Veterinary nurse cleared of serious professional misconduct by Disciplinary Committee - Veterinary Practice
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Veterinary nurse cleared of serious professional misconduct by Disciplinary Committee

Her conduct did not fall far below those standards

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee has found a Bristol-based veterinary nurse not guilty of serious professional misconduct after she was cleared of a number of charges against her.

Jemma Louise Francis RVN appeared before the committee from Monday 19 to Monday 26 February 2024 in respect of two charges against her.

The first charge had three elements to it. The first element of the charge was that on or around 15 January 2021 she took one box of the opioid buprenorphine from the Bristol-based practice in which she worked; the second was that on or around 9 June 2022, she took approximately 15 boxes of buprenorphine and, additionally, a number of vials of the drug from the practice; and the third was that on or around 27 June 2022 she took one box of the drug from the practice.

The second charge was that, in relation to all elements of the first charge, she was dishonest, did not act in accordance with instructions from a veterinary surgeon or a valid prescription, and failed to record the amount of the drug taken from the practice.

At the outset of the hearing, Ms Francis denied the majority of the charges against her, with the exception of the third element of the first charge, which she admitted and so was found proven.

The committee also determined that Ms Francis had no case to answer regarding the allegation that on 9 June 2022, she took 15 boxes of buprenorphine due to insufficient evidence. However, in respect of all other elements of the charges, a number of witnesses gave evidence, and the committee had an opportunity to ask questions to each witness, including Ms Francis.

Regarding the allegation that she took one box of the medicine from the practice in January 2021, the committee found that, based on the evidence presented to it, this was not proved. In relation to the allegation that she took a number of vials of the drug from the practice on 9 June 2022, this was also found not proved by the committee on the basis of the evidence presented to it.

This meant that the second charge was only considered in respect of the element of the first charge that Ms Francis had admitted to. In doing so, the committee found that Ms Francis’ conduct was not dishonest, but found it proved that she did not act in accordance with instructions from a vet or a valid prescription, and found it proved that she failed to record the amount of the drug taken from the cupboard on the internal stock sheet.

In determining whether the proved charges amounted to serious professional misconduct, Paul Morris, chairing the committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “The respondent had removed a box of buprenorphine from the drugs cupboard before she had received a prescription for that medication. She intended to seek such a prescription from the vet, who was in the practice at the time and from whom she had just received prescriptions for other pain-relieving medications. As it happened, the vet issued the prescription for the buprenorphine that the respondent sought.

“The respondent has acknowledged her fault in removing the box of buprenorphine before the vet had issued a prescription. This appears to have been the result of a momentary decision on her part that Vetergesic would benefit her dog. She also omitted to sign the relevant log. The evidence the committee heard suggested that this omission was commonplace at the practice.

“In acting this way, as the respondent acknowledges, she fell below appropriate standards. The committee has concluded, however, that in all the circumstances, her conduct did not fall far below those standards and could not realistically be described as disgraceful conduct in a professional respect.”

The full details of the committee’s decision can be found at the Disciplinary Committee hearings.

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