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Mr Eccles had first appeared before the Disciplinary Committee in November 2018 where he admitted a number of clinical failings regarding his diagnosis of a cat, the keeping of accurate and detailed clinical records, giving the animal appropriate treatment, surgery and care, and failing to provide the cat’s owners with adequate information on the cat’s care upon discharge.
After Mr Eccles admitted the two charges against him, and the Committee found him guilty of serious professional misconduct, the Committee then postponed its decision on sanction on the condition that Mr Eccles agreed to abide by a set of undertakings in the interim. They included: the preparation of a personal development plan, the enrolment of his practice in the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme, the appointment of a veterinary mentor, the completion of additional training and CPD, and his agreement to pay any costs of complying with the undertakings, including the appointment of and work undertaken by the appointed mentor.
At the resumed hearing last week, the Committee received evidence from Mr Eccles confirming that he had complied with all the original undertakings agreed to in 2018. It also considered some further undertakings that Mr Eccles had agreed to in October 2020 when his reconvened hearing was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. They included: confirming his compliance with the personal development plan he had drawn up in 2019, his practice achieving the Core Standards accreditation level within the Practice Standards Scheme, continuing to meet with his veterinary mentor, and undertaking additional CPD – all of which were found to be completed.
The Committee also heard evidence from both the veterinary mentor and Mr Eccles himself. In his evidence, Mr Eccles apologised to the owners of the cat for the care he had provided, admitting that he had let them and himself down by not having sufficient knowledge to recognise the cat’s needs and to provide him with a sufficient level of care. He also confirmed he was continuing to make improvements to his practice and that he had enjoyed the process of being mentored.
Dr Martin Whiting, chairing the Committee and speaking on its behalf, said: “In November 2018, Mr Eccles practice had fallen significantly short of an acceptable and adequate standard. He was a sole practitioner who had drifted away from professional standards.”
“The Committee today considers that Mr Eccles has met the undertakings which he accepted in November 2018 and again in October 2020 when the resumed hearing was adjourned owing to Covid-19. It accepts the College’s analysis as to how those standards have been met. It notes that Mr Eccles’ practice has achieved accreditation in Core Standards under the Practice Standard Scheme, something which is voluntary in ordinary practice. That is an exacting scheme. He has engaged with his mentor and had indicated that he will continue to do so as the need arises in order to maintain his development.”
Dr Whiting added: “The Committee also recognises that this was a single incident in a long career. It accepts that he has shown insight into his shortcomings. He understands what went wrong and why. The Committee was impressed with Mr Eccles’ statement of apology in his oral evidence today.”
“The Committee found the language which he used in answering its questions, as to the effect compliance with the undertakings has had upon him professionally, reassuring. He said he had been rejuvenated and stimulated; he had renewed enthusiasm for the profession. The Committee commends him for exceeding the minimum requirement of the undertakings, despite the stressful context of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
In considering its sanction for the original admitted charges from November 2018, the Committee considered that a reprimand and warning as to future conduct was the most appropriate and proportionate sanction.
The full findings for the case can be found at: www.rcvs.org.uk/disciplinary
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