1. On or about 23 March 2020, in line with the Government’s recommendations in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, the HCPC made the decision to suspend all public hearings. This included a new process of serving Notice of hearing by email.
2. Accordingly, on the 31 March 2020 the Registrant was served with a Notice of hearing by email. This Notice contained details of the hearing date on 4 May 2020, the fact that the hearing would be taking place ‘on the papers’, as well as inviting the Registrant to make any written representations by 14 April 2020. The email address to which this notification was sent was the registered email address of the Registrant.
3. The email was returned to the HCPTS as ‘undeliverable’.
4. On 6 April 2020, the HCPTS arranged for Notice to be sent by post to the Registrant’s registered postal address. Again, this Notice contained details of the hearing date on 4 May 2020, the fact that the hearing would be taking place ‘on the papers’, as well as inviting the Registrant to make any written representations by 20 April 2020.
5. On 9 April 2020, Notice was also sent to an alternative postal address and an alternative email address, in identical terms to the letter of 6 April 2020.
6. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
7. In all the circumstances, the Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant in accordance with the Rules. On 4 July 2019, the Panel noted that the Registrant was informed by the HCPC that Notice of the hearing would be sent out 28 days before the hearing.
Proceeding in Absence
8. The HCPC applied to have this matter heard in the Registrant’s absence, on the basis that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve the Registrant with Notice of this hearing by post and email. It was submitted that the Registrant had not made an application to adjourn. The HCPC suggested that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself and deliberately waived his right to attend.
9. The HCPC further submitted that this is a mandatory review of the current order, and that it was in the public interest and the Registrant’s interests for a review of the order to take place as scheduled.
10. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and particularly its duty to proceed in the absence of a Registrant with the utmost care and caution. Rule 11 of Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules permits the Panel to proceed in absence of the Registrant, if they are satisfied that all reasonable steps have been taken to serve the Notice of Hearing on the Registrant.
11. The Panel considered that good service had been effected and that the Registrant had not engaged or replied to the Notice of hearing. The Panel noted that the Suspension Order is due to expire on 1 June 2020 and considered there to be a pressing public interest to review the order. The Panel balanced this with the Registrant’s interests, but noted that the Registrant had not engaged or communicated with the HCPC since 4 July 2019. On 4 July 2019, in an email conversation between the HCPC and the Registrant, he indicated that he was not prepared to attend a hearing in person and was informed that he may attend by telephone.
12. In view of these factors, the Panel determined to proceed in the Registrant’s absence and consider the matter ‘on the papers’. In the event of a change to the Registrant’s circumstances, he may apply for an early review of this decision under Article 30(2) of the Health Professions Order 2001.
Proceeding in Private
13. The HCPC made an application pursuant to Rule 10(1)(a) of the Health Professions Council (Health Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 for the entirety of today’s proceedings to be held in private, on the basis that there would be reference made to the Registrant’s health and private life, and those references should be kept out of the public sphere in order to protect the Registrant’s interests.
14. The Panel agreed that the health matters concerned were inextricably linked to the misconduct found, and it would not be possible to hear part of the hearing in private and part in public. Therefore, the Panel determined that the entire matter should be heard in private. As such this is a redacted public copy of the private decision.