Mr Gerald J Higgins
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1. This is a mandatory review of a Conditions of Practice Order that was imposed on 11 May 2012, following a final hearing, under Article 30(1) of the Health & Social Work Professions Order 2001, for a period of 3 years.
2. The Conditions of Practice that were imposed are as follows:
1. You must not undertake any work as a Biomedical Scientist which involves direct contact with any member of the public
2. [REDACTED] you must not undertake any work which involves being in an environment in which there might be children or vulnerable adults present.
3. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions: any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake any work as a Biomedical Scientist; any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and any prospective employer (at the time of application).
3. The Panel is satisfied that a letter notifying the Registrant of the hearing was sent on 10 April 2015 to his HCPC registered address and that this amounts to good service.
Proceeding in private
4. At the commencement of the hearing, an application was made on behalf of the Registrant that the case should be heard in private (the reasons for which were heard in private). The HCPC did not oppose the application and the Panel agreed that this was the appropriate course of action. As such, this is a redacted public version of the private decision.
5. At the final hearing, which took place on 11 May 2012, the Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired on two grounds: firstly due to a conviction and, secondly, [redacted].
6. The Registrant admitted the allegations at the final hearing. There was no suggestion that the Registrant’s professional competence was ever called into question. The Panel at the final hearing found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired.
7. The Panel at the final hearing took account of the offences but also the fact that there was a health issue which made a significant contribution to the commission of the offences, which the then Panel regarded as having been largely remedied. There was also evidence of both remorse and insight. The Panel felt that the Registrant should be allowed to continue to practise the laboratory functions of his profession.
8. The Registrant, in advance of today’s hearing, has submitted a letter from CE, General Manager of Analytics, from Liverpool Clinical Laboratories, dated 05 May 2015. This is the Registrant’s employer. The letter confirms that the Registrant has been working within the Conditions of Practice which were imposed upon him. CE concludes, “I also wish to confirm that Mr Higgins remains a valued member of the team within the department and has applied himself to ensuring that we maintain a quality 24/7 service to the NHS trusts we serve...”
9. In evidence today, the Registrant told the Panel that he felt that the Conditions of Practice Order might impede his career progression in the future. He has aspirations to move from a Band 7 Deputy Supervisor/Section Leader role to a Band 8a role as a Supervisor/Team Leader. He told the Panel that having to disclose the conditions might have a negative impact on any prospective employer’s view of his application. The Registrant had applied for an acting up position in 2014. He had not been successful in this application, but put this down to a bad interview and being nervous. He did not feel that the existing conditions had played a part in his non-selection.
10. The Registrant also told the Panel that his health had greatly improved.
11. The Panel today has taken account of all the written and oral evidence available in the hearing bundle, the representations of Mr Chan, and those of Mr Elton on behalf of the Registrant.
12. The Panel also took advice from the Legal Assessor and had regard to the HCPC’s “Indicative Sanctions Policy”.
13. In undertaking this review today, the Panel has reminded itself of the following matters:
· A proper exercise of the review process must involve a comprehensive re-consideration of the initial Order, in the light of all circumstances, which are before the Panel today. However, it is not the Panel’s role to go behind the previous Panel’s findings.
· The Panel in its deliberations applied the principle of proportionality and balanced the rights of the Registrant with the rights of the public.
· The Panel has, under Article 30(1) of the Health & Social Work Professions Order 2001, the power to extend or further extend the Conditions of Practice Order, or to make an order which it could have made at the time it made the order being reviewed.
14. The Panel has comprehensively reviewed all of the documentary evidence before it relating to the period since the imposition of the original Conditions of Practice Order.
15. The Panel was impressed by the steps taken by the Registrant since his conviction. The Panel was satisfied that there is unlikely to be any repetition of the matters which led to the conviction. The Panel today wishes to reiterate the previous Panel’s finding that the Registrant’s professional competence is in no way called into question.
16. However, the Panel has concluded that there is a subsisting impairment to the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, solely because he remains subject to a [redacted]. The Panel concluded that there would be a negative effect on the reputation of being a Biomedical Scientist and confidence in the regulatory process if the Registrant’s fitness to practise was not deemed to be impaired whilst he remains subject to [redacted]. The public perception would be that there is an ongoing risk to public safety whilst the Registrant remains subject to [redacted].
17. The Panel, in these circumstances, took the view that a further sanction was required. The purpose of any sanction is not punitive and is designed to reflect the degree of public protection which is required and the wider public interest, which includes a deterrent effect on other Registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.
18. The Panel has considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel concluded that to take no action, mediation or to impose a caution order would not afford sufficient protection for the public, nor would they address the wider public interest considerations.
19. The Panel next considered a further Conditions of Practice Order and concluded that this was the appropriate and proportionate sanction. A further Conditions of Practice Order, for a period of 18 months, would in these circumstances both maintain public protection and address the wider public interest considerations.
20. The Panel considered a Suspension Order would be punitive in these circumstances, as there is no issue regarding the Registrant’s competence and the subsisting fitness to practise issue is potentially remediable.
21. Whilst in no way seeking to bind a future Panel, the Registrant could apply for an early review of this Order.
The Registrar is directed to vary the Conditions of Practice Order against the registration of Mr Gerald J Higgins for a further period of 18 months on the expiry of the existing order. The Conditions are:
1. [Redacted] you must not undertake any work which involves being in an environment in which there might be children or vulnerable adults present.
2. You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions: any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake any work as a Biomedical Scientist; any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and any prospective employer (at the time of application).
This order will come into effect on 08 June 2015. This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry.
History of Hearings for Mr Gerald J Higgins
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|11/11/2019||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|
|07/11/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|
|14/05/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|