Vet allowed to return to practice after ‘deep regret’ for former dishonest conduct

  • A vet who was removed from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) register for dishonesty in insurance claims for her own horse has been restored.

    The RCVS disciplinary committee was “impressed” by Nicola Burrows, and the evidence given and is “satisfied that she will ensure the highest standards of probity and honesty in the future”.

    H&H reported in May 2021 that Dr Burrows had been found guilty of disgraceful conduct in a professional respect, for creating an inaccurate clinical history for her own horse and then dishonestly attempting to make an insurance claim for the treatment of her horse.

    Her adjourned application for restoration was heard by the RCVS committee on 9-10 March.

    “In her restoration application, Dr Burrows included continuing professional development (CPD) certificates covering the courses she had completed during the period since her removal from the register,” an RCVS spokesman said. “Also included were letters/informal witness statements from the veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses she had worked with since her removal from the register and who expressed a willingness to employ her again were the committee to permit her name to be restored to the register, as well as character references and reflection statements.”

    The committee considered whether Dr Burrows had “accepted the findings of the committee at the original inquiry hearing, the seriousness of those findings, whether she had demonstrated insight into her past conduct, and the protection of the public and the public interest”.

    As well as the documents provided to the committee, Dr Burrows made a detailed opening statement to support her application.

    The committee’s report of this states: “Removal from the register had been the most traumatic time of her life. However she now realises, with developed insight, that as painful as it was at the time she only had herself to blame for her actions. She understands and accepts that the penalty needed to be severe given the serious breach of trust to the public, to the veterinary profession and the insurance industry that was a direct consequence of her dishonest actions.

    “She had taken a considerable amount of time, and required help, to truly accept and understand all of the committee’s findings. She can fully appreciate and completely understand how and why the committee came to their decision and recognises that her conduct, dishonesty and prolonged actions were far removed from what is expected of a veterinary surgeon. She now understands that removal from the register was the only appropriate sanction.

    “These statements by her were not easy for her to sayand she is not proud of her previous actions. Instead, she is deeply remorseful and embarrassed. Her level of deception and dishonesty was and is, uncharacteristic and it is hard to believe that she became that person.”

    The report states that Dr Burrows said she “deeply regrets” her conduct, and had spent a “considerable amount of time identifying, with insight, how she could start to restore that essential professional trust and integrity”.

    After her removal from the register, Dr Burrows worked as a receptionist in a Vets4Pets practice, during which she had to deal with the public and their insurance.

    “She stated that as a result of her involvement over the past 18 months in processing insurance claims, she acknowledges the ‘delicate’ relationship between veterinary surgeons, clients and insurers,” the RCVS spokesman said. “Additionally, working as a receptionist, had allowed her to recognise the need for contemporaneous and clear clinical notes. She also highlighted her CPD, which was relevant to insurance, as well as the fact she’d undertaken a professional ethics course to assist her rehabilitation, reflection, and insight.”

    The committee took into account witness statements from other staff at the Vets4Pets branch, who all “gave positive reflections on Dr Burrows’ character and assured the committee that they would provide the correct level of support to allow her to return to work safely and that they would have all the necessary safeguarding measures in place to ensure that the public’s and the profession’s interest is always at the forefront”.

    Disciplinary committee chair Judith Way said the committee was impressed by the fact “busy professionals chose to give up their time to provide witness statements and give evidence in support of Dr Burrows’ application”.

    “All witnesses were clearly supportive of Dr Burrows’ request for restoration to the register,” she said.

    “The committee found Dr Burrows to show remorse and she does now accept the findings of dishonesty that were made against her in the original enquiry hearing and stated that her conduct was dishonest. In the committee’s view, the evidence given by Dr Burrows on affirmation was very believable and she now accepts her dishonesty together with the gravity of her dishonesty.

    “The committee also formed the view that the steps she has taken to address her dishonesty serve to confirm that she is passionate about the prospect that she be allowed to return to practice. The committee was impressed by Dr Burrows and the evidence given and is now satisfied that she will ensure the highest standards of probity and honesty in the future.

    “Having taken all evidence into account, the committee is satisfied that the future welfare of animals under Dr Burrows’ responsibility will be properly protected, and that her future dealings with insurers will be honest in all respects and that the interests of the public will be met.”

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