Miss Selina Conway

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA31181

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 06/11/2018 End: 17:00 06/11/2018

Location:

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

1. On 7 November 2017 at Nottingham Crown Court you were convicted of dishonestly making false representation to make gain for yourself or another or cause loss to another or expose another to risk.

2. By reason of your conviction, your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.

Finding

Background

1. The Registrant is, and was at the relevant times, registered with the HCPC as a Paramedic.

2. The Registrant qualified as a Paramedic in September 2009 and was employed by East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EMAS). She also worked for West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (WMAS) through the agency Medic Now.

3. On 24 March 2016, the Registrant self-referred and informed the HCPC that she had submitted timesheets for approval for hours she did not work over a 12-week period between 2 August 2015 and 1 November 2015.

4. The total amount falsely claimed by the Registrant was £15,592.50. The £15,592.50 comprised of £10,642.50, which was the cost of the total number of charged-for hours claimed by and paid to the Registrant. The remaining £4,950.00 was the commission charged by Medic Now to WMAS.

5. On 25 January 2016, the Registrant repaid Medic Now £6,000, and on 19 February 2016 the Registrant made a second payment of £4,642.50. The total repaid was £10,642.50, which was the total new salary received by the Registrant from Medic Now.

6. On 7 November 2017, the Registrant was convicted at Nottingham Crown Court of “Dishonestly making false representations to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk”. The Registrant pleaded guilty to the charge before the Crown Court and was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, which was suspended for 24 months. She was ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work, to be carried out by 6 November 2018, and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £100.

Decision on Facts and Grounds

Panel’s Approach

7. The Panel was aware that the burden of proving the facts was on the HCPC. The Registrant did not have to prove anything and the individual particulars of the Allegation could only be found proved if the Panel was satisfied on the balance of probabilities.

8. The Panel had regard to Rule 10(1)(d) which, in terms of the evidence required to prove a conviction, states: “where the registrant has been convicted of a criminal offence, a certified copy of the certificate of conviction (or, in Scotland, an extract conviction) shall be admissible as proof of that conviction and of the findings of fact upon which it was based”.

9. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account all of the evidence and information presented to it and contained within the hearing bundles.

10. The Panel accepted the advice from the Legal Assessor.

Particular 1 – Found Proved

On 7 November 2017 at Nottingham Crown Court you were convicted of dishonestly making false representation to make gain for yourself or another or cause loss to another or expose another to risk.

11. The Panel noted that there was no dispute that the Registrant was convicted by Nottingham Crown Court and that Particular 1 was admitted by the Registrant.

12. The Panel accepted the documentary evidence, noting the Certificate of Conviction and the sentencing remarks contained within the HCPC documentary bundle. The Panel was therefore satisfied, to the required standard, that the facts were proved.

13. The Panel next considered the statutory grounds. The Panel was satisfied that a conviction is one of the statutory grounds.

Decision on Impairment

14. The Panel is aware that a finding of impairment is a matter for the Panel’s professional judgment. The Panel took into account the relevant HCPTS Practice Notes relating to “Conviction and Caution Allegations” and “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’” and it accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

15. The HCPC stressed that being honest and trustworthy are fundamental tenets of being a professional. The HCPC submitted that the matters giving rise to the conviction were serious, involving instances of dishonesty over a considerable period of time, such that a finding of impairment was clearly warranted in the public interest. The Registrant’s actions, as found by the Crown Court, brought her and her profession into disrepute and the public’s confidence in the regulatory and disciplinary processes would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.

16. Mr Uddin, on behalf of the Registrant, made two points on her behalf: the first being that she had made a ‘no comment’ interview as a result of legal advice and that the Panel should not draw an inference from that; the second point made was that this case did not involve harm or a risk of harm to the public.

17. The Panel noted that the criminal conviction in this case concerns dishonestly defrauding the NHS by submitting fabricated timesheets and claiming money for work which the Registrant had never undertaken. Whilst there is only a single conviction in this case, the Panel noted that there were a number of false claims made by the Registrant over a 12-week period, which indicated a systematic course of conduct by the Registrant.

18. Theft is a very serious offence and, apart from the fact that the Registrant pleaded guilty before the Crown Court and that the Sentence Hearing transcript provides some mitigation on the Registrant’s behalf, the Panel is not aware of any other mitigation offered on her behalf. The Panel has no evidence of personal insight. The only remorse shown extends to the impact on herself. There is no acknowledgement of the impact on her colleagues, the wider public interest, or the profession and its regulator. The Panel has also seen no evidence that the Registrant has addressed the underlying causes of her conduct. In the circumstances, the Panel cannot be satisfied that there is not likely to be a risk of repetition.

19. The Panel disagreed with Mr Uddin’s submission that the Registrant’s impairment engaged no public protection issues. Paramedics enter the homes of service users who are not only vulnerable as patients, but often have multiple morbidities and may have an inability to give informed consent. Within that context, Paramedics in a patient-facing role often have to search through personal effects to ascertain health information. The fact that a Paramedic’s honesty and integrity was found to be seriously lacking in the recent past impacts significantly on the public’s trust and confidence in that Paramedic. Further, patients would expect Paramedics to be honest in all aspects of their professional life, including the accuracy of their timesheets and records.

20. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s conduct falls far below the required standards of her profession, demonstrates a complete lack of probity and integrity, and is such as to bring her profession into disrepute. The Panel has no doubt that public confidence in the profession and in the Regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made. The Panel concluded therefore that, in relation to the personal component of its decision, there was, and remains, impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise.

21. In relation to the public interest component of its decision, the Panel came to the conclusion that although the events that led to the convictions were historic, they were very serious in nature, intentional, repeated over a period of time, and so supported a finding of impairment in the wider public interest.

