Mr Benjamin Jones
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Allegation, as proved at Final Hearing
Whilst employed as an Operating Department Practitioner at St Georges Healthcare NHS Trust you:
1. Self-administered non-prescribed drugs
2. Stole drugs from the Trust – namely Diazemuls and / or Midazolam on a number of occasions including on 08 August 2011
3. Distributed drugs stolen from the Trust to your brother
4. (Not proved)
5. Your actions as outlined in paragraphs 2 and / or 3 were dishonest.
6. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 5 amount to misconduct.
7. By reason of that misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. This is a third review of a suspension order imposed on 20 July 2012 pursuant to Article 30 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 (the Order).
2. Ms Aumeerally applied for this review to be conducted wholly in private, given that the main issues relate to the Registrant’s health. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor to consider the Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private.
3. In order to protect the private life of the Registrant the Panel decided that the hearing should be conducted wholly in private.
4. The function of this Panel is not to go behind the decisions taken by the original HCPC Panel or the previous reviewing Panels.
5. The original panel found that the Registrant was employed as a Theatre Practitioner in Anaesthetics by St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust from May 2011 until he was dismissed for gross misconduct on 3 November 2011. The Registrant is a qualified Operating Department Practitioner. During the night shift spanning 9 and 10 August 2011 the Registrant was discovered unconscious displaying symptoms of a seizure whilst on duty. In a search of his personal effects an ampoule of Diazemuls and an empty beer can were found. Text messages on his mobile telephone suggested that he was supplying drugs to a third party. The Registrant was admitted to intensive care where he remained for 7 days.
6. On 30 August 2011 he was suspended on his return to work from sickness absence. He attended an investigatory meeting on 12 September 2011 and admitted that: he had self-administered non-prescribed drugs, stolen Diazemuls from the Trust on a number of occasions and distributed drugs stolen from the Trust to his brother. The Trust convened a disciplinary hearing on 3 November 2011 which the Registrant did not attend. The outcome of the hearing was that he was dismissed for gross misconduct and the Trust referred this matter to the HCPC. The original panel accepted that the Registrant’s seizure was precipitated by his withdrawal from alcohol and was not satisfied that the Registrant had recovered from his drug and alcohol dependency.
7. The original panel concluded that a suspension order was necessary to protect the public, to maintain confidence in the profession and was in the interests of the Registrant. The Registrant attended the hearings on 20 July 2012, 16 July 2013 and 18 July 2014 and has engaged with the HCPC process.
8. The Panel today has considered the extent to which it can be confident that there will be no repetition of the serious misconduct which has occurred. The Registrant has given oral evidence on oath and supplied documents prior to the commencement of the hearing. The panel considered the HCPC’s submissions and the HCPC bundle of documents. The HCPC submits that a further suspension order for 12 months is necessary.
9. The Registrant accepts he is not yet ready to return to practise but says he has changed and he now needs to prepare evidence to satisfy a future panel that he can work in a hospital again. He says he has investigated other health care work and this is where he sees his future. He says he is medication free and he has abstained from drugs and alcohol for about 12 months. He has attended therapy sessions for 12 weeks, which were helpful. He has a key worker who is assisting him to receive further counselling and his health and fitness is being maintained. He has support from his family and friends and lives in supported accommodation. He reads to keep up to date with professional practice but he is not yet in a position to present a portfolio of personal development to show he is able to safely return to practice. He is trying to obtain voluntary work, but so far without success.
10. Article 30(1) of the Order provides that before the expiry of the current suspension order it shall be reviewed. The Panel today may with effect from the date on which the order expires, extend, or further extend the period for which the order has effect, or make an order which could have been made at the time the order being reviewed was made or make a conditions of practice order. The Panel may not extend a suspension order by more than one year at a time.
11. The HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy (the Policy) states: “suspension should be considered where the Panel considers that a caution or conditions of practice are insufficient or inappropriate to protect the public or where the allegation is of a serious nature but there is a realistic prospect that repetition will not occur and, thus, that striking off is not merited.”
12. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. In his own statement to the Panel he stated that “I do not feel that at this time I am truly fit to return to practice”. Because of this he had decided not to provide the evidence that the last reviewing panel had identified as being potentially helpful at this review. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s assessment of his fitness to practice, concluding that he would represent a potential risk to patients and the public and that, on this basis his fitness to practise remained currently impaired.
13. Before considering what, if any, sanction would be appropriate in the light of the finding of impairment, the Panel identified the following mitigating and aggravating factors:
• Presence at today’s hearing
• Engagement with the regulatory process and his openness
• Commitment to return to practice
• Considerable reflection and insight
• Attempts to remediate his conduct through a 7.5 month placement at Broadreach House
• The Registrant’s admission in answer to a question from the Panel that he had consumed alcohol on one occasion since the last review hearing in July 2014, despite his assurance to that panel that he would abstain.
14. The Panel did not consider that the sanctions of “no further action”, “mediation” or a “Caution Order” were appropriate or proportionate in this case as none of them would achieve the level of public protection necessary. The Panel considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practise Order but determined that it would not be possible to formulate workable conditions that would ensure public protection. The Panel went on to consider a further period of suspension, concluding that this was an appropriate and proportionate sanction in that it would protect the public whilst providing the Registrant with an opportunity to gather evidence to prove his abstinence from drugs and alcohol, as to his general health and in relation to his CPD and other efforts to prove that he was current in his professional knowledge.
15. The Panel considered carefully the HCPC submission that a further period of suspension of 12 months was appropriate, against the Registrant’s submission that 6 months would be adequate. The Panel determined that a period of 12 months would be necessary to allow the Registrant to gather the evidence required but noted that he could seek an early review if new evidence became available.
16. The Panel went onto consider a striking off order but considered that this would be neither proportionate nor appropriate as the Registrant’s misconduct was not fundamentally incompatible with continued registration. Accordingly, the panel makes an order of suspension for a period of twelve months to commence from the expiry of the existing order.
17. This order will be reviewed prior to its expiry and the Panel conducting that review may be assisted by the following:
• Evidence of continued abstinence supported by up to date evidence from a registered health professional such as his general practitioner to include drug and alcohol test results.
• Up to date testimonials from employers relating to any paid or voluntary work undertaken.
• A short report from the Registrant GP as to his general health and fitness for a return to work.
18. The Panel expresses the hope that the Registrant will make use of this period of suspension to produce compelling evidence in support of his expressed desire to return to practice. He should be aware that it is unlikely that his suspension, which began in July 2012, will be allowed to continue indefinitely.
History of Hearings for Mr Benjamin Jones
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|17/03/2017||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Voluntary Removal agreed|
|09/12/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Unknown||Suspended|
|14/07/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|12/08/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|16/07/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Adjourned|