Mr Stephen M King

Profession: Biomedical scientist

Registration Number: BS34692

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 09/05/2018 End: 16:00 09/05/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

During the course of your employment as Cytology Manager with East & North Herts NHS Trust between approximately 23 December 2013 and 30 April 2014 and while registered as a Biomedical Scientist, you:

1. On or around 23 December 2013, made an uncontrolled and/or unauthorised change to
the staining agent used to Mayer's the Gynaecological Cervical Cytology smear test screening process, in that you introduced Mayer’s
Haematoxylin:

a. Without did not following the Change Control Process when making this change;

b. Despite the staining agent, Mayer's Haematoxylin, not being suitable for Cervical Cytology and could have a detrimental effect on the staining of gynaecological Cytology material;

c. Without discussing this change with colleagues.

d. Causing there to be a mix of the old staining agent, Harris’ Haematoxylin, and the new staining agent, Mayer’s Haematoxylin

2. Did not respond appropriately to concerns raised in February 2014 by Colleague A at the reporting Laboratory, in that:

Between February 2014 and March 2014, you did not alter the staining agent despite informing Colleague A that you would address the issue with the staining;

3. In April 2014, requested withdrawal of affected slides from the independent quality assurance process, TEQA, on the basis that reporting was being transferred to a new reporting Laboratory.

4.The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 3 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

5. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

1. The Panel has today been convened to decide on an application made jointly by the HCPC and the Registrant, Mr Stephen King, that the latter should be permitted to remove his name from the HCPC register.

2. The Registrant has neither attended this hearing nor been represented at it.  The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has been given proper notice that the application would be considered.  The nature of the application is such that it would not be expected that a registrant would attend, and all the relevant information is contained in the hearing bundle.  The Registrant knows that the matter is being considered today, has not stated that he wished to attend and not sought an adjournment of the hearing.  There could be no advantage to the Registrant by attendance at the hearing because if the Panel does not accede to the application, the suspension to which he is currently subject will continue.  Furthermore, there would be limited the Panel might obtain from the Registrant had he attended.  In these circumstances the Panel decided that it was appropriate to proceed to consider the application in his absence.

3. The Panel has approached this application on the basis that, notwithstanding the position of both the HCPC and the Registrant that the removal sought should be permitted, it is still necessary for the Panel to exercise its independent judgment as to whether it should be.  To make this judgment the Panel has had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note entitled, “Disposal of Cases by Consent”.  Having done so, the Panel has concluded that there are three matters as to which it should be satisfied, namely:

• That the Registrant has expressed a desire for his name to be removed from the HCPC register.


• That the Registrant acknowledges the findings made against him, this admission being necessary so any future application by him for re-registration can be decided in the light of that admission.


• Finally, but very importantly, that there are no public interest considerations which should lead the Panel to refuse the removal of the Registrant’s name from the HCPC register by means of this expedited procedure.

4. Before turning to explain the Panel’s decisions on these points, it is necessary to describe briefly the background to the HCPC’s proceedings against the Registrant and the findings made against him at the substantive hearing.

5. The Registrant commenced work as a Biomedical Scientist in the cytology department of the East and North Herts NHS Trust (“the Trust”) in 2009.  From March 2013, when a previous manager retired, he was in charge of the cervical cytology aspects of the work of the department, and he was in that role at the time of the events reflected in the factual particulars.  For some time there had been a plan to transfer the Trust’s cervical cytology work to another organisation known as “the Pathology Partnership”.  After a delay in that transfer being effected it eventually occurred on 1 May 2014 when the Registrant’s employment was transferred to the Pathology Partnership.  In the period leading up to the closure of the Trust’s cervical cytology service, the facility for abnormal cervical cytology reporting was reduced, and an arrangement was reached which resulted in slides that required such reporting to be screened by the Pathology Partnership. MH, a Consultant Biomedical Scientist in cervical cytology, raised concerns about the quality of the staining of the slides provided by the Trust, which affected the ability to identify correctly any abnormalities.  The HCPC’s case is that the Registrant assured MH that the issue with staining was being looked into and would be resolved.  It is alleged against the Registrant that this did not occur.  It is these events that underpin particular 2 of the allegations.  In April 2014 an independent Quality Assurance scheme for cervical cytology (“Technical EQA”) was convened.  Slides from the Trust were due to be provided for the purposes of the Technical EQA, but it is alleged that the Registrant withdrew the Trust’s slides that were due to be assessed.  Particular 3 is concerned with the alleged withdrawal of the slides from the Technical EQA process

6. The substantive hearing commenced on 21 August 2017 and concluded the following day.  The Registrant did not attend that hearing, and the panel conducting that hearing directed that it should continue in his absence.  At the commencement of the substantive hearing the allegation was amended, the HCPC having communicated to the Registrant an intention to make such an application in December 2016.  The terms of the amended allegation are set out at the head of this determination.

7. The substantive hearing panel found all of the facts to be proved.  That panel determined that the findings were of the utmost seriousness, resulting in the necessity of a review of some 10,000 slides and in excess of 600 women who had undergone smear tests being contacted so that further tests could be carried out.  Although the HCPC’s case was not advanced on the basis that as a result of poor slide quality malignancy was missed in any particular case, tthe panel nevertheless considered it inevitable that his actions gave rise to such a risk and would undoubtedly have caused considerable anxiety and distress.  For these reasons the substantive hearing panel further found that the facts constituted misconduct impairing the Registrant’s fitness to practise.  When it turned to consider the issue of current impairment of fitness to practise, the panel recorded the fact that it had received no evidence of remedial action, and that resulted in there being a significant risk of recurrence.  Accordingly, the Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired upon consideration of the personal component.  It also decided that the wider public interest required the same finding to satisfy the public component.  When the panel turned to consider the issue of sanction, it stated that the real choice was between suspension and striking off.  It stated that it had stepped back from making a striking off order to allow the Registrant an opportunity to decide if he wished to take steps to return to his profession.  Accordingly, the Panel made a suspension order for a period of 12 months.  As the present Panel considers the application for voluntary removal, the Registrant is still subject to the suspension order imposed on 22 August 2017.

8. On 2 November 2017, an HCPC Case Manager wrote to the Registrant.  In the letter she recorded the fact that prior to the substantive hearing, the Registrant had written to the HCPC stating that he had resigned from his employment and also wanted to resign from the HCPC Register.  She also referred to the fact that when the issue of voluntary removal had been canvassed before the substantive hearing, in the context of being told that at that stage it would be necessary for a registrant to admit the allegations, the Registrant had stated that his lack of recall of the relevant events meant that he was unable to admit the allegations.  The Case Manager continued, however, to state that the matter of voluntary removal could be reconsidered in the light of the findings at the substantive hearing.  By a letter dated 3 December 2017, the Registrant replied to the Case Manager, stating, “I can confirm that I do still wish to resign from the HCPC and would like you to explore my voluntary removal from the register.”  On 19 December 2017, the Case Manager wrote to the Registrant informing him that, following a review of the case, the HCPC considered that voluntary removal would be appropriate.  Preparation of the formal Voluntary Removal Agreement followed.

9. Turning to three matters that the Panel earlier described as being those it was necessary to consider, the Panel is satisfied that:


• The terms of the Voluntary Removal Agreement dated 27 February 2018 and executed by the Registrant demonstrate a clear request for his name to be removed from the register.  The terms of that Agreement accord with the long-expressed wish of the Registrant that his name should be removed from the HCPC Register.


• The Agreement would permit the HCPC’s Education and Training Committee to consider the decision of the final hearing panel in the event of an application for re-registration being made by the Registrant.


• So far as the crucial issue of the public interest is concerned, the Panel is satisfied that there are no reasons why effect should not be given to the Voluntary Removal Agreement.  In particular:


• If the Voluntary Removal Agreement is not permitted to take effect, it would be necessary for the present order of suspension to be reviewed before its expiry.  The reviewing panel would then have to consider the imposition of a further sanction.  No sanction that could be imposed by a reviewing panel could afford greater protection than the removal of the Registrant’s name from the HCPC Register.


• In the view of the Panel, any public interest in there being a full public consideration of the issues was satisfied by the final hearing.


• In circumstances in which the Registrant has stated that he does not wish to return to practise as a Biomedical Scientist, the public interest would not be served by compelling him to remain registered with the HCPC.


• The public interest would be properly protected in the event of the Registrant changing his mind as to his future career intentions because the admission of the findings made against him would enable those findings to be considered in the event of the Registrant seeking readmission to the Register, and that consideration would be undertaken as if he had been struck off, and that consideration would be undertaken as if he had been struck off.

10. The consequence of these findings is that the Panel agrees to the voluntary removal application and the Panel Chair will sign the Consent Order permitting effect to be given to the Voluntary Removal Agreement, which will revoke the Suspension Order and give effect to the Registrant’s request to be removed from the Register. 

 

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to remove the name of  Mr Stephen M King from the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Stephen M King

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status