Mr Peters O Aremu

Profession: Biomedical scientist

Registration Number: BS42055

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 18/12/2019 End: 13:00 18/12/2019

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

During the course of your employment as a Biomedical Scientist for the Croydon University NHS Hospital, between 2011 and 2013, you:

1. Did not follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) regarding reporting on cases in that you did not notify the Pathology IT Manager of changes made on WinPath.

2. In the period up to 19 December 2012, you did not discharge your responsibilities, in that you did not use or use correctly the I-Passport for quality control.

3. Did not perform the Quality Management System (QMS) audit assignment as scheduled in September 2012 for July 2013.

4. Did not act upon reminders given to complete the Quality Management System (QMS) audit assignment (referred to in 3 above) on:

a) 8 August 2013 and/or

b) 12 August 2013 and/or

c) 17 August 2013.

5. The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 4 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

6. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Private Hearing

1. Ms Lyon, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for parts of the hearing to be conducted in private as reference would be made to the Registrant’s health. Having received advice from the Legal Assessor, the Panel granted that application in view of the principles set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Conducting Hearings in Private”. The Panel determined that such parts of the hearing as concerned the Registrant’s health should be conducted in private.

Service

2. The Panel was informed by the Hearings Officer that Notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant’s registered address by letter dated 18 November 2019. A copy was also sent by email on the same date.

3. Having received the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined that the Notice of Hearing had been served in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

4. Ms Lyon applied for the hearing to proceed in the absence of the Registrant under Rule 11 of the Rules. She informed the Panel that the most recent information received by the HCPC on behalf of the Registrant had been an email dated 21 November 2019 from the Registrant’s daughter stating that the Registrant was unable to attend. Ms Lyon submitted that there was nothing to suggest that the Registrant would attend on a future date if the hearing today were adjourned and that there was a strong public interest in proceeding with the hearing today.

5. The Panel took into account all the factors set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that the Panel’s discretion to proceed in the Registrant’s absence under the provisions of Rule 11 is one that should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. She reminded the Panel of the factors set out in the case of Jones [2003] 1 AC 1.

6. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account the Registrant’s lack of engagement throughout the proceedings. The Panel had no medical information regarding the current state of the Registrant’s health. The Panel had no reason to believe that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a future date. It recognised the need for this hearing to be dealt with expeditiously.

7. Accordingly, the Panel determined that it was fair, appropriate and proportionate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Background

8. The Registrant joined the Croydon NHS Hospital Trust (the Trust) in 2010 and became a full-time member of staff in 2011. He was employed as a Biomedical Scientist in the Cytology Department. He was responsible for Cytology screening for hospital and General Practitioner (GP) services. As the lead Biomedical Scientist, the Registrant was in charge of the day-to-day functioning of the Cytology Department, maintaining Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Policies, conducting audits and ensuring only controlled documents were being used in the lab and, as such, one of his key roles was preparation for the Clinical Pathology Accreditation assessment.

9. From around 2011, the Registrant’s relationship began to break down with some of his colleagues. As a result, there were a number of internal investigations and concerns about the Registrant’s practice. These emerged throughout his employment period (2011-2013).

10. The issues with the Registrant’s practice did not resolve and these matters were referred to the HCPC.

11.  At a final hearing on 19-22 June 2017, the panel found that the Registrant did not follow the SOPs in relation to reporting on cases; that he did not discharge his responsibilities to use the I-Passport system for quality control; and that he did not perform the Quality Management System audit assignment as scheduled, or act upon reminders to do so. The panel found that the Registrant’s omissions had put patients at risk of harm and brought the Biomedical Science profession into disrepute.

12. The panel determined that the Registrant had failed to engage with the process and that there was very limited evidence of insight.

13. The panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of his misconduct and imposed a 12-month Suspension Order. It set out a number of factors which would assist a reviewing panel, which included the Registrant’s attendance, an indication of his future plans, and a reflective piece written by him.

14. At the first review of the Suspension Order held on 15 June 2018 it was submitted by the HCPC that there had been no engagement from the Registrant, no evidence of compliance with the suggestions made by the previous panel, and no information regarding insight, reflection or remediation. The panel concluded that:

“the Registrant’s misconduct involved a wide range of elements of his practice over a significant period of time. The previous panel found that “the main cause of the Registrant’s misconduct involves attitudinal issues.”

There has been no evidence of change since that hearing on 22 June 2017 or any evidence that the concerns underpinning the Registrant’s impaired fitness to practise have been overcome.
 
The Panel has determined that, in light of all the evidence before it, the Registrant’s fitness to practise continues to be impaired by reason of his misconduct. Both the public and the personal element of impairment are engaged. The Registrant is not safe to practise given his current impairment and the public interest requires that he should not be in a position to practise unrestricted”.

The first reviewing panel extended the Suspension Order for a period of 12 months to allow the Registrant a period of recovery and to engage with his regulatory proceedings. It repeated the request for the Registrant’s attendance, an indication of his future plans, and a reflective piece written by him.

15.  At the second review of the Suspension Order held on 5 June 2019 the panel concluded that there had:

“been no meaningful engagement from the Registrant throughout his regulatory proceedings with the HCPC, including prior to, and during, the substantive hearing in June 2017 and at, and after, the first review on 15 June 2018. There has been no new information or evidence since that which was given at the substantive hearing, save for the historical information regarding the Registrant’s health, which has not been updated by the Registrant. In addition, the Registrant has not provided the information suggested by the two previous Panels and that situation has not changed today.

In the Panel’s judgement, the Registrant’s misconduct involved a wide range of failings in his clinical practice over a significant period of time. The substantive Panel found that “the main cause of the Registrant’s misconduct involves attitudinal issues.” There has been no evidence of the Registrant addressing this since that hearing on 22 June 2017, including on and after the first review on 15 June 2018. Therefore, the Panel has concluded that, as there is no evidence that the concerns underpinning the Registrant’s impaired fitness to practise have been overcome by reflection, remorse and remediation, the risk of repetition remains high and the public’s health, safety and well-being remain at risk of harm if the Registrant was to be declared fit to practise.

Balanced against his own ill health and possible inability to remediate by reason of this, the Panel concluded that, without the Registrant’s engagement in this process to date, be that by instructing others to speak for him or by written representation, the need to protect the public and the upholding of the wider public interest (public confidence in the profession and its reputation) outweigh the Registrant’s presumed interest of being declared fit to practise.

For these reasons, it is the Panel’s decision that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains currently impaired….

The Panel noted the recommendations given to the Registrant at the first review and noted that he has not engaged in any respect as to those matters. In this Panel’s judgement, this indicates a continuing lack of insight, with the commensurate risk of repetition and danger to the health, safety and well-being of the public, as well as continuing to undermine the confidence that the public is entitled to expect in the profession and its reputation.

For these reasons, the Panel has therefore determined that the only fair, appropriate and proportionate sanction is to extend the current Suspension Order by a period of 6 months. In the Panel’s judgement, there are potentially unknown health circumstances that make it fair and proportionate to arrive at this conclusion, rather than going to the highest sanction of Strike Off.

To that end, the Panel considered that a period of 6 months is appropriate to allow the Registrant a realistic period of time to engage with these regulatory proceedings and to inform the HCPC and a future review Panel, by himself or through others, of his health status and/or his intention in the future as to the status of his registration. It also allows the HCPC sufficient time to establish if it can obtain more information about the Registrant’s registration aspirations for the future, whether or not that includes his health condition”.

16. Ms Lyon on behalf of the HCPC submitted that the most recent information received on behalf of the Registrant had come from the Registrant’s daughter by email dated 21 November 2019. There remained a lack of engagement. The risk of repetition and of harm remained high. The Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, and the only appropriate sanction is now one of Striking the Registrant’s name from the register.

Decision

17.  This Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel bore in mind that it must first decide whether, in the Panel’s judgement, a finding of current impairment remains necessary to protect the public from risk of harm and/or to maintain public confidence in the profession, and/or to declare and uphold the proper standards of conduct or behaviour. It took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’”.

18. The Panel concludes that there has been no meaningful engagement from, or on behalf of, the Registrant throughout these regulatory proceedings. Given the lack of evidence regarding remediation and insight, it was the judgement of the Panel that there remains a risk that the Registrant will repeat his misconduct. There has been a suggestion that the Registrant has difficulty with his health, but any evidence regarding this has been extremely limited, despite numerous opportunities afforded to the Registrant to evidence any health condition he may be suffering from.

19. The Panel also concludes that there remains a need to maintain confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

20. Accordingly, the Panel concludes that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

21. In considering sanction, the Panel has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and has carefully considered matters, including the HCPC “Sanctions Policy”. It has borne in mind that any sanction must be proportionate and that the primary purpose of sanction is protection of the public.

22. The Panel has determined that the misconduct issues in this case are too serious to be met with by no further action or a Caution Order.
 
23. A Conditions of Practice Order is inappropriate because it remains impossible to devise appropriate, workable and realistic Conditions of Practice that would protect the public.

24. The Panel considered that a Suspension Order was no longer appropriate or sufficient, given the length of time that such an order had already been in place, with no engagement from the Registrant whatsoever.

25. In those circumstances the Panel concluded that the only remaining sanction was that of a Striking Off Order. The Registrant had been afforded an extended period of time to attend before his regulator to demonstrate remorse, remediation and insight, but had not done so. No written reflective piece, or any other evidence of insight into his misconduct, had been provided by him throughout the entirety of these regulatory proceedings. The public have the right to be protected from the possibility that the Registrant would repeat his misconduct in the future. In light of the seriousness of the Registrant’s actions, a Striking Off Order was also necessary to reaffirm clear standards of professional conduct and to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process. 

Order

The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Peters O Aremu from the Register on the expiry of the existing order. 

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 20 January 2020.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Peters O Aremu

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/12/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
05/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
15/06/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
19/06/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended