Bristol-based Jemma Louise Francis RVN has been found not guilty of serious professional misconduct by the RCVS Veterinary Nurse Disciplinary Committee after she was cleared of a number of charges relating to the removal of buprenorphine from her practice. 

Ms Francis faced two charges, the first of which had three elements:

The first was that in January 2021 she took one box of buprenorphine from the practice where she worked.

The second was that in early June 2022 she took another 15 boxes of buprenorphine together with an unspecified number of vials of the drug.

The third was that later that month, she took another box of the drug.

The second charge was that her behaviour was dishonest, was not acting in accordance with instructions from a veterinary surgeon or a valid prescription and she failed to record the amount of the drug taken from the practice.

At the outset of the hearing Ms Francis admitted taking the one box of buprenorphine at the end of June 2022, but denied the other elements of the charge. 

After interviewing witnesses, the Committee decided that on the basis of the evidence presented, the allegations that Ms Francis had taken a box of buprenorphine in January 2021, or that she had taken vials of buprenorphine in June 2022, were unproven.

With regard to the allegation that she had taken 15 boxes of buprenorphine in June 2022, the Committee determined that Ms Francis had no case to answer, due to insufficient evidence.

This meant that the second charge, of dishonest behaviour, was only considered in respect of the element of the first charge that Ms Francis had admitted to (the one box of buprenorphine she admitted taking in late June 2022).

Here, 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.

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 which 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 be of benefit to her dog.

"She also omitted to sign the relevant log.

"The evidence which the Committee heard suggested that this omission was commonplace at the practice.

“In acting in 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.”

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