22. Accordingly, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of her conviction.

Decision on Sanction

23. Ms Mond-Wedd submitted that the Panel’s role, when determining sanction, was not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. She reminded the Panel that the Registrant was still subject to a suspended custodial sentence, with 12 months remaining, and that the offence and conviction related to a breach of trust which was committed on a number of occasions over a 12-week period.

24. Mr Uddin, on behalf of the Registrant, reminded the Panel that the Registrant was of previous good character, that she had pleaded guilty to the offence at the Crown Court, and that she was remorseful. He submitted to the Panel that the Registrant had had an unblemished career and highlighted the Judge’s sentencing remarks regarding her honest life up until the point of her conviction.

25. Mr Uddin accepted, on the Registrant’s behalf, that taking no action was not appropriate in the circumstances of this case and submitted that the appropriate order that the Panel should impose, in this case, was that of a Caution Order.

26. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel took into account the submissions made Ms Mond-Wedd on behalf of the HCPC, together with the submissions provided by Mr Uddin on behalf of the Registrant.

27. The Panel also took the Registrant’s oral evidence into account. The Panel also noted the Registrant’s previous good character and took this into account when assessing her evidence, along with the positive testimonials provided.

28. The Panel also referred to the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” issued by the HCPC.

29. The Panel had in mind the fact that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession, and maintain proper standards of conduct and performance. The Panel was also cognisant of the need to ensure that any sanction is proportionate.

30. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

31. To assist it in assessing the relevant level of sanction, the Panel identified the following mitigating and aggravating factors.

Mitigating factors

• The Registrant was, prior to her conviction, of good character, with no previous disciplinary record in her career as a Paramedic;

• The Registrant pleaded guilty to the offences at the Crown Court;

• The Registrant brought the fact of the criminal proceedings to the attention of the HCPC prior to the case being heard at the Crown Court;

• The Registrant has engaged with the regulatory process;

• The Registrant has shown remorse, expressing her “regret”;

• The Registrant has taken some remedial steps, namely by repaying the monies taken and moving to a role where she is a full-time employee away from timesheet-based employment;

• She made admissions to her employer, family and friendships circles regarding her dishonesty; and

• She provided a number of positive testimonials and was able to demonstrate that she has added responsibility in processing monies on behalf of a gym.

Aggravating factors

• The conviction amounts to a serious criminal conviction of which she is still serving part of her sentence, and which has over 12 months left to run;

• There were multiple acts of dishonest behaviour over a significant period of time;

• When the Registrant was first confronted by her employer regarding the incident on 1 November 2015, she claimed that she had submitted the timesheet in error and, when asked if she had submitted any other timesheets in that sort of way, she denied doing so, which was later found to be untruthful;

• The conduct represents an abuse of trust and responsibility; and

• The dishonesty was for personal gain and was in the workplace.

32. As advised by the Legal Assessor, the Panel started its consideration of this matter from the bottom of the scale of possible sanctions.

33. It considered that taking no action would not be appropriate in this instance, and neither was mediation.

34. The Panel moved on to consider a Caution Order and was of the view that it would be insufficient to mark the seriousness of the matters that led to the Conviction. The Registrant’s conduct was not isolated or a minor incident.

35. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order and determined that a Conditions of Practice Order would not address the dishonesty element that was underlying the Conviction. The Panel is of the view that the dishonesty is attitudinal, and it noted that the Registrant accepted herself that “you can’t go on a course to fix it”. The Panel was therefore not satisfied that conditions would adequately address her dishonest conduct or address the need to maintain proper standards of conduct and performance in the profession.

36. The Panel next considered whether to make a Suspension Order. Such an Order would provide the necessary degree of protection for the public, whilst leaving open the possibility of remediation and improved insight.

37. The Panel also considered that a Suspension Order would reflect the seriousness of the Registrant’s failings and send out a clear message that such conduct was not acceptable. In light of all the matters highlighted in this case, the Panel considered that this was a suitable case for a period of suspension.

38. In making its decision, the Panel noted that the Registrant is only halfway through her suspended custodial sentence and was of the view that it is too soon, given the serious nature of the conviction, not to have due regard to the public’s confidence in the profession, the regulatory process and the trust bestowed upon Paramedics.

39. The Panel has heard no reasons as to why she cannot address her failings in the future. The Panel heard evidence that she is making inroads into addressing and rebuilding trust and confidence, but that the Registrant accepts this may take further time.

40. The Panel believe that the Registrant can remediate and that she is on the journey toward full insight and remediation.

41. The Panel considered that to strike the Registrant from the Register, which is a sanction of last resort, would be disproportionate at this stage and that a lesser sanction was therefore appropriate in this case. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant is a talented practitioner, who is well regarded by her employer, peers, and colleagues.

42. Accordingly, the Panel made an Order directing the Registrar to suspend the registration of the Registrant for a period of 12 months.

43. The Panel feel that a 12-month period of suspension is appropriate as this would allow the Registrant sufficient time to address her insight, would cover the period for her existing criminal sentence, and would satisfy the public interest in terms of restoring confidence in the profession.

44. The Suspension Order will be reviewed before its expiry. The Panel considered that a reviewing panel would be assisted by the following:

• the Registrant’s attendance at the review hearing;

• a detailed reflective piece on the impact of her dishonesty on both herself and the wider public;

• evidence of her on-going professional development and CPD as a Paramedic;

• Up-to-date testimonials from any employer, whether paid or unpaid, regarding her trustworthiness.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Selina Conway for a period of 12 months from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

This Order will be reviewed before its expiry.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Selina Conway

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
06/11/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended