Sister Helena M Ogbonna

Profession: Biomedical scientist

Registration Number: BS65368

Hearing Type: Voluntary Removal Agreement

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 28/08/2019 End: 17:00 28/08/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Biomedical Scientist and employed by the Alder Hey
Children's NHS Foundation Trust ('the Trust'):
1. Between 20 June 2016 and 6 October 2016, you were unable to perform
at the standard required in that you:
a. Were unable to work unsupervised;
b. Were unable to identify the most common organisms and/or pathogens;
c. Were unable to complete bench work within a satisfactory time scale
during the working day on the following benches:
(i) The blood culture bench;
(ii) The wound bench.
d. Were unable to perform routine tasks as part of Microbiological
investigations, including:
(i) The reading of urine plates;
(ii) The identification of blood cells;
(iii) The use of antibiotic templates in reading sensitivities;
(iv) The use of the bench guide.
e. In relation to the respiratory bench:
(i) Were unable to identify the types of samples processed;
(ii) Were unable to identify the culture plates required;
(iii) Were unable to identify the target organisms associated with
respiratory infections.
f. Despite being signed off as competent on the blood culture bench, were:
(i) Unable to read the bench correctly after a break of a few weeks;
(ii) Unable to distinguish between yeast cells and Gram Positive Cocci in
gram films;
(iii) Unable to recognise that all positive blood cultures have an anaerobic
culture performed.
2. The matters set out at paragraph 1 amount to misconduct and/or lack of
competence.
3. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to
practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters
Proof of Service
1. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been sent in a letter, by first class post on 24 June 2019, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC register. The Notice of Hearing was also sent to the Registrant by email on the same date.
2. The Panel was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules. Further, the Registrant has been communicating with the HCPC in connection with the voluntary removal application and was plainly aware of the hearing.
Proceeding in Absence
3. The Presenting Officer applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant under Rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules.
4. The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor and accepted that advice. The Panel also took into account the guidance issued by the HCPTS in the Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.
5. The Panel determined that it was fair and reasonable to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant. The Registrant was aware of the hearing (as evidenced by her email communications with the HCPC) and was seeking voluntary removal from the register. In support of the application, she has executed the Voluntary Removal Agreement provided to her and reiterated on a number of occasions in correspondence that she wished to be removed from the register. In an email sent on 4 July 2019 the Registrant stated that she is “sorry [she] is unable to attend the hearing.” The Panel noted that the purpose of the hearing is to consider the signed agreement, which is treated as a joint application made on behalf of both parties. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that it would be reasonable to infer that the Registrant’s expectation is that the hearing will proceed in her absence.
6. The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn the proceedings and there is no indication that even if the case were to be adjourned that she would be willing or able to attend on any future date. She had also not indicated that she wished to be represented in the proceedings. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant would not be disadvantaged by the matter proceeding in her absence given her clearly expressed wish to be removed from the register. It concluded that it was in the public interest, and in the Registrant’s own interest, that the hearing proceeds expeditiously.

Background
7. The Registrant is a registered Biomedical Scientist who commenced employment with Alder Hey Children’s NHS Trust (“the Trust”) in June 2016 as a permanent and full time Band 6. Prior to that, she had undertaken locum work at a number of trusts, having qualified abroad. 
8. The Trust initially raised concerns about the performance of the Registrant in August 2016. Following informal discussions between the Trust and the Registrant, it was agreed that the Trust would support the training and development needs of the Registrant with a view to her being able to work at the level required for a Band 6 Biomedical Scientist. Despite a comprehensive package of training and supervision being put in place to support the Registrant to improve her competence, the Trust remained concerned about the Registrant’s performance to the extent that she was unable to work unsupervised, and her work was limited. Stage 2 of the Trust’s “Capability and Performance Policy” was invoked in April 2017 followed by Stage 3 in June 2017. At the end of this process, in July 2017, the Registrant agreed to being placed on the “At Risk “register to see if she could secure re-deployment.
9. The Registrant was dismissed from the Trust’s employ as a consequence of her lack of capability on 29 September 2017. A referral was subsequently made to the HCPC by the Trust on 2 October 2017.
10. On 5 December 2018 a Panel of the Investigating Committee determined that there was a case to answer in respect of the Allegation against the Registrant.
11. The Registrant was informed that the matter would be scheduled for a substantive hearing and on 28 January 2019 she requested that her name be voluntarily removed from the register. On 12 March 2019 the Registrant was sent a copy of the HCPTS Practice Note on Disposals by Consent. The Registrant sent an email on 7 April 2019 stating that she admits the Allegation and acknowledged that her fitness to practise is currently impaired. She confirmed that she had no intention of practising as a Biomedical Scientist in the future. 
12. A Voluntary Removal Agreement was provided to the Registrant by the HCPC on 12 August 2019, which she signed and returned, thereby accepting that her current fitness to practise is impaired and confirming that she has no intention of returning to practise.
Submissions
13. The Presenting Officer submitted that the Voluntary Removal Agreement is an appropriate means of resolving the case against the Registrant. She submitted that voluntary removal is equivalent to a Striking Off Order and would therefore ensure public protection and maintain public confidence in the profession. She further submitted that voluntary removal would not be detrimental to the wider public interest. In addition, she drew to the Panel’s attention the relevant documents within the hearing bundle which highlighted the Registrant’s desire to be removed from the register, and confirmed that the HCPC were satisfied that the agreement for removal entered into between it and the Registrant was legally binding and in the public interest.
14. Although there were no formal written submissions from the Registrant, the Panel had sight of the communications between the HCPC and the Registrant in respect of the proposal for voluntary removal. The Panel also took into account the signed agreement itself which confirmed that the Registrant admitted the HCPC’s Allegation in its entirety.

Decision
15. The Panel carefully considered all of the information provided to it in relation to the application for voluntary removal from the register. It received advice from the Legal Assessor and noted that Article 11(3) of the 2001 Order and Rule 12(3) of the HCPC Rules, prevent a Registrant from seeking to resign from the Register whilst subject to an Allegation, a Conditions of Practice Order or a Suspension Order. The Panel also took into account the guidance contained within the HCPTS Practice Note entitled “Disposal of Cases By Consent” which, in respect of Voluntary Removal states:
 “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.”
16. The Panel noted that a panel of the Investigating Committee determined that there was a ‘case to answer’ and that the Registrant had fully admitted the Allegation and that her practise is currently impaired. The Panel also noted that as the Voluntary Removal Agreement mirrors the terms of a Striking Off Order, it would prevent the Registrant from practising as a biomedical scientist or using any title associated with that profession and would prevent her from making an application to be re-admitted to the register within 5 years.
17. The Panel had regard to the fact that the maximum sanction available to a panel at a substantive hearing of the Allegation would be likely to be a Suspension Order if the allegation was determined to amount to the statutory ground of lack of competence, as opposed to misconduct.  It was satisfied that the circumstances of this case met the underlying purpose of removal by consent, which is to avoid unnecessary proceedings when the public interest can be met by a consensual disposal.
18. The Panel then went on to consider whether approving the voluntary removal of the Registrant from the register would provide adequate public protection or be detrimental to the wider public interest. It noted that if the removal would not adequately protect the public interest, the proposed voluntary agreement would have to be rejected, which would mean that the allegation would continue to a substantive hearing before a differently constituted panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee. The Panel also considered the Registrant’s own interests.
19. Given the documentary evidence and the full admissions made by the Registrant, the Panel was satisfied that the particulars of the Allegation were capable of being found proved on the balance of probabilities. The Panel took into account the extent of the support offered to the Registrant by the Trust over a prolonged period, and the wide-ranging deficiencies in the Registrant’s practice as a Biomedical Scientist which had the potential to put patients at risk of harm. It was however satisfied that the allegation did not relate to reprehensible conduct incompatible with continued registration, and there was no indication that any patients were actually harmed as a result of the Registrant’s conduct. Accordingly, the Panel determined that a panel conducting a substantive hearing would be likely to find that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is impaired. In addition, the Panel noted that the Registrant has made it clear that she has no expectation that she would ever seek to return to the profession and is fully aware of the consequences of voluntary removal, evidenced by the agreement entered into with the HCPC in respect of her voluntary removal from the register.
20. In considering whether removal of the Registrant’s name from the Register was proportionate the Panel noted that her conduct had the potential to damage the reputation of the profession and was likely to undermine public trust and confidence in the profession. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that approval of the proposed agreement for voluntary removal is both proportionate and appropriate. The Panel also determined that there is a legitimate public interest in dealing with this matter efficiently and expeditiously by avoiding a substantive hearing given the full admissions made as to the facts and grounds of the allegation and the Registrant’s consistent and repeated desire to be removed from the register.
21. The Panel consented to the disposal of this matter by consent and was satisfied that the professional disciplinary proceedings should be withdrawn.

Order

ORDER: The Panel approves the Voluntary Removal Agreement on the basis that the Registrar will remove the name of Sister Helena M Ogbonna from the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Sister Helena M Ogbonna

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
28/08/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Voluntary Removal Agreement Voluntary Removal agreed