Mr Alfred A A Adio

Profession: Biomedical scientist

Registration Number: BS37545

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 28/11/2016 End: 17:00 30/11/2016

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Allegation:
 
1.  On 18 December 2014 at Dartford Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of committing fraud between 25 January 2013 and 29 November 2013 in that you dishonestly made a false representation, namely that you submitted inflated and therefore false travel claims to your employer at Darent Valley Hospital, intending to make a gain, namely payments in the sum of £918.84 in respect of travel costs that you had not incurred and were not therefore entitled to claim for yourself.

2.   It is alleged that during the course of your employment as a Biomedical Scientist with Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust at Darent Valley Hospital between January 2013 and November 2013, on a number of occasions you submitted claim forms for time worked whilst on call when you had already finished work including on the following specific dates:

(a)  27 February 2013
(b)  26 March 2013
(c)  25 April 2013
(d)  24 May 2013
(e)  4 June 2013
(f)  17 June 2013
(g)  25 June 2013
(h)  8 July 2013
(i)  16 July 2013
(j)  7 August 2013
(k) 16 August 2013
(l)  22 August 2013
(m) 16 September 2013
(n)  24 September 2013
(o)  26 September 2013
(p)  7 October 2013
(q)  24 October 2013
(r)  29 November 2013.

 3.   Your actions described in paragraph 2 were dishonest.

 4.   The matters set out in paragraphs 2 – 3 constitute misconduct.

 5.   By reason of your Conviction, as set out in paragraph 1, your fitness to practise as a Biomedical Scientist, is impaired.

 6.   By reason of your misconduct as set out in paragraphs 2 – 3, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Service:

1. The Panel was satisfied on documentary evidence provided, that the Registrant, Mr Alfred A A Adio had been given proper notice of this final hearing in accordance with the relevant rules.   The Panel has seen a letter sent by first class post to the Registrant dated 3 August 2016 at his registered address which was also emailed to him on the same date.

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.   Ms Sheridan submitted that the Registrant had, by his conduct, shown that he had voluntarily waived his right to attend and to be represented. There had been only one contact from the Registrant which was an email sent by him dated 2 August 2016 in response to an email sent to him from the HCPC in which it was indicated that the hearing would take place between October and December 2016 and seeking dates on which he would not be available. In his email in response, the Registrant stated that he would not attend or be represented at this hearing.  He did not indicate that he had any dates to avoid.  The Panel noted that it was on the next day, 3 August 2016 that notice of the dates of the hearing were sent to him by first class post and to his email address.   There has been no contact from him in response.    He has not attended today and he has not applied for any adjournment.

3. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered the HCPC’s Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant and it also received and accepted legal advice.  The Panel noted that it should exercise great care and caution before deciding to proceed in the absence of a registrant.  In this case, the Panel accepted Ms Sheridan’s submissions, and concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily waived his right to be present. Importantly, he had not requested an adjournment of today’s hearing and the Panel considered that an adjournment would not result in his attendance at any later date.   The Panel also considered that it was in the public interest that final hearings should take place expeditiously and at the allotted time.   The Panel drew no adverse inference from his absence today.

Background:

4. In 2004, the Registrant was employed by Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust (the Trust) and by 2013, he was a Band 6 Specialist Biomedical Scientist based at Darent Valley Hospital (the Hospital).   An apparent discrepancy in the Registrant’s travel claim forms, which was noticed by the Trust’s Salaries and Wages Department led, in October 2013, to an internal investigation to review the Registrant’s travel claims.  The scope of this internal investigation was widened to review the Registrant’s payments for completion of on call duties. The internal investigation centred on expense claims by the Registrant for journeys he had not made and for time he had not worked.  The matter was reported to the police and the Registrant was charged with two offences under the Fraud Act 2006 relating to his expense claims.    On 18 December 2014, at Dartford Magistrates’ Court, the Registrant pleaded guilty and was convicted of one of the offences while the other matter was withdrawn.   He was sentenced to a Community Order requiring him to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and to pay compensation of £918.84, a victim surcharge of £60.00 and prosecution costs of £85.00.   

Decision on Facts:

5. The Panel heard evidence from KD (Witness 1), Head of Microbiology at the Trust with responsibility for managing the Microbiology Department (the Department) at the Trust and for monitoring and for managing its budget.  Witness 1’s role included responsibility for providing training to staff within the Department and monitoring standards.   He was appointed as investigating officer for the internal inquiry.   The Panel noted that most of his evidence was hearsay evidence, including contemporaneous documents. The Panel exercised particular care in considering this hearsay evidence.

6. The Panel considered Witness 1 to have been a clear and reliable witness.   He did not come over as having an agenda; he acted on information brought to his attention; and he did a thorough investigation.

Paragraph 1 was found proved

7. In finding this paragraph proved, the Panel relied on the Certificate of Conviction which was produced in evidence. This showed that on 18 December 2014 at Dartford Magistrates Court, the Registrant had pleaded guilty and was convicted of committing fraud.   The fraud took place between 25/01/13 and 29/11/13 and involved the submission of false and dishonest travel claims for the sum of £918.84 for journeys that the Registrant had not made.  

Paragraph 2 was found proved

8. The Panel considered contemporaneous computer documentation in relation the Registrant’s use of the Hospital’s car park between 16 January 2013 and 29 November 2013.   This showed, by reference to date and time, each time he had entered and each time he had left the car park.  The Panel also saw the Registrant’s expense claims for on call work at the Hospital for each of the dates set out in paragraph 2 of the Allegation.   The Panel was assisted in comparing the two documents for each date by a table prepared by Witness 1 and another table produced by Ms Sheridan, which reflected the same evidence and provided page references. The Panel was satisfied on the basis of this evidence that it was more likely than not that the Registrant had made claims on each of the 18 dates set out for time worked whilst on call when he had already finished work and left the Hospital in his car.  It therefore found paragraph 2 of the Allegation proved.

Paragraph 3 was found proved

9. In reaching its decision in relation to dishonesty, the Panel applied the test set out in the case of R. v. Ghosh [75 Cr. App R. 154].  The Panel first considered whether what the Registrant did in submitting claims for time worked, whilst on call when he had already finished work, was dishonest by the ordinary standards of reasonable and honest people.   The Panel had no difficulty in concluding that by those standards, what the Registrant did was dishonest.    The clear evidence was that employees were entitled to claim for on call work, which included time spent travelling to and from the Hospital provided (i) that they had left the Hospital at the conclusion of their normal work hours and had travelled to the Hospital by e.g. car to complete on call work and then travelled back home and (ii) had claimed only for the on call work actually carried out, including the actual travel time to and from their home to the Hospital.    The claim forms require the member of staff to record the “Time called out”, “End time”, “Total time”.    The Panel noted that although there was no formal requirement for members of staff to record their on call times in a specific way or in a specific document, Witness 1 confirmed that there was an expectation that accurate records would be maintained in order that the claim forms based on them would be similarly accurate.   There was an element of trust in relation to this.   The submission of false claims in these circumstances was dishonest.

10. The Panel then went on to consider whether it was more likely than not that the Registrant was aware at the time he was submitting his on call expense forms that he was acting dishonestly by those standards. The Panel concluded that the Registrant was aware that he was acting dishonestly when submitting the 18 claim forms.   The Panel noted that there were 18 separate occasions spanning the period 27 February 2013 and 29 November 2013 when the Registrant had submitted claims, which included times when he had clearly left the car park at an earlier time and not returned.  

11. The Panel considered the interview which Witness 1 conducted with the Registrant on 10 December 2013 as part of his internal investigation.  It noted that the Registrant had sought to distinguish between the claim for time in travelling to and from the on call duties, with the time he had spent carrying out those duties.  It also noted that the Registrant, in answer to a question asking him about the rules associated with claiming on call travel, had said that he was “not sure on rules”.   He suggested that he had claimed ½ hour travelling time for each on call claim.  The Panel considered that it was significant that there was no pattern of the “over-claim” being always the same in terms of length of time.   Had it been, that might have indicated that the Registrant may have made a mistake and that this had been replicated on the other dates.   However, it was clear from the documentation that the time of the over-claim was different and varied from some 16 minutes at the lower end to up to 70 mins at the upper end.  The Panel rejected this, and considered it significant that on each of the 18 occasions where the claim had been inaccurate, it was always to the financial advantage of the Registrant.  

12. The Panel had been provided with short questionnaires, which were with the exception of one, signed and dated by all other staff in the department who undertook on call duties.   This evidence indicated that they were all aware that they were not entitled to claim any travel expense in their on call claim forms if they had stayed on site at the end of their normal shift and had not travelled home.    Although this was hearsay evidence, the Panel concluded that it was more likely than not to be truthful and reliable.   In reaching this conclusion, the Panel was assisted by Witness 1’s evidence that new members of staff would be told about time sheets and claiming expenses for on call work at the commencement of their employment, which would include how they would be called out, what the on call work included, and how they were responsible for keeping records of call out times.  The Panel therefore considered that there was no reason for the Registrant to be unaware of the rules regarding on call expense claims over such a period of time. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s conduct in this regard had been dishonest and found paragraph 3 of the Allegation proved.

 Decision on Grounds:

Paragraph 4 – Misconduct

13. In reaching its decision on the statutory ground of misconduct, the Panel has taken into account the submissions of Ms Sheridan for the Council and has accepted legal advice.   The Panel has exercised its judgment in considering whether the facts found proved in paragraphs 2 and 3 amount to misconduct, individually and cumulatively.   It concluded that the facts found proved in each paragraph amounted to misconduct.   

14. In relation to paragraph 2 of the Allegation, the Panel was referred to a number of standards set out in the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and finds that the following standards are engaged and have been breached by the Registrant:
Standard 3:  you must keep high standards of personal conduct, as well as professional conduct
Standard 13:  you must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession.

15. The Panel was also referred to the HCPC Standards of proficiency for Biomedical Scientists in force at the relevant time, and finds that the following standard is engaged and has been breached by the Registrant:
Registrant Biomedical scientists must:
Standard 1.a.1 be able to practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession. 

16. The Panel considered that in submitting 18 false claims in relation to on call work over a significant period of time, the Registrant’s conduct had fallen far below the standards expected of a Biomedical Scientist of his seniority and amounted to serious misconduct.

17. The Panel has no hesitation in finding that the Registrant’s dishonesty in relation to these false claims was serious misconduct.   This was not a single isolated incident, but was conduct which had taken place over the best part of a year.

Decision on Impairment:

18. In making its decision on impairment the Panel has borne in mind that the purpose of these hearings is not to punish the Registrant for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise.  It has also borne in mind the HCPC’s Practice Note regarding Impairment.

19. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, both by reason of his conviction and on grounds of misconduct.   The Panel noted that the conviction referred to in paragraph 1 of the Allegation involved (i) false expense claims during the same period that is covered in paragraph 2, (ii) that these false claims were to the financial benefit of the Registrant, and (iii) that he had acted dishonestly.

20. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered the evidence of how the Registrant had conducted his work as a biomedical scientist in the past.   It was clear from the evidence presented to the Panel that no concerns had been raised about the Registrant’s competency in a clinical setting.   However, the misconduct found in this case does not concern his clinical competence.  

21. The Panel considered that the Registrant had shown very little, if any, insight or remorse for his misconduct.  The Panel noted that he had admitted the matters that were covered in the conviction charge during his interview with Witness 1 on 10 December 2013 and had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity in the Magistrates’ Court.   This indicates that the Registrant was in a position to appreciate the potential impact that his dishonest conduct may have had on the Trust and the public’s confidence in his profession.    However, the Panel considered that his lack of engagement with the regulatory process tended to suggest that his insight was woefully inadequate.   There is no evidence of any remorse or actual appreciation of the effect of his misconduct and his conviction for dishonesty on the public’s confidence in his profession.    The Panel noted that, in relation to misconduct or convictions involving dishonesty, it is difficult for a registrant to demonstrate that he or she has taken remedial steps.   However, there is no evidence that the Registrant has reflected on his shortcomings, developed any insight or taken any steps to remedy his misconduct.   In those circumstances, the Panel is unable to say other than that there is a risk of repetition.     

22. In relation to the wider public interest, the Panel has no doubt that an informed member of the public would consider that public confidence in the Biomedical Scientist profession would be seriously undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case.   This was particularly so where both the conviction and the misconduct involved findings of dishonesty by a senior and experienced Registrant in the context of expense claims where there was an abuse of trust.

23. The Panel also took the view that it would be failing in its duty to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour in the Biomedical Scientist profession if it did not find impairment in this case.  

Decision on Sanction:

24. In considering the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case, the Panel was referred to and took account of the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.   It was also referred to and took account of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (Standards 3 and 13 referred to in paragraph 14 above) and the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Biomedical Scientists (Standard 1.a.1 referred to in paragraph 15 above).

25. The Panel was aware that the purpose of any sanction it imposes is not to punish the Registrant, although it may have that effect, but it is to protect service users and to maintain confidence in the Biomedical Scientist profession and to uphold its standards of conduct and behaviour.   It also had in mind that any sanction it imposed must be appropriate and proportionate, bearing in mind the conviction and the misconduct involved.

26. The Panel considered mitigating and aggravating factors. In relation to mitigating factors, the Panel noted that the Registrant pleaded guilty to the criminal offence and had co-operated with the Trust’s internal investigation.   It also noted that there were no previous professional findings against the Registrant and that there had been no harm to service users arising out of the result of his conviction and misconduct.

27. In relation to aggravating features, the Panel took note of the persistent nature of the dishonesty involved in both the conviction and misconduct. It considered that the dishonesty involved had resulted in the abuse of trust placed in members of staff in relation to their travel and on call expense claims.   There had also been breaches of a number of the standards found in Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and in the Standards of Proficiency for Biomedical Scientists.  The Registrant was experienced within the department and within the on call rota, and should have known what could and what could not be claimed by way of expenses for this work.

28. In addition, the Panel noted the Registrant’s lack of remorse and considered that he had shown very little insight. It has already referred to this in paragraph 21 above.

29. In reaching its decision on sanction the Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.  Mediation did not apply in the circumstances of this case.   The Panel decided that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order in this case would not be appropriate or proportionate given that both the conviction and the misconduct involved findings of dishonesty which occurred over a substantial period of time and which could not be characterised as minor.   It was satisfied that to ensure that public confidence in the profession was not undermined it had to consider a more severe sanction. 

30. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order but decided that it was neither sufficient nor proportionate in this case.   The lack of insight and lack of remorse shown by the Registrant into his conviction and his misconduct, was such that an informed member of the public would be concerned if a registrant with such lack of insight was allowed to practice, even subject to conditions.    In any case the Panel considered that it would not be possible to devise conditions that were appropriate, workable and measurable in this case of dishonesty.   It took the view that conditions of practice were generally more appropriate in cases involving competency based concerns and not dishonesty. 

31. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. It took account of the relevant paragraphs in the Indicative Sanctions Policy and determined that it would not be adequate or sufficient to satisfy the wider public interest concerns.   It had particular regard to paragraph 34 which states:

 “If the evidence suggests that the Registrant will be unable to resolve or remedy his or her failings then striking off may be the more appropriate option…”.   

32. The Panel noted that the Registrant had chosen not to attend the hearing or engage with the regulatory process in any way other than by indicating in stark terms that he would not be attending or be represented at this hearing.   As the burden of proof in the fact finding stage of this hearing is on the Council, the Panel has not held his non-attendance against the Registrant in considering those facts relating to paragraphs 1, 2 and 3.   However, when it comes to impairment and sanction, where the Panel must consider matters such as insight, remorse, reflection, remediation and likelihood of repetition, the fact that the Registrant has failed to engage in the process does become relevant. The Panel has acknowledged (in paragraph 21 above) that it is difficult to remedy dishonest behaviour, but the Panel does not consider that it is impossible.   However, if the Registrant does not attend, it is difficult for him to demonstrate that he has in fact developed insight and has taken steps towards remediation.  

33. As the Panel has not had the opportunity to explore with the Registrant in person, his level of insight, and whether and to what extent he has reflected on his conviction and misconduct, the Panel concluded that the only appropriate and proportionate sanction was an order striking him off the Register. In reaching its conclusion, it took account of the following paragraphs of the Indicative Sanctions Policy:

 Para. 40 Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving abuse of trust such as sexual, dishonesty or persistent failure.

 Para.41 Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial.   A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.

 Para.42  Striking off may also be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the allegation are such that any lesser sanction would lack deterrent effect or undermine confidence in the profession concerned or the regulatory process.”

34. In this case, the Panel considered the dishonesty involved to have been serious and persistent and also an abuse of trust by a senior practitioner.   The Panel has already referred to the lack of insight in this case and considers that the Registrant’s lack of engagement is indicative of this. The Panel decided that to ensure the public’s confidence in the Biomedical Scientist profession and in its regulatory body, and to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour in that profession that it is appropriate and proportionate in this case to order that the Registrant’s name be struck off the register. 

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Alfred A A Adios from the Register on the date this order comes into effect

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 27 December 2016.

An Interim Suspension Order was imposed to cover the appeal period.  

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Alfred A A Adio

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/11/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off