be suspended
from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons for three months after it found him
guilty of serious professional misconduct in respect of bovine tuberculosis
(bTB) testing undertaken at a Cheltenham farm in his capacity as an Official
Veterinarian (OV) in March 2018. The Committee found his conduct to be
dishonest, misleading and that it risked undermining government testing
procedures designed to promote public health.

The hearing for Mr David
Chalkley took place from Monday 10
May to Tuesday 18 May 2021 at a venue in Cheltenham and concerned three charges
against him.

first charge was that, in respect of Intradermal Comparative
Tuberculin (ICT) tests which he was engaged to undertake at the farm on 5 March 2018 and 8 March 2018, he failed to identify
some or all of the animals tested.

second charge was that Mr Chalkley had certified that he had carried out ICT tests on 279 animals at the farm and recorded the results on
the accompanying paperwork but had, in fact, not adequately identified some or
all of the 279 animals and had fabricated the skin thickness measurements
recorded for some of them. In addition, the charge alleged that Mr Chalkley’s
conduct was dishonest, misleading and risked undermining
government testing procedures designed to promote public health.

The third and
final charge was that between 1 June 2011 and 1 September 2018, Mr Chalkley
received payment of approximately £20,000 for ICT tests when, as a result of
his conduct in relation to ICT tests at the farm, he was not entitled to such

At the outset of
the hearing Mr Chalkley, via his counsel, admitted the first charge, namely
that he had not on 5 March 2018 and 8 March 2018 adequately identified
some of the animals. On the third day of the hearing, during his evidence to
the Committee, he admitted that his certification of the ICT testing was
therefore misleading. He denied the rest of the charges including that his
conduct had been dishonest and that it had risked undermining government
testing procedures designed to promote public health.

In considering the
charges against Mr Chalkley, the Committee heard that discrepancies regarding
the tests that were carried out on the farm in March 2018 were originally
raised by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), on whose behalf Mr
Chalkley carried out ICT testing in his capacity as an Official Veterinarian.

When Mr Chalkley
gave evidence during the hearing, he explained that he had taken over TB
testing for the farm in 2008 and that working conditions on the farm had been
difficult throughout the whole period 2008 to 2018. He stated that due to the
harsh weather conditions of early 2018, TB testing was difficult, and that the farmer
needed to complete the test by March 2018 to avoid a financial penalty. Mr
Chalkley explained that one of the reasons for there being limited time
available for him to carry out the test within the time required by the farmer
was that he was due to provide veterinary cover at the Cheltenham races the
following week and he was unable to find anyone else to cover the tests. Mr
Chalkley also explained that during the tests on 5 and 8 March there had been
limited farmhands available to assist in processing the cattle through the

In the course of
being asked questions by counsel for the RCVS, Mr Chalkley accepted that he had
failed to identify some 45 percent of the animals he had injected on 5 March 2018 and
had, in respect of each of the skin thickness measurements for those animals,
randomly chosen a figure that he believed would be appropriate based on the
breed, age and sex of the animal. The APHA guidelines state that specific
measurements should be made and recorded for each individual animal using
callipers. Mr Chalkley said that he could not remember seeing the “pop-up”
declaration which appeared when submitting the results to the APHA online and
had never read it. He stated that he was not aware that he was making a
declaration. However, he accepted that as an Official Veterinarian he was
confirming that he had carried out the test properly. While he agreed that he
knew that the test contained inaccuracies, he did not accept that he was being
dishonest when he submitted the results.

Having considered
all the evidence put forward by the RCVS and Mr Chalkley in his own defence,
the Committee found that Mr Chalkley had acted dishonestly in deliberately
choosing not to take the measurements on 5 March and had instead submitted
fabricated alternatives, and so risked undermining public health by failing to
carry out his duties as an OV. The Committee also concluded that Mr Chalkley
had been acting dishonestly, as he knew that he was submitting the test
results as if they were the authentic outcome of a properly conducted test when
in reality, they were no such thing. The Committee did not accept Mr Chalkley’s
evidence that he was unaware of the declaration which accompanied the
submission of the test outcome. The Committee therefore found both the first
and second charges proved.

In respect of the third charge
the Committee found that this was not proven noting that the RCVS had not
disproved Mr Chalkley’s explanation regarding his reasons for returning the
£20,000 in fees he had received for carrying out TB testing at the farm from
the APHA since 2011.

The Committee then
went on to consider whether the first two charges, both of which had been found
proven, amounted to serious professional misconduct, either individually or

Ian Arundale,
chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The Committee was
prepared to accept that the respondent considered the risk arising from his
actions as negligible. Nonetheless, in the Committee’s assessment a real risk
existed due to the respondent’s actions and it was precisely the risk which the
authorised testing procedure was designed to negate. The simple fact is the
respondent could not be sure that each animal he assessed on 8 March 2018 had
also been seen by him on 5 March 2018.

“However, the
wider point with which the Committee was concerned related to the importance of
any member of the profession or public being able to rely absolutely on the
integrity of veterinary certification. Those parts of the Code and supporting
guidance [concerning certification]… were unequivocal. It was very difficult to
conceive of circumstances in which it could ever be justifiable to certify the
outcome of a test which had not, in fact, been conducted in a way which was
demonstrably valid and reliable. Such conduct was bound to be regarded as
disgraceful by members of the profession and the general public.

“Honesty is the
bedrock of appropriate certification and the Code
and Guidance for the Disciplinary Committee is also unequivocal. Dishonesty in
professional practice is always an extremely serious matter and the
respondent’s responsibilities in the discharge of his functions as an Official
Veterinarian were clear. On this occasion those responsibilities had been

“For these
reasons, the Committee has come to the conclusion that the respondent’s conduct
in relation to the facts found proved was disgraceful conduct in a professional

Having found
serious professional misconduct in respect of the proven charges, the Committee
then went on to consider the most appropriate and proportionate sanction for Mr
Chalkley, taking into account aggravating and mitigating factors.

The Committee
heard oral evidence in mitigation, including from a former colleague who had
worked with him in practice since 2006, as well as receiving a large number of
written testimonials from various sources that attested to his honesty,
integrity, willingness to help others, and charitable work in support of animal

Mr Chalkley’s
counsel, in mitigation, highlighted his long and previously unblemished career,
and characterised the conduct as an inexcusable but explicable error of
judgement that was entirely isolated and out-of-character. Mr Chalkley’s
counsel added that he had not done anything that he thought was seriously
wrong, and there was no evidence that any harm had been done and that any risk
to public health was not serious.

The Committee
accepted that the conduct was isolated and out-of-character and that, furthermore,
Mr Chalkley had made early and frank admissions to the APHA and that he had
displayed a degree of insight, although the Committee was less confident that
he truly understood the seriousness of the potential consequences of his
dishonest conduct.

The Committee took
into account the aggravating factors, including Mr Chalkley’s breach of trust
of his position as an OV, the undermining of the integrity of veterinary
certification, dishonesty and the potential public health impacts of his

Ian Arundale
added: “The Committee considered that, having regard to the mitigating features
which it had identified, a suspension order would be sufficient to send to the
profession and the public a clear signal about the importance to be attached to
accurate certification. The Committee considered that in the particular
circumstances of this case, a period of three months suspension would be
sufficient to achieve this objective.”

The full findings
for the case
can be found online.

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