Official Veterinarian suspended for dishonesty over bTB testing

The Official Veterinarian was found guilty of serious professional misconduct
The Official Veterinarian was found guilty of serious professional misconduct

An Official Veterinarian (OV) has been suspended from the Register of Veterinary Surgeons for three months for dishonesty over bovine TB testing.

David Chalkley was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in respect of bovine TB testing undertaken at a Cheltenham farm, in March 2018.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Disciplinary Committee found his conduct to be 'dishonest and misleading', and that it 'risked undermining' government testing procedures designed to promote public health.

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

The 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.

The second charge was that he 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.

The 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 payment.

At the outset of the hearing Mr Chalkley, 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, 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 testing procedures designed to promote public health.

Having considered all the evidence, the Committee found that he 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.

It 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 his 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 his 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 cumulatively.

Ian Arundale, chairing the Committee said: "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 compromised.

“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 respect.”

He added: "The Committee considered that in the particular circumstances of this case, a period of three months suspension would be sufficient to achieve this objective.”