Miss Julie A Mills

Profession: Chiropodist / podiatrist

Registration Number: CH14235

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 13/08/2019 End: 17:00 13/08/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

The following Allegation was found proved by a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee at a Substantive Hearing on 13 – 16 August 2018.

1. During the course of your employment with Pennine Care Foundation Trust (the Trust), you removed the following patient documentation from the Trust, without the consent of the patients and / or the Trust:

a. Approximately 19 print outs / clinic lists

b. A front cover of a fax from a GP surgery, from a patient's record

c. Patient clinical case notes dated

i. 15 June 2012 to 24 January 2014

ii. 12 March 2014

2. The matters set out in paragraph 1 constitute misconduct.

3. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Proof of service

1. The HCPTS sent a Notice of Hearing to the Registrant’s registered address on 10 July 2019. The Notice set out all the relevant information about today’s proceedings in detailing the date, time and venue in good time. The Panel was therefore satisfied that service had been effected in accordance with the Rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. Ms Simpson applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She submitted that all reasonable efforts to contact the Registrant had been taken and that she had personally emailed the Registrant herself on 5 August 2019. As there has been no engagement, the Panel should consider that the Registrant has voluntarily waived her right to be present.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred the Panel to the factors considered in the case of R v Jones and the case of Adeogba v GMC. Taking into account the following:

a. that the Registrant had not applied for an adjournment;

b. had provided no explanation for her absence;

c. had not engaged since the last hearing; and

d. had not acknowledged or responded to postal or email correspondence,

there was little purpose to be served in adjourning proceedings to secure the Registrant’s attendance on a future date. This is a mandatory review and the Registrant had been given the opportunity to attend and / or make representations which she has not availed herself of. There was little more that could be done to secure her engagement and, in the circumstances, it was therefore appropriate to proceed in her absence.


Background

4. The Registrant was employed as a Band 6 Podiatrist for Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Podiatry Service at Pennine Care Foundation Trust (the Trust) from 6 May 2006 until 14 April 2014. Following her dismissal from the Trust on 14 April 2014, an Employment Tribunal claim was made by the Registrant. As part of this claim, certain patient records were received by the Trust from the Registrant’s solicitor. The Trust maintained that permission to remove the documents from Trust premises was never provided to the Registrant. In light of this, the Trust subsequently made a referral to the HCPC in December 2015.

5. The case was considered initially by an Investigating Committee on 18 November 2016, and after obtaining further evidence, it was considered by a second Investigating Committee on 2 February 2018 which determined that there was a case to answer. A substantive hearing occurred on 13-16 August 2018, when the Registrant was found to be impaired by reason of misconduct. That panel found that the Registrant had deliberately removed Trust documentation without permission, which did not acknowledge the confidentiality that patients were entitled to. A 12 month suspension order was imposed with that panel outlining what the Registrant could usefully do before this matter came before a reviewing panel.

6. There has been no engagement from the Registrant since the 16 August 2018.


Decision

7. The Panel considered both the personal and public components of impairment. Insofar as the personal component of impairment was concerned, the Panel has no new information that could satisfy it that the Registrant had developed any insight in the previous 12 months. There is nothing before the Panel that could persuade it that the Registrant has acknowledged her wrongdoing, addressed conduct which is easily remediable, or apologised. It appeared to the Panel that the Registrant had chosen not to engage.

8. Insofar as the public component of impairment was concerned, the Panel considered that the public and the profession would not expect a registered Podiatrist to remove patient information from the Trust and use it for their own purposes, without the permission of the patients or the Trust. Without any evidence of insight into this wrongdoing, (with the last panel finding no demonstration of this at all), there remains a risk of repetition. This is serious and inappropriate conduct which had not been remediated.

9. In the absence of any engagement or new information from the Registrant, the Panel can only consider what the Registrant has said in the past and the evidence before the previous panel. It has not been provided with an update as to the Registrant’s current state of mind, and whether her failings have been accepted and / or if she is willing to address these in order to minimise a risk of repetition.

10. In all the circumstances, the risk to patients and the public interest remains and the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

11. Ms Simpson submitted on behalf of the HCPC that, given the non-engagement of the Registrant, little was served by extending the Suspension Order imposed last year. Despite her conduct having been identified as capable of being remedied, there has been no acknowledgment that the Registrant recognises this, or is prepared to address her failings. Ms Simpson submitted that it was in the interests of justice for the Registrant to be struck-off.

12. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In doing so it noted that the purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish the Registrant for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not currently fit to practise.

13. In considering the appropriate sanction, if any, the Panel had regard to the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case. In mitigation it acknowledged that there was no actual patient harm in the conduct identified in this case and at the time of the events in question, the Registrant was undergoing a capability process in the work place.

14. However, a mitigating factor considered by the last panel was the Registrant’s engagement with the HCPC and the process. This is no longer the case. Taking this into account along with the number of aggravating factors in this case: the deliberate nature of the Registrant’s conduct; the extent of the patient information that was removed without consent; the lack of insight; the lack of remorse; and the lack of remediation, serious concerns about the Registrant remain.

15. The Panel considered that, given the seriousness of the misconduct and the risk of repetition, it would be inappropriate to take no action. The Panel went on to consider the available sanctions in ascending order. Mediation was not appropriate for the circumstances of this case.

16. The Panel next considered whether a Caution Order would be sufficient. A Caution Order would not restrict the Registrant’s ability to practise and it would not mark the seriousness of the misconduct identified. Nor would it address the on-going concerns about the risk of repetition of the misconduct.

17. The Panel then considered whether the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order would be sufficient. It took into account that a Conditions of Practice Order is appropriate where the Registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues identified in the case. However, the Panel has no evidence that the Registrant is committed to complying with any conditions formulated. Her previous submissions only indicate that she was justified in the actions that she took and she has provided nothing to indicate a change from that position.

18. The Panel then went on to consider the extension of the Suspension Order. While such an order would provide public protection and would send a clear message to the public and the profession as to the unacceptability of breaching data confidentiality, it was previously imposed to allow the Registrant time to develop insight and remedy the misconduct identified. There is no indication that the Registrant had taken the opportunity to either reflect on her failings, or address them. In these circumstances, the extension of the Suspension Order does not appear to be appropriate. The likelihood is that it would simply delay the inevitable with the Registrant’s continued failure to engage.

19. The Panel concluded that a Striking-Off Order would reflect the seriousness of the case and would uphold standards and maintain confidence in the profession of Podiatry. This is the ultimate order but is proportionate in a case where there has been no engagement or taking up of the opportunity to reflect and remedy failings. There are online courses on confidentiality and patient protection, plus preparing for self-reflection, that could easily have been completed by the Registrant but there is no indication that the Registrant is prepared to undertake such actions.

20. In coming to its decision the Panel took into account the public interest which includes protection of patients, maintenance of public confidence in the profession and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour. As a result of a Striking-Off Order the Registrant will not be able to practise as a registered Podiatrist. The Panel has considered the impact which this may have on the Registrant, but noted that at the last hearing she had indicated that she was not currently practising podiatry and has no plans to do so.

21. The Panel concluded, that a Striking-Off Order is the most appropriate and proportionate order. It will apply at the expiry of the current Suspension Order.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to strike the name Miss Julie A Mills from the Register on the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Julie A Mills

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/08/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
13/08/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended