Mrs Claire Herbert
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The following allegation was considered by a Panel of the Health Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 29 August 2017.
Your fitness to practise as a Chiropodist / Podiatrist is impaired by reason of your health.
The panel at the substantive hearing found the following:
Facts proved: All
Facts not proved: None
The panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired and a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months was imposed as a sanction.
1. This review hearing was first listed to take place on 23 August 2018. Due notice of that hearing had been given to the Registrant by letter dated 23 July 2018, which had been sent by post to her registered address. The Registrant did not attend on that day and the hearing did not take place due to lack of available time. The hearing was re-listed to take place today. A further notice of hearing dated 10 September 2018 was sent to the Registrant by post at her registered address, giving her notice of the date, time and venue of today’s hearing.
2. The Legal Assessor advised that the question was whether the Registrant had been given an opportunity to appear and argue her case in accordance with the relevant rules: Article 30(9), Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, as amended (‘the 2001 Order’) and the Health and Care Professions Council (Health Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003, as amended. He advised that both letters gave notice of the date, time, venue and purpose of the hearing, as well as the possible consequences for the Registrant’s registration.
3. In those circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been served at her registered address with details of the hearings in accordance with the Rules. She had been given the necessary opportunity to appear and argue her case today and that as a result there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing.
Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant
4. Ms Knight, on behalf of the HCPC, applied for the hearing to take place in the absence of the Registrant. The Legal Assessor referred to the relevant parts of the HCPTS’ Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”, 22 March 2017 and in particular the guidance given by the Court of Appeal in GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis  EWCA Civ 162.
5. The Panel directed itself in accordance with the advice given by the Legal Assessor and concluded that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from today’s hearing. The last contact from the Registrant was on 29 September 2016 when she provided details about her health. Subsequently, a third party contacted the HCPC on her behalf on 13 June 2017 stating that the Registrant was no longer able to practise and “…kindly leave her alone”. The Registrant did not attend the final hearing, did not attend to take part in the review hearing on 23 August 2018 and has not attended today, even though she has been given an opportunity to appear and argue her case. It is also unlikely that the Registrant would attend on a future date, if the hearing were to be adjourned again. The Suspension Order is due to expire on 26 September 2018 and this is a mandatory review. There is accordingly also a public interest in the hearing proceeding today.
6. In those circumstances, the Panel decided that it was fair to proceed in the absence of the Registrant and decided to do so.
Proceeding in Private
7. Ms Knight submitted that it was appropriate that the entire hearing be held in private in view of the health issues in this case. The Legal Assessor advised that this was appropriate, as the Registrant’s health was intrinsically linked to all the issues in this case, so it would not be practicable to conduct any part of the hearing in public. The Legal Assessor referred to the HCPTS’ Practice Note “Conducting Hearings in Private”, 22 March 2017. The Panel decided to conduct the entire hearing in private, as the health issues form the entirety of the HCPC’s case against the Registrant and a private hearing would protect her privacy.
8. The Panel considered that the only appropriate sanction was one of suspension. It decided that a period of 12 months was the appropriate period in the circumstances, given the lack of engagement from the Registrant, and in the absence of any new information from her there appeared to be no change in her health. This would allow a further period for her health to improve and this would also protect the public. In the event that the Registrant recovers sufficiently to return to work she will be able to seek an early review.
The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mrs Claire Herbert for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the existing Order.
The Order imposed today will apply from 26 September 2018 and will be reviewed again before its expiry on 26 September 2019.