Mrs Kelly M Hunt

Profession: Paramedic

Registration Number: PA36089

Hearing Type: Consent Order Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 02/12/2020 End: 17:00 02/12/2020

Location: Virtual hearing - Video conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

While registered with the Health and Care Professions Council as a Paramedic you:

1. On 24 August 2017, whilst absent from work due to sickness, undertook secondary paid employment without your employer’s permission.

2. Between 27 and 30 May 2018, whilst absent from work due to sickness, went on holiday without your employer’s permission.

3. Your conduct in paragraphs 1 – 2 was dishonest.

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

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice

1. The Notice of this Hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared on the register on 19 August 2020. The Notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s Hearing.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that Notice of today’s Hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Mr Foxsmith on behalf of the HCPC.

4. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the HCPTS has taken all reasonable steps to serve the Notice on the Registrant. He further submitted that the Registrant has engaged with the HCPC and has agreed a Consent Order. The Registrant had written in to the HCPTS indicating that she would not be attending today. In that light, an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. Mr Foxsmith reminded the Panel that there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that, if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the Hearing, then the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

6. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162 and advised the Panel that the Adeogba case reminded the Panel that its primary objective is the protection of the public and of the public interest. In that regard, the case of Adeogba was clear that “where there is good reason not to proceed, the case should be adjourned; where there is not, however, it is only right that it should proceed”.

7. It was clear, from the principles derived from case law, that the Panel was required to ensure that fairness and justice were maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.

8. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPTS to notify the Registrant of the Hearing. It was also satisfied that the Registrant was aware of the hearing.

9. In deciding whether to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into consideration the HCPTS practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.

10. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:

• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s Hearing and implicit in her correspondence is an expectation that proceedings today proceed in her absence;

• The Registrant has engaged with the process and has submitted further written representations;

• There is a public interest that this substantive matter is dealt with expeditiously.

11. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was absent voluntarily and having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Amendment of Allegation

12. Mr Foxsmith, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the Allegation. The amendment sought was to delete the words “without your employer’s permission” from the end of Particular 1.

13. He submitted that the amendment sought was consistent with the evidence before the Investigating Committee. He said that the Registrant was aware of the amendment sought and had not objected to the amendment.

14. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that it was open to the Panel to amend the allegation, provided the Panel was satisfied that no injustice would be caused by the amendments. The Panel considered that the amendment sought did not change the substance of the allegation. The amendment did clarify the allegation and would not cause injustice, as it is always preferable that allegations are as clear as possible so that registrants are clear what is alleged against them in order for them to respond. The Panel therefore allowed the amendment to be made. The amended Allegation is as set out above.

Background

15. The Registrant is a Paramedic who was employed in this capacity by the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust (‘the Trust’) between April 2017 and September 2018.

16. On 26 May 2018, the Registrant reported to the Trust that she would be absent from her shift the following day due to sickness. On 27 May 2018, Colleague 1, a Team Leader within the Trust, noticed a post on the Registrant’s Facebook account dated that same day which indicated that she was on holiday in Cornwall. Her Facebook account featured further posts of a similar nature in the days that followed, between 28 May 2018 and 30 May 2018. As Colleague 1 was aware that the Registrant had reported that she was sick, he raised his concerns with Carmel Prior, Sector Delivery Manager.

17. On 5 June 2018, Heidi Rapley was appointed as Investigating Officer and subsequently conducted an investigation into this matter. During the investigation, Heidi Rapley reviewed the Registrant’s Facebook account and it came to light that the Registrant had been undertaking secondary employment whilst absent from the Trust due to sickness.

18. The Registrant referred these matters to the HCPC herself.

Decision

19. In coming to its determination, the Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Mr Foxsmith on behalf of the HCPC, and the signed admission of the Registrant and her representations to the Investigating Committee Panel which set out the personal circumstances that led to her conduct.

20. Mr Foxsmith pointed out that the Registrant was of good character and that there had not been any complaint made about her conduct prior to these matters. He also pointed out that the Registrant had referred these matters to the HCPC herself. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the Registrant had demonstrated personal insight and that there was no risk of repetition and that it was a matter that related to impairment on the public interest grounds alone.

21. Mr Foxsmith submitted that in the context of the nature of the dishonesty and the surrounding personal circumstances of the Registrant at the time this was a case that was suitable for disposal by way of consent and that the proposed sanction of a Caution Order for a period of three years was appropriate and just.

22. The Registrant has indicated that she fully accepted that her actions were unacceptable.

23. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel also reminded itself of its over-arching objective to protect the public and the wider public interest.

24. The Panel was satisfied that the HCPC’s case was well founded in the light of the evidence and the admissions made by the Registrant. The Panel then considered what would be the likely range of sanctions that could be imposed in the light of the evidence in this case, and compared that with the proposed course indicated in the Consent Order. In doing so, the Panel took into consideration the following factors:

(a) The full admissions made by the Registrant.
(b) The admission by the Registrant that her fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct, and that her behaviour fell below the standard expected of a Paramedic.
(c) The Registrant was of good character and that there have not been any concerns about her probity nor of her practice as a paramedic prior to these matters.
(d) The level of insight demonstrated by the Registrant in her reflective documents submitted to the Investigating Committee.
(e) The personal circumstances of the Registrant at the time of her misconduct.
(f) The positive references provided by colleagues of the Registrant.
(g) The Registrant self-referred these matters to the HCPC.

25. The Panel was satisfied that the evidence demonstrated that the Registrant has full insight into her actions and that her actions are not liable to be repeated.

26. The Panel then considered whether a Caution Order was an appropriate and just sanction in this case. It bore in mind that a Caution Order would not restrict the Registrant’s right to practise. Whilst this matter involves dishonesty, the Panel was aware that there are different forms of dishonesty, and that it should distinguish between them - some are criminal, some not; some destroying trust instantly, others merely undermining it to a greater or lesser extent. The Panel adopted a more nuanced approach in that respect.

27. Taking the facts and the surrounding circumstances of the Registrant’s misconduct, the Panel was satisfied that it was conduct that was out of character for the Registrant and that the Registrant’s dishonesty was at the lower end of the spectrum of dishonesty. The Panel was mindful of its finding that the Registrant has demonstrated insight, has taken positive steps to avoid a repetition of her misconduct and has demonstrated that she was unlikely to repeat her misconduct. The Panel’s decision will be published along with its finding of misconduct. The publication of a finding of misconduct in these proceedings is of itself quite a significant sanction. This is because misconduct in these proceedings carries a degree of moral opprobrium, and will have a detrimental effect on the Registrant professional reputation.

28. The Panel took into consideration the Sanctions Policy issued by the HCPC. This is not a case where Conditions of Practice would be appropriate because there are no identifiable areas of the Registrant’s practice as a Paramedic that require conditions to rectify. It also determined that in the circumstances of this case, a Suspension Order would neither be a just nor an appropriate sanction in this case as it would be excessive and punitive in nature.

29. In particular, the Panel noted paragraph 28 of the Sanctions Policy, which states:

A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action. A caution order should also be considered in cases where the nature of the allegation means that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed but where the registrant has shown insight, the conduct concerned is out of character, the risk of repetition is low and thus suspension from practice would be disproportionate. A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.

30. The Panel determined that, in this case, the public interest would be met with the imposition of a Caution Order as a sanction, The Panel determined that a member of the public who was fully informed of the above considerations, would not be concerned if a Caution Order was imposed in these circumstances. A Caution Order is not an insignificant sanction. It will appear on the Registrant’s online register entry for the period specified. A Caution Order will appear with a link to the Panel’s decision for any prospective employer to access, and could be taken into account if any further allegation is made against the Registrant.

31. In the circumstances, the Panel were satisfied that the terms of the Consent Order would:

(a) protect the public; and

(b) would not undermine public confidence in the profession or the regulatory process.

32. Notwithstanding the above, the Panel also considered whether this case was so serious that a public substantive hearing was necessary in the wider public interest. It determined that this case was not so serious as to make a public substantive hearing necessary.

33. In the circumstances, the Panel determined that a Consent Order that places a Caution against the Registrant’s name in the Register for a period of three years is a just and appropriate method of dealing with this case.

34. Panel therefore allows this Allegation to conclude by way of consensual disposal as set out in the terms of the Consent Order before it.

Order

Order That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Kelly M Hunt to show that, with effect from 2 December 2020 with a Caution Order for a period of 3 years.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Kelly M Hunt

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
02/12/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Consent Order Hearing Caution
02/12/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Adjourned