Mr Peters O Aremu
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The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at the Substantive Hearing on 19-22 June 2017.
During the course of your employment as a Biomedical Scientist for the Croydon University NHS Hospital, between 2011 and 2013, you:
1. Did not follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) regarding reporting on cases in that you did not notify the Pathology IT Manager of changes made on WinPath.
2. In the period up to 19 December 2012, you did not discharge your responsibilities, in that you did not use or use correctly the I-Passport for quality control.
3. Did not perform the Quality Management System (QMS) audit assignment as scheduled in September 2012 for July 2013.
4. Did not act upon reminders given to complete the Quality Management System (QMS) audit assignment (referred to in 3 above) on:
a) 8 August 2013 and/or
b) 12 August 2013 and/or
c) 17 August 2013.
5. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
6. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.
The panel at the substantive hearing found particulars 1, 2, 3, 4(a), 4(b) and 4(c) proved, that they amounted to misconduct, and that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired. The panel imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months.
1. Ms Knight, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for parts of the hearing to be conducted in private as reference would be made to the Registrant’s health. Having received advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel granted that application in view of the principles set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Conducting Hearings in Private”. The Panel determined that those parts of the hearing that concern the Registrant’s health should be conducted in private. As such, this is a redacted public copy of the decision.
2. The Panel was informed by the Hearings Officer that Notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant’s registered address by letter dated 15 May 2018. A copy was also sent by email on the same date.
3. Having seen copies of the Notice of Hearing dated 15 May 2018, the Registrant’s Certificate of Registration, and the proof of posting, and receiving the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that the Notice of Hearing had been served in accordance with the applicable Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules).
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
4. Ms Knight applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant under Rule 11 of the Rules. She informed the Panel that the HCPC had received a letter from Dr S regarding the Registrant’s health. The HCPC wrote to Dr S on 6 June 2018, requesting an update as to the Registrant’s health. No response had been received.
5. Ms Knight submitted that, in light of the scant information about the Registrant’s current health, there was nothing to suggest that the Registrant would attend on a future date if the hearing today were adjourned. Ms Knight reminded the Panel that this was a mandatory review of a Suspension Order due to expire on 20 July 2018 and submitted that the public interest to proceed today should prevail. Ms Knight further submitted that there was a strong public interest in proceeding with the hearing today to carry out the mandatory review of that Suspension Order, so that it should not expire whilst there remain serious concerns about the Registrant’s fitness to practise.
6. The Panel took into account all the factors set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the Panel’s discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence under the provisions of Rule 11 is one that should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Legal Assessor also reminded the Panel of the requirement, pursuant to Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, that substantive orders must be reviewed before they expire.
7. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the overall interests of justice and fairness to all parties. The Panel considered the Registrant’s engagement with his HCPC proceedings to date and bore in mind that he had not engaged at all during his final hearing in June 2017. The Panel also read Dr S’s letter of 8 March 2018. The Panel had no reason to believe, at this stage, that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at some future date. It was satisfied that there would be no significant risk of unfairness to the Registrant if it decided to proceed in his absence, given that he would be able to request an early review. It further recognised that there was a public interest in conducting a mandatory review of the substantive order currently in place.
8. Accordingly, having weighed the interests of the Registrant with those of the HCPC and the strong public interest in an expeditious disposal of this hearing, the Panel determined that it was fair, appropriate and proportionate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. Without a review, the Suspension Order will expire on 20 July 2018. In the Panel’s judgment, it was in the public interest that a decision be made at this time as to whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. Moreover, it was in the Registrant’s own interests that decisions be made as to whether any further order is needed in respect of his registration.
9. The Registrant joined the Croydon NHS Hospital Trust (the Trust) in 2010 and became a full-time member of staff in 2011. He was employed as a Biomedical Scientist in the Cytology Department. He was responsible for Cytology screening for hospital and General Practitioner (GP) services. As the lead Biomedical Scientist, the Registrant was in charge of the day-to-day functioning of the Cytology Department, maintaining Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Policies, conducting audits and ensuring only controlled documents were being used in the lab and, as such, one of his key roles was preparation for the Clinical Pathology Accreditation assessment.
10. From around 2011, the Registrant’s relationship with some of his colleagues began to break down. As a result, there were a number of internal investigations and concerns about the Registrant’s practice. These emerged throughout his employment period (2011-2013).
11. The issues with the Registrant’s practice did not resolve and these matters were referred to the HCPC. At a final hearing, the panel found that the Registrant did not follow the SOPs in relation to reporting on cases; that he did not discharge his responsibilities to use the I-Passport system for quality control; and that he did not perform the Quality Management System audit assignment as scheduled, or act upon reminders to do so. The panel found that the Registrant’s omissions had put patients at risk of harm and brought the Biomedical Science profession into disrepute. The panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of his misconduct and imposed a 12-month Suspension Order.
12. This is the first review of the Suspension Order imposed at the Substantive Hearing on 22 June 2017. Ms Knight submitted that this case has not moved on since the substantive hearing. There has been no engagement from the Registrant, no evidence of his compliance with suggestions made to him by the previous panel, and there is no information before the Panel of his insight, reflection or remediation. Ms Knight submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired.
13. This Panel considered the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel bore in mind that it must first decide if a finding of current impairment is necessary to protect the public from any risk of harm (assessing the extent of current or future risk), maintain public confidence in the profession, or to declare and uphold the proper standards of conduct or behaviour. This is a matter for the Panel’s independent judgment and is essentially a risk assessment in light of all the information before the Panel today.
14. As to impairment, the Panel bore in mind the decision of the previous panel at the final hearing that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired on the grounds of public protection and being otherwise in the public interest. There has been no meaningful engagement from the Registrant throughout his regulatory proceedings with the HCPC, including prior to and during the final hearing in June 2017, and no new information or evidence since that given at the final hearing, save for the new information from Dr S regarding the Registrant’s health.
15. The Panel bore in mind that any approach to the issue of whether a Registrant’s fitness to practise should be regarded as impaired must take account of the need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and carefully considered the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and all the evidence before it.
16. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s misconduct involved a wide range of elements of his practice over a significant period of time. The previous panel found that “the main cause of the Registrant’s misconduct involves attitudinal issues.” There has been no evidence of change since that hearing on 22 June 2017 or any evidence that the concerns underpinning the Registrant’s impaired fitness to practise have been overcome.
17. The Panel has determined that, in light of all the evidence before it, the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired by reason of his misconduct. Both the public and the personal element of impairment are engaged. The Registrant is not safe to practise given his current impairment and the public interest requires that he should not be in a position to practise unrestricted.
18. The Panel carefully considered matters, including the HCPC “Indicative Sanctions Policy”. It has borne in mind that any sanction must be proportionate and that the primary purpose of sanction is protection of the public. Any sanction it imposes must protect the public but must be the least restrictive sanction that achieves that aim.
19. Having considered these issues, the Panel has determined that the misconduct issues in this case are too serious to be met with either no further action or a Caution Order. The Panel next considered imposing a Conditions of Practice Order but, adopting the same reasoning of the previous panel, determined that it was not possible to devise appropriate, workable and realistic Conditions of Practice that would protect the public.
20. The Panel has therefore determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction is to extend the current Suspension Order by a period of 12 months. A period of 12 months is appropriate to account for the Registrant’s health and allow him to engage with his regulatory proceedings. This Order protects the public, is in the wider public interest and is also in the Registrant’s own interests.
21. Under the circumstances of this case, the Panel considered that it would be disproportionate to impose a Striking Off Order.
22. A future panel reviewing this Order would be assisted by the following, if possible:
a. The attendance of the Registrant at the hearing;
b. A reflective piece by the Registrant, concentrating on:
i. what led to his misconduct; and
ii. how his actions impacted, or could have impacted, on service users and his colleagues;
c. Information about any employment, paid or unpaid, since these events;
d. An indication as to his future plans and whether he wishes to remain in the profession;
e. Evidence of the Registrant keeping his practice and skills up-to-date either by attending CPD courses (which may include online courses), or being employed in any other capacity in allied and relevant roles;
f. Up-to-date testimonials from colleagues and/or persons who are aware of these proceedings in relation to the Registrant’s communication skills, work practices, work standards, and adherence to work protocols.
The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Peters O Aremu for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the existing Order.
The Order imposed today will apply from 20 July 2018.
This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 20 July 2019.