Sandhya Crichton

Profession: Operating department practitioner

Registration Number: ODP14289

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 12:00 20/06/2016 End: 16:00 20/06/2016

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Health Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

The following allegation was put before a Panel of the Health Committee at the substantive hearing which took place on 26 and 27 November 2013:

Your fitness to practice is impaired by reason of your health.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

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 9 June 2016. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing. The Panel noted however that this was a revised notice of hearing that had previously been served on the Registrant’s registered address and email on 28 April 2016.


2. The Registrant had also been informed that the hearing on 31 May 2016 would be adjourned.  This was in light of correspondence from her and on the basis of the hearing being rescheduled for today. The documentation remains the same as that sent for the hearing 31 May 2016.


3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”) require that a notice of hearing must contain the above information and be sent to the registrant at his address not less than 28 days before the date of the hearing starting.


4. Accordingly the Panel is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with the rules.


Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant


5. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. In doing so, it considered the submission of Mr Chan on behalf of the HCPC.

6. Mr Chan submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. He further submitted that the Registrant is aware of today’s proceedings. The Registrant explained that a hearing date at the end of July would be better for her. The HCPC explained to her that she could request an adjournment in writing and she stated that she would. However Mr Chan told the Panel that the Registrant has not written to seek an adjournment of today’s hearing and that she has not engaged any further since 7 June 2016. He submitted that the Panel can be satisfied that the Registrant’s absence today is voluntary and that she has 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.

7. 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 has the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He reminded the Panel that it should exercise that discretion with the utmost care and caution. He drew the Panel’s attention to the principles to be considered when exercising the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant as outlined in the case of R v Jones [2002] UKHL 5. He further advised that the Panel must consider the nature and circumstances of the Registrant absenting herself, in particular whether the decision was voluntary and if so, whether the Registrant has waived her right to be present and/or represented; and the general public interest that the substantive order is reviewed today. He also drew the Panel’s attention to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and reminded the Panel to bear in mind its duty to protect the public.

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 is clearly aware of today’s hearing and has not made an application to adjourn today’s Review Hearing, despite having been made aware that this option was available to her;

• The Registrant has not engaged with the process in any substantive way since the imposition of the suspension order in November 2013;

• There has been no communication from the Registrant since 7 June 2016 as outlined above, in particular there is no supporting information about whether the Registrant did in fact undergo surgery on 14 June 2016 and whether it had impacted on her ability to participate in these proceedings;

• The Order is due to expire on 25 June 2016 and in light of the Registrant’s position, the Panel determined that the Registrant would not attend before the date the Order is due to expire and therefore an adjournment would serve no useful purpose;

• The Panel noted that it was clear from the determination of 31 May 2016 hearing, which had been sent to the Registrant, that a potential outcome of today’s hearing was that a Striking Off Order could be made;

• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.

10. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing and has waived her right to be represented. The Panel determined that it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance before the date upon which Order is due to expire. The Panel bore in mind its duty is to protect the public and the public interest. 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.

Background

11. The Registrant was previously employed as a Band 6 Senior ODP at the Princess Royal University Hospital, part of the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, in the Theatre Department. She started her employment with the Trust on 6 February 2006.

12. In 2011 the Principal Operating Department Practitioner raised a concern relating to the Registrant. She was dismissed from this employment, after a disciplinary hearing that took place on 7 April 2011.

13. The panel in November 2013 decided to suspend the Registrant’s registration for a period of 12 months.  In October 2014 the Registrant told the HCPC she did not wish to be on the Register anymore. In November 2014, the first reviewing panel, again finding the Registrant’s fitness to practise impaired, imposed a further period of suspension for 12 months.

Decision

14. The HCPC submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and that the appropriate order would be one of Striking Off.

15. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. 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 is not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor is it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.

16. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel might find the questions formulated in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) of some assistance, albeit slightly modified for these proceedings:

‘Does the evidence before the Panel today show that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of her adverse health in the sense that she:
a) is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) is liable in the future to bring the Operating Department  Practitioner profession into disrepute; and/or
c) is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession;

17. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired all the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. This included the option of a Striking-Off Order as the Registrant has been suspended for a period of more than two years continuously. He 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.

18. 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 in particular it noted the following:

a) The extremely limited engagement of the Registrant with the process since the imposition of the order.

b) There is no information as to her current health status or her long standing health condition.

c) There is no information that satisfies this Panel that the Registrant has gained insight into the effect her adverse health has on her ability to practise safely as an Operating Department Practitioner.

19. Accordingly the Panel determined that the Registrant remained impaired by reason of her adverse health.

20. Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired by reason of her health the Panel went on to consider what action to take today. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy document and considered its powers under Article 30(1).

21. The Panel first considered taking no further action and allowing the Order to lapse upon expiry. The Panel determined that this was not appropriate as the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired today and taking no action would neither protect the public nor be in the public interest.

22. The Panel went on to consider whether to impose a Caution Order upon the expiry of the current order. For the reason set out above, the Panel determined that the imposition of a Caution Order upon expiry of the current order is not the appropriate action to take today.

23. The Panel next considered the imposition of a current Conditions of Practice Order. In the light of the lack of any information as to the state of the Registrant’s current health, the Panel determined that it was impossible for any workable conditions to be formulated that would be adequate to protect the public and the wider public interest.

24. The Panel considered extending the order for suspension but considered that this would serve no useful purpose. In coming to this decision, the Panel took into account the following:

a) The Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC in any substantive way since the imposition of the Suspension Order in 2013;

b) The  Registrant has had since 2013 to provide information relating to her health and she has not availed herself of that opportunity;

c) There is no information to indicate that the Registrant has maintained her continuous professional development.

25. The Registrant has not availed herself of any opportunity to demonstrate her current fitness to practise. At the original hearing the panel concluded, based on the assessment of the psychiatrist together with the Registrant’s comments at the hearing, that she had limited insight into her condition. This Panel has not been provided with any evidence that the Registrant has now developed that insight. In the circumstances, the Panel determined that a Suspension Order would serve no useful purpose other than to extend these proceedings with no likelihood of the Registrant re-engaging in any substantive manner. The likely outcome in future would be a Striking Off Order.


26. In the light of the above, the Panel are satisfied that the appropriate and proportionate response to protect the public and otherwise in the public interest in these circumstances is to make a Striking Off Order.

27. The Striking Off Order is imposed pursuant to Article 30(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 and will come into immediate effect.

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mrs Sandhya Crichton from the Operating Department Practitioner part of the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal


You may appeal to the appropriate court against the decision of the Panel and the order it has made against you.  The appropriate court is the High Court in England and Wales.
Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, an appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Sandhya Crichton

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
20/06/2016 Health Committee Review Hearing Struck off
30/11/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended