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Service of Notice
1. The notice of today’s hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the register on 21 September 2016. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.
2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with the rules.
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Mr Claughton on behalf of the HCPC.
4. Mr Claughton submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. He further submitted that the Registrant has engaged with the process and is aware of today’s proceedings. Mr Claughton drew the Panel’s attention to the email dated 5 December 2016, wherein she states that she will not be attending today’s hearing. Further, the Registrant’s explicit request is that today’s hearing proceed in her absence and that the Panel takes into consideration her representations. Mr Claughton submitted that the Registrant’s absence from the hearing was voluntary and that she had waived her right to attend and/or to be represented. An adjournment would serve no useful purpose and there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.
5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.
6. It was clear from the principles derived from case law that the Panel was required to perform a balancing exercise to ensure that fairness and justice was maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.
7. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing.
8. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPC practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibilities for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.
9. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing;
• The Registrant has indicated in her letter dated 5 December 2016 that she is also unable to attend by way of teleconference and would like the proceedings to proceed in her absence;
• The Registrant has engaged with the process and has submitted further written representations;
• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.
The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing and had waived her right to be represented. It determined that it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date. The Panel determined that there would be no injustice to the Registrant were the Panel to proceed in her absence in these circumstances as the Panel is able to take into consideration the representations that she has made in her letter of 5 December 2016. Having weighed the public interest in the expeditious disposal of this case with the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
10. Mr Claughton outlined the background to these proceedings to the Panel. He submitted that whilst the Registrant has engaged with the process, she has not submitted any further information regarding her circumstances that previous panels had indicated would be of use for further panels when considering the issue of impairment of her fitness to practise.
11. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant to determine if she is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.
12. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that, if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, the Panel could exercise all options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order. He also advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principle of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.
Panel’s considerations and decision
13. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration all the documentation before it, and the submissions of Mr Claughton.
14. This is a case of misconduct and there is no suggestion that the Registrant lacked the requisite competence to carry out the role of a ODP. Hence this is a case where the Registrant’s insight is of greater importance.
15. The Registrant has not submitted any information about the current state of her health nor how she has maintained her knowledge and skills as an ODP. Her letter indicates that she has been working since January 2015 in the role of Donor Carer that does not require registration. Although she states that she received training for that role, there is no indication that there is any cross-over in the training received with the training required to maintain her skills as an ODP.
16. Therefore there is no evidence before the Panel today that could satisfy it that the Registrant’s fitness to practice was no longer impaired.
17. In the light of all the above, the Panel determines that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
18. The Panel then went on to consider what the appropriate and proportionate sanction should be.
19. The Registrant has indicated that her position remains the same in that she is still uncertain, as she has been over the past three years, whether she would choose to return to work in the Profession. She has specifically requested that the Panel be reminded that at the end of August 2015 she had made a request by email to remove herself from the HCPC register. Having reflected on the ramifications of a voluntary removal, the Registrant retracted her request. She has now indicated that, “Another year on, and removal from the HCPC register with no further penalty is still my desired position.”
20. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Guide issued by the HCPC and considered the available sanctions in order of severity, starting with the least restrictive. In the light of the lack of engagement and commitment to the profession on the part of the Registrant, the Panel determined that it was not appropriate to take no further action.
21. The Panel also considered that conditions of practice are no longer appropriate. They were imposed in order that the Registrant was afforded the opportunity to take action to remediate the shortcomings in her practice and to demonstrate her commitment to the profession. The Panel recognises that the Registrant has taken some remedial steps, but determined that the Registrant has not fully availed herself of the opportunity given to her by the previous two panels. This despite their explicit recommendations as to what steps she might take to demonstrate her insight, remedial action taken, and her commitment to remaining in the profession.
22. In the light of all the above, the Panel also considered that a further period of suspension was also not appropriate. Without a commitment to remaining in the profession, and lack of evidence of remediation, the Panel determined that the situation was unlikely to change in future. This is underscored by the Registrant’s request in her letter. A further period of suspension would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest. Proceedings of this nature cannot continue indefinitely where there is apparently no likelihood of remediation, or commitment to the profession.
23. Therefore the Panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction now is to strike the Registrant’s name off the Register.
History of Hearings for Alison Reynolds
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|09/12/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|14/12/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Conditions of Practice|