1. For the purposes of this hearing the HCPC has submitted and the Panel has read a Skeleton Argument initially signed by Ms Ktisti on 27 March 2020 and then updated and signed by Ms Ktisti on 27 March 2020 and then updated and signed by Ms Ktisti on 15 April 2020 (the Skeleton Argument).
Proof of Service
2. The background to this review hearing is that the hearing was originally listed for 31 March 2020 and the Registrant was served with a Notice of Hearing to her registered postal address on 25 February 2020. The Registrant replied to the HCPC confirming her attendance and querying whether the information required by her Conditions of Practice Order could be brought on the day of the hearing.
3.the Panel on a documents-only basis ('on the papers') and would be postponed to a later date. The Registrant was therefore sent an Amended Notice of Hearing on 26 March 2020 which confirmed that the hearing would go ahead on 16 April 2020 and would take place 'on the papers'. The Registrant was further provided a 14-day response period by which to submit any information she would like the Panel to consider. This new Notice of Hearing was sent electronically only, because the HCPC has closed its offices in light of the current pandemic.
The Registrant confirmed receipt of the Amended Notice by email on 26 March 2020.
4. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of the review hearing had been properly served by email and post on 25 February 2020 to the Registrant 's last known address. The Panel considered that the HCPC's letters of 25 and 26 March 2020 merely clarified both the date and nature of the hearing. The Panel is therefore satisfied that service of the Notice has taken place in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Health Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (the Rules).
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
5. Ms Ktisti also applied in her Skeleton Argument for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant's absence. The Skeleton Argument referred to the circumstances resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and stated, ".. .the HCPC has decided to suspend all public hearings to protect the health and safety of its registrants and stakeholders. However, to ensure that we can continue to perform our statutory duties of protecting the public and maintaining the integrity of the register, we have arranged for this hearing to be considered 'on the papers'."
6. Ms Ktisti submitted that the Registrant had been given sufficient notice of the proceedings and reasonable steps have been taken to serve the Notice which had been sent to her registered email address. The Registrant has not made any application to adjourn and has participated with the proceedings by providing documents for the Panel's consideration. It was therefore the HCPC's submission that the Registrant would not be disadvantaged by today's hearing proceeding. Ms Ktisti further submitted that as this was a mandatory review of the current order, it was in both the Registrant's interests and in the public interest for a review of the statutory order to take place as scheduled.
7. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that it could proceed to hear the matter in the absence of the Registrant, pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules, if it was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve the Notice of Hearing on the Registrant in accordance with the HCPTS Practice Note on 'Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant'. A Panel must first consider whether Notice of the proceedings has been served on the Registrant. The Panel must also have consideration of all the circumstances of the case when taking the decision to proceed in absence, balancing fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public.
8. The Panel considered whether to proceed in the Registrant's absence and was aware that the discretion to proceed in absence is one that should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel took into account fairness to the Registrant as well as the considerations of public protection and expeditious disposal of today's mandatory review.
9. The Panel noted the exceptional and unprecedented circumstances resulting from the pandemic and the current lockdown imposed by the Government, which was continuing.
10. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant's registered address by letter and email dated 25 February 2020. The Registrant has been informed of the date, time and original venue of the hearing and was subsequently informed that the case would be heard 'on the papers'. The Panel considered that the HCPC had made all reasonable efforts to serve the Notice on the Registrant in accordance with Rule 11 and that she had been provided with knowledge as to when and where this hearing was to take place.
11. In reaching its decision, the Panel took account of the following:
- The Registrant has engaged fully with her HCPC proceedings to date. She attended her Final Hearing and stated, prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, that she would be attending this first review hearing.
- The exceptional circumstances which mean that the HCPTS is
not, at present, holding any public hearings.
- The Registrant has not raised any objection to the case being heard on the papers and she sent in written representations on 9 April 2020 for the Panel's consideration.
- The expiry of the Order on 7 May 2020.
- Should a further substantive order be made by the Panel today, it would be open to the Registrant to request an early review under Article 30(2) of the Health Professions Order 2001.
12. In the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that the hearing should proceed today on the papers on the basis that it was fair and in the interests of justice to proceed. The Panel considered that the Registrant would not be significantly disadvantaged by proceeding with the hearing today and further recognised that there was a public interest in conducting a mandatory review of the Substantive Order currently in place, prior to its imminent expiry. The Panel also considered that it was in the Registrant's interests for a review of the statutory order to take place.
Hearing in private
13. Ms Ktisti invited the Panel to conduct the entire hearing in private because the matters in the case concern the health of the Registrant.
14. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel decided that it was justified to hold the entirety of the hearing in private to protect the private life of the Registrant in accordance with the provisions of Rule 10(1)a. The Panel had regard to the fact that it had been convened as a Panel of the Health Committee and that the matters for consideration by the Panel today were inextricably linked to the Registrant's health.