Miss Sally Pringle
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The Substantive Review hearing of Miss Sally Pringle is taking place on Thursday 07 January 2016 before the Health Committee at the Health and Care Professions Council.
1. The Panel was satisfied on documentary evidence provided, that the Registrant, Miss Sally Pringle had been given proper notice of this substantive order review hearing in accordance with the relevant rules. The Panel had seen a letter dated 20 November 2015 sent by first class post to the Registrant at her registered address informing her that a hearing to review the Suspension Order would be held today. A copy of this letter had also been sent to the Registrant at her known email address on the same date. The Panel was also shown two emails from the Registrant to the HCPC dated 11 December 2015 and 06 January 2016 in which it was clear that she had received notice of today’s hearing.
Proceeding in Absence of the Registrant
2. The Panel heard submissions on behalf of the Council as to the power to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The Panel had regard to the two emails from the Registrant dated 11 December 2015 and 06 January 2016 and to a file note of a conversation on 01 December 2015 between the Registrant and the HCPC in which it was clear that the Registrant was aware that this hearing could proceed in her absence. It was clear from these that the Registrant was not intending to attend or to be represented. The Registrant had not sought an adjournment.
3. The Panel has considered the HCPC’s Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and has received legal advice. The Panel has decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence and has concluded that she has waived the right to be present and to be represented. As the Registrant has not requested an adjournment of today’s hearing, the Panel took the view that no useful purpose would be served by any adjournment. The Panel considered that it was in the public interest that this mandatory review hearing should take place before the expiration of the current Suspension Order which is on 04 February 2016. The Panel made it clear that they would not draw any adverse inference from her non-attendance.
Hearing in Private
4. Ms Kavanagh for the Council made an application for the hearing to take place in private. The Panel has considered the HCPC’s Practice Note “Conducting Hearings in Private” and decided that, given the nature and sensitivity of the material that it would be considering in relation to the Registrant’s health, it was appropriate for the whole of the hearing to be conducted in private
5. The Registrant was employed as a Podiatrist/Chiropodist by the Oxfordshire Health NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust) from about 2003. From that time up to May 2009, there were no fitness to practise concerns and the Registrant was a well-regarded employee and a competent and experienced clinician.
6. From May 2009, the Trust had on-going and escalating concerns about the Registrant’s health and how this was adversely affecting her practice. From about September 2010 and for a time, these concerns were managed informally within the Trust’s performance procedures. However, in July 2011 after a number of clinical incidents as well as some record keeping concerns, the Trust invoked its Formal Capability Procedure. On 16 August 2012, the Registrant was dismissed from the Trust’s employment on grounds of ill health.
7. On 22 July 2011, the Trust referred the matter to the HCPC.
8. On 29 September 2015 in a telephone conversation between the Registrant and the Council, the Registrant had indicated that she was not intending to resume practice as a Podiatrist. During that conversation, the Registrant was told about the possibility of a Voluntary Removal Agreement. There were further telephone conversations regarding a Voluntary Removal Agreement on 01 December 2015, and 06 January 2016. The latter conversation was followed up by the Registrant in an email of the same date in which she set out her understanding of the conversation. At no time has the Council received any application by the Registrant in relation to a Voluntary Removal Agreement.
9. The Panel last reviewing the Suspension Order indicated that this Panel would be assisted by information on her progress and rehabilitation. As a result of the email dated 6 January 2016 and the note of the telephone conversation of the same date, there is now some limited information from the Registrant herself as to her current state of health. No independent medical or other evidence has been provided.
10. The current Suspension Order will expire on 04 February 2016. By that date, the Registrant will have been suspended for over two years.
11. In reaching its decision, the Panel has considered the HCPC’s Practice Notes Finding that Fitness to Practise is “Impaired” and Indicative Sanctions Policy and has taken legal advice.
12. The Panel was of the view that there was no evidence that the Registrant had engaged with the HCPC during the regulatory process in the period since she was suspended in October 2013.
13. The two previous Panels reviewing the Suspension Order have concluded that the Order should be further extended on the basis that there had been no further or additional evidence since the Final Hearing and so there remained a significant risk to service users of a repetition of the pattern of behaviour, as set out in the Trust’s documentation (which included clinical failings and poor record keeping) and that such an order remained in the public interest in order to maintain public confidence and uphold standards of behaviour in the Podiatrist profession.
14. This Panel has not been provided with any independent information to suggest that the Registrant’s health condition has improved in any way. It noted that she appears to have started to take steps to address her health issues but there is no way of assessing when she started to do this, how successful she has been and how much longer it will take for her to be in any position to be fit to resume practise of any kind. In these circumstances, the risks identified by the Final Hearing Panel and the two Review Panels remain. The Panel noted that the Registrant has had every opportunity to submit information to this hearing but has chosen not to do so. It is satisfied that the Registrants’ fitness to practise remains impaired as there is no independent evidence that her health has improved and there remains a significant risk to Service Users were she to be permitted to return to unrestricted practise.
15. The Panel is also satisfied that a well-informed member of the public would not have any confidence in a profession that permitted its members to practise without restriction when suffering from a health condition which put service users at risk and which did not uphold proper standards of conduct in order to protect its service users. The Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired.
16. In considering the appropriate Order to make, the Panel took account of the need to act proportionately. It has considered all the Orders it could make in ascending order of seriousness. Making no order or a Caution Order would be wholly inappropriate in the circumstances of this case.
17. It has decided that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate because there is limited evidence as to what the Registrant has done to address her health issues. Over a considerable period of time, she has not engaged with the HCPC and there is no information as to her current employment status. In those circumstances it would be impossible to frame appropriate conditions to meet the risks identified.
18. It has also decided that a further extension of the Suspension Order would not be appropriate. The Registrant has had over two years in which to address her health issues. In that time she has provided no proper information or any evidence that she has sought to remedy these. The Panel was concerned that the Registrant’s failure to appreciate the need to demonstrate that she has understood her situation and the steps she has taken to remedy it, showed little or no insight. It also noted that in September 2015, the Registrant had informed the HCPC in a telephone conversation that she no longer intended to practise as a podiatrist. Despite being advised about the possibility of a Voluntary Removal Agreement, she has chosen not to follow this up.
19. The Panel has decided that the appropriate order in this case is a Striking Off Order and it so directs. In reaching its conclusion, the Panel has taken into account the Registrant’s lack of engagement with the regulatory process and her stated intention that she does not intend to practise as a podiatrist in the future. There is nothing to suggest that her health issues have been fully addressed or that the Registrant has maintained her knowledge and skills.
History of Hearings for Miss Sally Pringle
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|07/01/2016||Health Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|01/10/2015||Health Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|