Mrs Anne H Smith
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Whilst registered as a Radiographer and employed by Virgin Care working at Woking Hospital:
1. You accessed Person A’s electronic record without her consent on one or more of the following occasions:
a) 21 February 2017 at around 08:58 hours;
b) 21 February 2017 at around 16:34 hours;
c) 22 February 2017 at around 08:40 hours;
2. You accessed Person B’s electronic record without her consent on 21 February 2017 at around 08:49 hours;
3. Your actions described at particulars 1 and 2 constitute misconduct;
4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
Service of Notice and Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence
1. The HCPC produced evidence that Notice of today’s hearing had been sent by the appropriate postal service, contained the correct details of the hearing, and had been posted in sufficient time in advance of the hearing to the Registrant’s address as shown on the HCPC’s Register. The Panel noted that the Notice had also been sent by email.
2. The Legal Assessor emphasised the fact that at this stage the HCPC had to provide evidence of postage and it did not have to show receipt, however evidence of receipt would inform the Panel’s decision as to whether it should proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel accepted that the HCPC had taken all reasonable steps to bring this matter to the Registrant’s attention.
3. The Panel noted from an email dated 20 April 2018 from the Registrant to the HCPC, that the Registrant was aware of today’s hearing, she had not sought an adjournment and had indicated that she would not be attending. The Panel appreciated that in a hearing of this nature the Registrant’s interest in the matter proceeding in her absence coincided with the public interest in this hearing going forward without delay or further cost.
4. The Panel received the HCPC’s representations that this matter should be heard today and accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice on the issues to be considered before reaching that decision. Given the Registrant’s representations in her email, the Registrant’s interest in this matter proceeding, and the public interest in there being no unnecessary delay, the Panel decided that it would proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
5. The Registrant is a Radiographer registered with the HCPC.
6. The Registrant self-referred and supporting information was received from Virgin Care at Woking Hospital. A Panel of the HCPC’s Investigating Committee (ICP) on 27 October 2017 decided that there was a case for the Registrant to answer in respect of the Allegation set out above:
7. Further contact between the HCPC and the Registrant identified the Registrant’s wish to leave the Register. In support of her wish for the HCPC process to come to an end she made reference to the fact that she had reached an age where retirement better suited her and she had no interest in continuing her career.
Application and Decision
8. The process of disposing of a case by way of consent is an extra-statutory means of concluding a matter. However, before agreeing to such a course the Panel reminded itself that it has to be certain that by adopting this process there is the appropriate level of public protection and that to conclude this matter in this way would not be detrimental to the wider public interest.
9. Article 11(3) of the 2001 Order and Rule 12(3) of the Health and Care Professions Council (Registration and Fees) Rules 2003 prevents a registrant from seeking to resign from the Register whilst the registrant is the subject of an allegation.
10. The Guidance issued by the HCPTS states:
11. In cases where the HCPC is satisfied that it would be adequately protecting the public if the Registrant was permitted to resign from the Register it may enter into a Voluntary Removal Agreement allowing the Registrant to do so, but on similar terms to those which would apply if the Registrant had been struck off.
12. If the Panel is not satisfied that the above criteria have been met it appreciates that it has the ability to reject the proposal and allow the matter to proceed to a full Final Hearing.
13. The Panel had before it documentation which indicated the outcome of the Investigating Committee considerations and copies of recent communications with the Registrant. It also had a copy of the signed Voluntary Removal Agreement. The Panel therefore had evidence to support the Allegation by documentation and admission.
14. The Panel heard from the HCPC that in its view this measure will ensure service user protection. The wider public interest in this matter has been addressed and satisfied by the process of investigation. Further, the fact that a striking-off order may not have been the level of sanction imposed at a Final Hearing was not a primary consideration in a case where the Registrant had made a conscious and informed decision to seek removal.
15. The Panel noted the points made by the Registrant in her various communications with the HCPC. It noted in particular that from the outset of the internal investigation the Registrant had acknowledged and accepted the fact of her actions and the evidence of her poor judgment in these instances.
16. The Panel had before it the information supplied by the person who had undertaken the internal investigation and the various documents in which the Registrant admitted her actions. The Panel considered the Registrant’s admissions and expressions of regret and apology to be genuine. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s actions had been, according to her recorded statements, initially well motivated, however they demonstrated poor judgment. Whilst the incidents had occurred over a relatively short period of time and only related to two service users they were serious. The Panel noted that there were three different occasions of unauthorised access to the system over a period of 24 hours. The first two in the morning of 21 February 2017, one in the late afternoon of 21 February 2017, and one the following morning on 22 February 2017. This conduct was therefore not accidental nor one individual moment of lapse of conduct but intentional misconduct. Further, these two service users were known to the Registrant, they were colleagues and had not been chosen randomly. The Panel noted that the Registrant was not an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) practitioner but had offered as a reason for her actions her interest in learning more and in particular a wish to understand MRI better. However these reasons do not support her stated objective of her continuing professional development as a Radiographer. Her accessing of the system without authority or service user permission was a clear breech of paragraph 5.1 of the Standards of conduct performance and ethics.
5.1 You must treat information about service users as confidential.
17. The Registrant had not made any personal financial gain from her actions. The Panel took this matter into consideration in its decision-making process. The Panel concluded that the information before it supported a view that the matters alleged in the Allegation were well-founded and there had been full acknowledgement of wrongdoing. The Panel appreciated the personal reasons given by the Registrant on which her decision to leave her profession has been based and that these personal reasons may be exacerbated if there were a final hearing. The Panel also acknowledges that had there been a Final Hearing the outcome may have been different from permanent removal from the Register. The Panel acknowledges that the Registrant’s decision to consent to removal is an unfortunate end to a long career. The Registrant’s decision however does ensure continued service user protection and is in the wider public interest in that the cost of a Final Hearing has been avoided.
18. The Panel is satisfied that the Voluntary Removal Agreement will provide continued service user protection in that the Registrant will not be able to practise. The Panel considered that the wider public interest has been appropriately dealt with and would not be affected by this matter not being publicly scrutinised at a Final Hearing. In this regard, the Panel noted that the HCPC has reserved the right to publicise the terms of the agreement. Further, the Registrant has voluntarily ceased to practice and there will be a saving of public funds through adoption of the process of voluntary removal.
19. The Registrant has stated that her best interest is served by her removal.
20. The Panel has concluded that in all the circumstances of this case the approval of the proposed Voluntary Removal Agreement is the proportionate and appropriate course of action in this matter.
21. The Panel notes the terms of the Voluntary Removal Agreement that is before it and the fact that it has been signed by both parties. Accordingly, the Chair of the Panel has, on behalf of the Panel, signed and dated the attached Consent Order which will take immediate effect. She has also signed the Notice of Discontinuance which is required as a consequence of the Consent to the Voluntary Removal Agreement. Copies of both have been dated today.
The Registrar is directed to remove the name of Mrs Anne H Smith from the Register with immediate effect.
If the Registrant seeks to return to the HCPC Register at any time the application would be treated as if the registrant had been struck off as a result of that allegation.
History of Hearings for Mrs Anne H Smith
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|11/05/2018||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Voluntary Removal agreed|