Miss Karen Dhanjal

Profession: Biomedical scientist

Registration Number: BS42579

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 30/05/2019 End: 17:00 31/05/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Biomedical Scientist and working at Health Services Laboratories LLP between July 2017 and March 2018, you:

1.Submitted timesheets for work that you did not complete.

2.Your actions at paragraph 1 were dishonest.

3.Your actions at paragraph 1 were financially motivated.

4.The matters set out at paragraphs 1 – 3 constitute misconduct.

5.By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1.There was before the Panel a certificate that notice of hearing, dated 14 March 2019, had been sent by first class post to the address shown for the Registrant in the HCPC register. The notice of hearing was also sent to the Registrant by email on the same date. 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 Rules 2003 (as amended).

Proceeding in Absence 

2.Mr Millin applied under Rule 11 of the Conduct and Competence Rules 2003 (as amended) for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant”. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

3.The Panel determined that it was reasonable and in the public interest to proceed with the hearing for the following reasons:

i)The Registrant, in her response to the notice of hearing, stated that she would not be attending.
ii)There has been no application for an adjournment and nothing to indicate that the Registrant would attend on any future date if the matter were adjourned. Therefore, relisting this case would serve no useful purpose. In these circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s non-attendance was voluntary and a deliberate wavier of her right to attend.
iii)Although there is a potential disadvantage to the Registrant in being unable to give evidence or to make oral submissions, she has sent to the HCPTS a statement dated 2 April 2019 in which she has set out her observations on the case.
iv)The witness for the Council, AK, had attended today. The Panel was satisfied that, in the light of the nature of the allegations, there is a strong public interest in ensuring that this final hearing proceeds expeditiously. The Panel concluded that this outweighed any potential disadvantage to the Registrant. 

Background and HCPC Submissions

4.The Registrant worked as a Locum Biomedical Scientist at the Health Service Laboratories LLP from July 2017 to March 2018.

5.On 5 March 2018 concerns were raised by the laboratory manager about an invoice from the Registrant’s agency which indicated that more hours had been claimed by the Registrant on her timesheet than those that she had worked. The agency’s invoice to the hospital was based on the Registrant’s timesheets.  

6.When the matter was investigated it appeared that, between November 2017 and March 2018, the Registrant had submitted timesheets to her agency, claiming some 238 hours more than she had in fact worked.

7.On investigation the Registrant admitted to one of her managers that this was indeed the case.

8.The Registrant did not appear at the hearing but she submitted to the HCPC a document dated 02 April 2019 in which she said “I admit to submitting timesheets for work I did not complete. I was totally dishonest and my actions was purely financially motivated.”

9.By way of background Mr Millin explained that it was the HCPC’s case that the Registrant submitted timesheets which she knew claimed hours in excess of those she had worked. Furthermore, in her 02 April 2019 document and in her prehearing information form, she admitted this. His submission was that in these circumstances the Registrant’s conduct was dishonest and was financially motivated.

10.Mr Millin submitted that the Registrant’s dishonesty was in clear breach of Standard 9 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics – “be honest and trustworthy”, “you must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession”.

11.Mr Millin further submitted that this dishonesty, which was a serious falling short of what would be proper, amounted to misconduct.

12.In regard to impairment Mr Millin submitted that dishonesty of this nature makes a finding of impairment a necessity, in order to protect the public from fiscal impropriety and also to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process.
 
Decision on Facts and Grounds
 
13.One witness, AK, was called on behalf of the HCPC. She is a Biomedical Scientist and leads the Histopathology department. In her evidence, she said that she checked invoices relating to locums before payment was released to the locum agency. In March 2018 she saw that an invoice from the agency showed that the Registrant had worked a number of hours which did not correspond to those which the Registrant customarily worked. She checked earlier invoices and concluded that the timesheets were incorrect and appeared to have been altered after being signed off.

14.AK recalled that when being questioned about this, in the presence of a second senior staff member, KT, the Registrant said that she must have made a mistake in completing the timesheets. In the course of the discussion, the Registrant apparently deleted an office diary entry which indicated that she was on leave on a day when she claimed that she had been at work.
 
15.AK further said that subsequently KT told her that the Registrant admitted altering timesheets, because “she needed the money”. The Panel treated this evidence as hearsay and therefore gave it appropriate weight. 

16.The Panel found AK to be an honest, credible witness with a clear recollection of the events. Her evidence was supported by the documentation referring to the timesheets.

17.In reaching its decision the Panel considered all the evidence before it together with the submissions of Mr Millin and what was said by the Registrant in her documents dated 02 April 2019. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

18.In the light of AK’s evidence, together with the hearsay evidence about what she was told by KT and also the Registrant’s written admissions, the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant altered and submitted false timesheets and did so with a view to personal financial gain. It has therefore concluded that the Registrant’s actions were dishonest.

19.In acting in the manner found proved, the Panel found that the Registrant was in breach of standard 9 for the Council’s Standards of Conduct Performance and Ethics; “be honest and trustworthy”. 

20.The Panel has concluded that the dishonesty found proved was clearly conduct unworthy of a Biomedical Scientist and amounted to misconduct. 

Decision on Impairment

21.In reaching its decision, the Panel considered all the information before it together with Mr Millin’s submissions and the Registrant’s written representations. It had in mind the HCPTS Practise Note “Finding Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

22.These were serious acts of dishonesty which occurred on several occasions over a number of months. They occurred in the course of her locum work when she was in a position of trust, self-reporting her hours worked.

23.The Registrant has not attended this hearing although she has engaged with the HCPC in that she responded to the notice of hearing and has made written representations. These amounted to admissions to her dishonesty, and indicate a degree of insight. She referred to the effect this has had on her but she has not indicated an understanding that her dishonesty had the potential to deprive the NHS of funding nor of the effect that it could have upon the reputation of her profession.

24.Although the Panel saw evidence that the Registrant has repaid the dishonestly acquired money, it could not be satisfied in the absence of a greater degree of insight that dishonest misconduct of this nature would not be repeated.

25.The Panel has therefore concluded that a finding of impairment is necessary to protect the public against fiscal impropriety and is also in the public interest in order to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour and to maintain confidence in the professions and in the regulatory process.

Decision on Sanction

26.In reaching its decision, the Panel considered all the information before it together with the submissions from Mr Millin. It had regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy (The Policy). It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

27.Mr Millin made no submissions in regard to particular sanctions. He referred the Panel to the Policy and emphasised that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public.
 
28.The Panel found these to be aggravating factors:

•Breach of trust – the Registrant self-certified the hours worked.
•Several thousand pounds of public money was involved.
•The dishonesty occurred on several occasions over a number of months.
•The dishonesty was planned.
•There is only a limited degree of insight.
•There remains some risk of repetition.
 
29.The Panel found these to be mitigating factors:

•No previous findings against the Registrant.
•Although she has not attended the hearing the Registrant has engaged and cooperated with the HCPC.
•Early admissions made to the hospital and admissions made to the HCPC.
•The dishonestly acquired monies have been repaid.
•Some insight has been displayed
•The dishonesty occurred when the Registrant was suffering personal difficulties.
•The Registrant has been described as clinically very competent and hardworking.
 
30.The Panel first considered whether to take no action but the serious nature of the misconduct requires sanction. 

31.The Panel then considered mediation or a Caution Order. However, the serious nature of the dishonesty is such that neither would be sufficient to protect the public nor to address public interest concerns.

32.The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practise Order, but in the light of the serious nature of the dishonesty there are no conditions which would be workable, appropriate, or sufficient to protect the public or to address the public interest.

33.The Panel then considered a Suspension Order. Although the Registrant has not appeared at the hearing, she has made written representations in which she expressed remorse and made full admissions to her dishonesty and the reasons for it.  Furthermore, she has repaid in full the dishonestly acquired monies.

34.The Panel has therefore concluded that the appropriate sufficient and proportionate sanction is that of a Suspension Order for the maximum period of 12 months. This Order will serve to protect the public and to indicate to the profession the serious view that the Panel has taken of misconduct of this nature.

35.The Panel did consider a Striking Off Order. It is however aware that this is a sanction of last resort and should be used only where there is no other way to protect the public, where there is a lack of insight and where a lesser sanction would lack a deterrent effect. The Panel concluded that although dishonesty frequently results in Striking Off, in all the circumstances such an order would be disproportionate.

36.This Suspension Order will be reviewed before its expiry. The reviewing Panel will be greatly assisted by the attendance of the Registrant and a written reflection on the Panel’s findings to be forwarded to the HCPC 14 days before the review. 

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Miss Karen Dhanjal from the register for a period of 12 months on the date that this Order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Karen Dhanjal

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/05/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended