Mr Clayton R Blight

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA05666

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 13/04/2018 End: 16:00 13/04/2018

Location: Radisson Blu Hotel CArdiff, CF10 2FL

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

Whilst registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a
Paramedic, you:

1. Posted inappropriate and/or offensive images and/or messages, including:

a) post on Facebook which stated, 'Me manage, I can't even wipe my own arse yet. Never mind there's plenty of cooks for the books. Fancy a munch off Boss? Slurp!';

b) post on Facebook which stated, 'Keep Calm, worthless bunch of lying, snidy, balding, inexperienced, uneducated, backstabbing, spineless, arse kissing, nepotistic, gutless, false, pretnenders (sic) and evil people';

c) post on Facebook which stated, 'I find it amazing how muppet's work so well with some-one's hand up their arse controlling them';

d) post on Facebook which stated, 'clown shoes. Same initials as some useless fat c+++ I used to work with';

e) post on Facebook which stated, 'Dance little puppet...dance'...'Yes Boss.. anything you say';

f) post on Facebook which stated, 'We've played Catchphrase, what about 'Guess Who'. Who are these pair of ****ends?';

g) post on Facebook which stated, 'It is him isn't it. Small, bald, squaky (sic) and out of his league. Never mind, Ollie will look after you. You might get a medal for doing F*** all for the last 30 years! What a pair of moby's';

h) post on Facebook which stated, 'Hey fat bloke, try a syrup, seems to be working for trump';

i) post on Facebook about threadworms which stated, 'They don't always cause symptoms, but people often experience itchiness around their bottom, baldness, weight gain and sever greying of the hair. In extreme circumstances some patients have been seen to walk like a penguin. If you feel something crawling up your arse....please contact your GP or buy a head lamp'.

(j) a post on Facebook which stated, 'You are fat, bald, hopelessly unqualified at your job and not respected by any of your peers. How do you shave in the morning and look yourself in your fat face in the mirror';

(k) a post on Facebook which stated 'Am I getting to you. Whom ever your mole is deserves all that is coming to you. You have up'd the stakes mon brav. You are skating on very thin ice my pedigree chum and I will be  underneath when it breaks'.

2. The matters set out in paragraph 1 constitute misconduct.

3. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:

Service

1. The Panel noted that a Notice of Hearing dated 14 March 2018 was sent to the Registrant at his registered address, by first class post and also by email. The letter gave notice of the hearing date of 13 April 2018.  The Panel had sight of a signed certificate of posting.

2. There had been no response to the Notice of Hearing from the Registrant. 

3. The Panel was satisfied in the circumstances that there had been proper service of the Notice of Hearing in accordance with the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).

Application to proceed in absence

4. Ms Wills, submitted that the hearing should proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She confirmed that the HCPC had received no contact from the Registrant in response to the Notice of Hearing, or at all since the initial hearing in October 2017. The current order must be reviewed timeously and it was in the public interest that the hearing proceed today. 

5. The Panel considered the submissions of the HCPC Presenting Officer. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and referred to the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note dated 22 March 2017, “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. 

6. The Panel was mindful that its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant was one, which must be exercised with great caution and with the overall fairness of the proceedings at the forefront of its mind. It considered the matter in accordance with the factors set out in the case of R v Jones (Anthony) [2003] 1 AC 1HL and the guidance in the case of GMC v Adeogba and GMC v Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162. 

7. The Panel noted there had been no contact from the Registrant in response to the Notice of Hearing.  There was no indication that he wished to attend the hearing  or that he sought an adjournment on any ground. 

8. The Panel noted that the Registrant had not attended the hearing in October 2017 and had not been represented. Since the hearing, the Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC at all. The Panel noted the guidance in the case of Adeogba, which refers to the obligation upon a registered professional to engage with his regulator in relation to disciplinary proceedings.   The Panel concluded in the light of the history in this case that the Registrant had disengaged from the HCPC process and had voluntarily waived his right to attend this hearing.  The Panel concluded he would be unlikely to attend on a future occasion and therefore an adjournment would serve no useful purpose.

9. The Panel also took into account the overall fairness of the hearing and that it must also consider the public interest in regulatory proceedings being dealt with as expeditiously as possible. The Panel noted that the Notice of Hearing sent to the Registrant informed him of the Panel’s power to proceed in his absence and explained fully the powers which would be available to the Panel at this hearing. 

10. The Panel was mindful that the current order must be reviewed before its expiry.  In the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that it was appropriate in the public interest that this matter should proceed today.  The Panel determined to proceed with the review hearing today in the absence of the Registrant. 

Background

11. The Registrant’s case was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a hearing on 30 to 31 October 2017.  The Registrant did not attend the hearing and was not represented.  The Panel at that hearing had sight, with the Registrant’s consent, of his earlier written representations to the Investigating Committee. The allegation, as set out above, was found proved. The Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be currently impaired by reason of misconduct.  A six-month Suspension Order was imposed.

12. This is the first review of the Suspension Order, which is due to expire on 28 May 2018.

13.  The Registrant commenced employment with the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (“the Trust”) as a Paramedic in 1986.  By April 2014, he had become a supervisor with the Special Operations Response Team. 

14. In April 2014, the Registrant’s manager was CS, who was Head of Operations for the Trust’s Resilience and Special Operations.  The Registrant applied for the position of Special Operations Manager but was unsuccessful in the recruitment process.  BC was promoted and became the Registrant’s manager from June 2014. 

15. It was reported to CS by staff members who were friends of the Registrant on Facebook that the Registrant was posting comments on Facebook which appeared to be derogatory to CS.  CS spoke to the Registrant on 3 June 2014 and he denied that the postings related to CS. 

16. These comments were not the subject of the HCPC allegations.  However, CS asked the staff members to bring any further posts of concern to his attention.  More reports from these staff followed.  CS read the posts and asked to be provided with screenshots.  These screenshots were the exhibited posts in the HCPC’s case.  CS formed the view that the posts referred to himself and BC and were offensive, unprofessional and inappropriate.  CS stated that the posts continued after the Registrant had left his employment at the Trust in April 2016. 

17. The Panel at the hearing in October 2017 found that the content of all posts referred to in the particulars of the allegation, with the exception of paragraph (i), were inappropriate and offensive to CS. It was satisfied that the potential for these posts to be seen by the public at large was established and concluded that many of the posts were inappropriate and offensive to the general public. 

18.  The Panel found that the Registrant’s conduct in posting these messages amounted to a continuing theme of cyber-bullying towards CS over a considerable period of time.  They found the conduct was deliberate and intended to be belittling, humiliating and undermining to CS’s authority at work to colleagues and the wider public.  It found that he had acted covertly and in an underhand manner. The Panel concluded that the Registrant would have known that the posts had the potential to be visible to everyone.   The Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be currently impaired.

19. The sanction imposed by the Panel at the October 2017 hearing was a six-month period of suspension. In its decision, it advised the Registrant that a future Review Panel would be assisted by his attendance at the hearing and suggested that he might provide an effective reflective piece dealing with the issues raised by this case, especially his use of social media and various guidance documents by the provision of any testimonials or references. 

Submissions on behalf of the HCPC

20. Ms Wills, on behalf of the HCPC, set out the background to the case.  She informed the Panel there was no new information from the Registrant.  She clarified that he had last been in contact with the HCPC in February 2017, before the case was listed for the October 2017 hearing, when he had responded to a letter from the HCPC’s solicitors enquiring whether he wished his written representations to the Investigating Committee to be placed before the hearing panel in due course.   The Registrant confirmed that he did. Since then, there had been no further engagement by the Registrant, and as previously noted, he did not attend the October 2017 hearing. 

21.  Ms Wills submitted that the Panel should conclude that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained currently impaired, as there had been no change in circumstances and no new information was available. The Registrant had not taken the opportunity offered by the period of suspension to address his past misconduct and the issue of his impairment. 

22. Ms Wills referred to the Panel’s powers under Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order (“the Order”).  She submitted that the appropriate sanction the Panel should impose in the circumstances was a Striking Off order. 

Decision  

23. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful of its powers upon a review of a Suspension Order under Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001. The Panel must first decide whether it found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be currently impaired by reason of his misconduct. The Panel was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note, Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired of 22 March 2017, and to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. 

24.  If the Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be currently impaired, then it would consider what steps to take in accordance with its powers under Article 30(1) (a) to (c), all of which powers were available to the Panel at this hearing.
25. The Panel was advised in respect of its power under Article 30(1)(b).  This provides that the Panel may, with effect from the expiry of the current order, make any order, which it could have made at the time it made the order being reviewed.  Those powers were set out in Article 29 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001. 

26. The Panel carefully considered all the documents presented and the submissions of Ms Wills on behalf of the HCPC. 

27. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained currently impaired.  It was mindful that the Registrant had not engaged with the HCPC process since in February 2017. There was no new or up to date information from the Registrant.  He had not taken up the guidance offered by the October 2017 Panel as to information, which might have assisted this review panel.

28. The circumstances therefore remained as they were at the original hearing.   The Panel had very carefully considered the findings of the October 2017 Panel.  This Review Panel concluded that there was no evidence that the Registrant had addressed the issues identified by the previous Panel, that he had attempted to remediate his past misconduct or that he had gained any insight.  The Panel concluded that the risk presented by the Registrant remained.  There was nothing to satisfy the Panel that this conduct would not be repeated if the Registrant were permitted to return to practise.  Further, the Panel considered that the risk to public confidence in the profession and to the reputation of the profession remained. It considered that public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of current impairment was not made. 

29. The Panel was therefore satisfied that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains currently impaired.

30. In the circumstances the Panel did not consider that the public and the public interest would be adequately protected from the continuing risk presented by an extension of the present suspension order under Article 30(1)(a) or by the imposition of a period of conditions after the expiry of the present suspension order under Article 30(1)(c).  The Panel determined to impose an order under Article 30(1)(b).

31.  The Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness. It was satisfied that given the Registrant’s lack of engagement, to take no action or to mediate would not provide the necessary public protection, and nor would a caution. 

32. The Panel could not have confidence that the Registrant would engage or comply with a conditional order, given the history of his failure to communicate with the HCPC since early 2017.  It also did not consider that suitable conditions could be formulated which would address the issues of judgement and integrity identified by the original Panel.

33. The Panel very carefully considered whether a further period of suspension would be adequate. It was concerned that the Registrant has not taken the opportunity provided by the current period of suspension and reached the view that he was not likely to do any differently now if a further period of suspension was ordered. Given the Registrant’s failure to co-operate with the HCPC process, the Panel concluded the Registrant has disengaged from this process and a further period of suspension would therefore serve no useful purpose. 

34. The Panel concluded in all the circumstances that the only sanction which would adequately protect the public and the public interest was a striking off order. 

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Clayton Blight from the Register on expiry of the existing order.

Notes

This Order will take effect on 29 May 2018.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Clayton R Blight

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/04/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
30/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended