Mrs Emma Louise Evans

Profession: Orthoptist

Registration Number: ODP33361

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 22/10/2020 End: 17:00 22/10/2020

Location: This hearing is taking held virtually.

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Whilst registered as an Operating Department Practitioner, you:

1. On 28 September 2017, at South West and Devon Magistrates Court, were convicted of "knowingly and wilfully making a statement false in a material particular", contrary to section 5(b) of the Perjury Act 1911, and received a six Month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months.

2. On 12 March 2018, accepted a Simple Caution for "theft by employee”, contrary to section 1(1) and 7 of the Theft Act 1968.

3. Failed to disclose your conviction to the HCPC until 27 September 2018, even though you were convicted on 28 September 2017.

4. The matter set out at paragraph 3 amounts to misconduct.

5. By reason of your conviction and/or caution and/or misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters
Service
1. The Notice of the Hearing was sent to the Registrant at her registered email address on 22 September 2020. The Notice contained the required particulars including the time and date of the hearing and that it would be held virtually. The Panel was satisfied from the documentation that the Registrant had been served with the Notice of Hearing in accordance with the HCPC (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure Rules) 2003. Furthermore, there has been email correspondence between the Registrant and the Case Manager which indicates that the Registrant is aware of today’s hearing.

Proceeding in absence
2. Ms Denholm applied for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. She referred to the email correspondence with the Registrant in which the Registrant indicated that she would be unable to attend the hearing as she had childcare difficulties. She further said that although she would have wished to attend, she would not apply for an adjournment and was content that the hearing should proceed despite her absence. The Registrant referred also to the documentation which she had provided to the Panel which included her reflective piece and her submissions.

3. In reaching its decision the Panel considered the information before it together with the submissions of Ms Denholm and the observations of the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

4. The Panel has found that the Registrant has voluntary absented herself. She has not applied for an adjournment. Furthermore, in the light of the Registrant’s current domestic situation, which she has said is unlikely to change in the near future, there is nothing to indicate that if this hearing were to be adjourned the Registrant would be able to attend in the near future. This is a mandatory review and the Panel has concluded that it is in the public interest that it should be heard without delay. The Registrant has made written submissions for the purpose of this hearing and the Panel is satisfied that no injustice would arise to the Registrant if it were to proceed in her absence. The Panel has therefore determined that the hearing should proceed despite the absence of the Registrant.

Proceeding in private
5. Ms Denholm applied for parts of the hearing to be heard in private as there will be references to the Registrant’s health. The Panel therefore determined that it was fair and appropriate that if there were such references those parts of the hearing should be in private.

Background
6. At the relevant time the Registrant was employed by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (“the Board”) as a Band 5 Operating Department Practitioner. She worked in the Anaesthetics and Recovery Department at the Princess of Wales Hospital. She was suspended from that employment on 7 August 2017. The Panel was informed that the suspension had been lifted in June 2019, but that the Registrant has not returned to work, her continuing absence being as a result of sick leave.

7. The factual background to the conviction was that, when driving to Cornwall, the Registrant’s car was recorded exceeding a speed limit. When, as the registered keeper of the speeding car, the Registrant received the Notice of Intended Prosecution requiring information to be provided as to the driver of the speeding vehicle, the Registrant replied stating that it was her uncle who had been driving. Her uncle, who apparently lived abroad, was unaware of this act until subsequently contacted by the Police.

8. The Registrant was charged with an offence contrary to section 5(b) of the Perjury Act 1911, the particulars of the offence being that on 15 January 2017 she had knowingly and wilfully made a statement false in a material particular. When the Registrant appeared in Court on 28 September 2017 she pleaded guilty to the charge. The sentence imposed was a term of imprisonment for 26 weeks suspended for 12 months, together with some ancillary financial orders. The reasons for this sentence are explained thus on the Memorandum of Conviction, “Offence so serious. Reason for custody: undermining the criminal justice system; Implicating her brother (sic) who was entirely innocent …”. This was admitted by the Registrant at the substantive hearing.

9. The criminal offence in respect of which the simple caution was accepted by the Registrant is recorded in the document as, “Theft by employee 2017/08/04 – During 2017 at PRINCESS OF WALES HOSPITAL, BRIDGEND, stole medical equipment, of a value unknown belonging to PRINCESS OF WALES HOSPITAL, BRIDGEND”. This was admitted by the Registrant at the substantive hearing.

10. The Registrant also admitted her failure to disclose the conviction to the HCPC.

11. At the substantive hearing the Panel was satisfied that by reason of her conviction, caution and her misconduct the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired in respect of both the personal and public components.

Decision 
12. In reaching its decision the Panel considered all the information before it together with the submissions of Ms Denholm. It had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note entitled ‘Review of Article 30 Orders’ and the HCPC Sanctions Policy. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It has exercised the principle of proportionality at all times.

13. The Panel had regard to the decision of the substantive panel, but it has comprehensively reviewed the matter and has exercised its own judgement in reaching its decision.

Impairment
14. The Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

15. The Panel has considered the Registrant’s reflective statement and her other written observations. It has, however, concluded that despite this the Registrant still displays only a limited degree of insight into the serious nature of the matters leading to the criminal conviction and the caution. It had particular regard to the Registrant’s reflective piece in which she says “I will avoid making mistakes and breaching proper standards in the future as I understand that it is not okay to take anything from the hospital, as this is theft regardless of other people doing it, it doesn’t make it right and I regret what I did. I have learnt my lesson and will never make the same mistake again.”.  The Panel found this to be something of an exercise in justification for the matters leading to the caution.

16. The Panel took into account the submissions made by the Registrant that she had re-read her university notes and undertaken e-learning courses but there was no supporting evidence provided.

17. Although the Registrant has expressed a degree of remorse, the Panel found this to be limited in extent and a further indication of limited insight in that it did not fully address the effect that her actions could have upon service users and public confidence in the profession.

18. The Panel has concluded that in the absence of fully developed insight into the serious nature of her actions. There is no information from the Registrant sufficient to satisfy the Panel that she would behave differently in the future in similar circumstances. As a consequence, there remains a risk of repetition. The Panel has therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practice is impaired in respect of the personal component.

19. With regard to the public component the Panel has concluded that a finding of current impairment of fitness to practise is required in order to address public concerns about trust and confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper professional standards of conduct and behaviour.

20. The Panel has therefore determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired. It has reached this decision in regard to both the personal component and to the public component.

Sanction
21. The Panel has had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy. It has approached the question of sanction from the least restrictive upwards. It has exercised the principle of proportionality at all times. It has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

22. The Panel first considered whether to revoke the existing order or to allow it to lapse. It concluded that this would be inappropriate and insufficient in the light of the serious nature of the matters found proved. The Panel further concluded that for the same reasons a Caution Order would be inappropriate.

23. It then considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel has decided that as the Registrant’s behaviour did not relate to her performance as an ODP and involved dishonesty, conditions of practice would be inappropriate as they would not address the matters found proved against her. 

24. The Panel, therefore, considered the further Suspension Order. The Registrant has not been working as an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) since being suspended by her employer and although the period of suspension, by her employer, has now ended she remains employed by The Board.

25. The Registrant has indicated that she is currently on maternity leave and that for personal reasons during the pandemic, she is unlikely to be able to return to work in the immediate future. In any event the Registrant acknowledges that she would need to attend a “retraining programme” in order to practise safely.  There is therefore no evidence before the Panel from any employer during the period of suspension attesting to her integrity and honesty. Furthermore, she had been unable to prepare a Personal Development Plan as suggested by the substantive panel.

26. The Panel has therefore concluded that a further period of 12 months suspension is necessary for the protection of service users and to address public interest concerns. This would give the Registrant a further opportunity to demonstrate full insight into the effect that her actions could have on service users and the wider public and to take any steps necessary to maintain her skills.

27. The Panel did consider a Striking Off Order but as there are no criticisms of the Registrant’s clinical practice and there is a prospect that she may be able to demonstrate that she can be allowed, in the future, to return to practice, such an order would be disproportionate.

28. When this matter is reviewed at the end of the further period of suspension the reviewing panel would doubtless be assisted by:
• A further reflective piece demonstrating insight into the serious nature of the matters found proved and its impact on service users and the wider public;
• A Personal Development Plan outlining any steps taken in preparation for re-commencing work as an Operating Department Practitioner including evidence of any e-learning and courses attended;
• Evidence from any employer during the period of suspension attesting to her integrity and honesty whatever the nature of the employment is.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mrs Emma Louise Evans for a further period of 12 months on the expiry of the existing order. 

Notes

The Order imposed today will apply from 19 November 2020.

This Order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 19 November 2021.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Emma Louise Evans

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
22/10/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
21/10/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended