Mrs Edna Pool
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1. Were convicted of an offence of failure to provide a specimen of breath for analysis upon request, contrary to Section 7(6) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.
1. The Panel noted there was a technical breach of the requirement to specify the address of the hearing as only the city for the hearing appeared in the Notice served on 8 February 2018. This was remedied in the subsequent Notice sent on 12 February 2018 and the Panel was satisfied there was no prejudice to the Registrant. The Panel, after receiving legal advice from the Legal Assessor, was satisfied that in the circumstances that Notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant in accordance with Rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence (Procedure) Rules 2003 and thereafter considered Ms Dudrah’s application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence in terms of Rule 11.
Proceeding in absence
2. The Panel is aware that its discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. In reaching its decision, the Panel had regard to the HCPTS’s Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant and took into account the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has also taken account of the fact that this is a mandatory review and this order must be reviewed prior to its expiry on 5 April 2018. The Panel notes that the Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing on 7 June 2016 or the subsequent review hearings on 6 June 2017 and 24 November 2017. In addition, the Panel has had sight of an email dated 22 February 2017 from the Registrant. There has been no request for an adjournment. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself and would be unlikely to attend at a future date, if the matter were adjourned. In these circumstances the Panel has agreed to proceed in her absence as it is satisfied that it is both in the public interest and the Registrant’s interest to do so.
3. On 7 June 2017, a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of a conviction under Section 7(6) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis upon request) and imposed a twelve month Suspension Order. That order was reviewed on 6 June 2017 and extended for a period of 6 months. The order was reviewed again on 24 November 2017 when that panel directed that the Suspension Order be extended for a period of three months. The Panel today is conducting a further review of that Suspension Order in accordance with Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.
4. Ms Dudrah referred the Panel to the background of the case and the circumstances which led to the imposition of the Suspension Order. Ms Dudrah advised the Panel that the Registrant’s position is unclear. Previously the Registrant intimated that she no longer wished to continue with a career as a Paramedic or in any other form of health care. However in an email from the Registrant dated 22 February 2018, the Registrant stated she is reluctant to have her name removed from the Register. In an email received from the Registrant on the 8 March 2018 she asked how she could work towards the Suspension Order being lifted and asked why the Panel would not consent to her being ‘struck off’. She also stated that she was confused as to what she should do and requested advice as to how to maintain her skills as she loved her job as a Paramedic.
5. Ms Dudrah advised that it was a matter for the Panel to determine if the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired and if so, what sanction should be imposed. Ms Dudrah submitted that the HCPC was of the view that whilst a Suspension Order could be continued, a Strike Off Order was the appropriate sanction which should be considered, as there would be no public interest in a further extension of the Suspension Order given that the Registrant has not actively engaged in the process.
6. The task of the Panel today is not to go behind the decision of the previous panel but to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and consequently, what, if any, order should be made when the current order expires. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Dudrah and the written submissions of the Registrant together with the advice of the Legal Assessor. The original panel found that the Registrant had displayed a degree of insight by virtue of her guilty plea. Both the original panel and the subsequent reviewing panels have provided guidance to the Registrant as to what might be of assistance at a subsequent review hearing. The Registrant has failed to engage with the requests of these panels in relation to these matters and has previously expressed a desire to be struck off, although is now asking for guidance as to how she can work towards having the Suspension Order lifted so she can continue to practice.
7. The Panel noted that in November 2017, the Suspension Order was extended for a period of three months to allow the HCPC an opportunity to explore the option of a Voluntary Removal Agreement (VRA) with the Registrant given that she did not wish to continue to practise. This Panel is now satisfied that this option has been explored and the Registrant has stated that she does not wish to have her name voluntarily removed from the Register.
8. The Panel noted that the Registrant has not provided any evidence to demonstrate insight, nor any evidence of remediation. As a result this Panel determined that there remains a risk of repetition. In the absence of any evidence to address her failings the Panel has concluded that her fitness to practise remains impaired, and that an order remains necessary.
9. The Panel then went on to consider what, if any, sanction was needed. It determined that a sanction was still required to protect the public and in the public interest.
10. The Panel considered that to impose a Caution Order would not be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations or to protect the public, in the absence of any evidence that the Registrant has addressed the matters which brought her before the HCPC and given the risk of repetition. The Panel also considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate in circumstances where the Registrant has not provided any information about her current circumstances, work situation or steps taken to address the reasons for her misconduct.
11. The Panel next considered extending the current Suspension Order. The Panel noted that the Registrant who worked as a Paramedic for 25 years has been unclear as to whether she wished to proceed with her future as a Paramedic or not. However in view of the Registrant’s recent contact with the HCPC indicating that she wishes to continue to practice, the Panel is satisfied that it would be appropriate for a continuation of the Suspension Order for a period of three months from its expiry. This would achieve the necessary degree of public protection. The Panel wishes to make clear to the Registrant that it would be in her interest to comply with the advice of the previous panels and to provide the following information (as this has not yet been provided):
a. Any relevant, up to date medical information on her health issues;
b. The development of coping strategies for dealing with stress;
c. A reflective piece concerning the circumstances leading to her conviction;
d. An indication of her future intentions in respect of her profession;
e. Details of steps taken to keep her knowledge and skills up to date.
12. The Panel also noted that it would be very helpful for the Registrant to fully participate in any future hearing. This Panel also suggests that it would be helpful to receive testimonials and references from current and recent employers and or voluntary organisations that she has worked for.
13. The Panel seriously considered whether to impose a Striking Off Order. After much consideration, the Panel reached the view that a Striking Off Order at this moment in time would be disproportionate given the Registrant’s recent engagement indicating that she has now decided she would wish to be allowed to continue in her career as a Paramedic. However, the Panel was concerned that the Registrant had not fully grasped what she needs to do to maintain her professional knowledge and skills. The Panel determined that an extension of the current Suspension Order for a further three months would allow the Registrant to gather the necessary information and demonstrate remediation.
The order imposed today will apply from 05 April 2018.
This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 05 July 2018.