Miss Jolene McHugh

Profession: Chiropodist / podiatrist

Registration Number: CH14571

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 11:00 11/08/2021 End: 17:00 11/08/2021

Location: Virtual hearing - Video conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: No further action

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Allegation

Allegations as proven at the final hearing :

 

As a registered Podiatrist (CH14571) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of your misconduct. In that:

 

1. On 12 December 2018 you engaged in private paid work as a podiatrist whilst absent due to sickness absence, and receiving sick pay from your substantive employment with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

 

2. During NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s investigation and/or disciplinary process in respect of your private paid work of 12 December 2018, you claimed that one of the reasons for your attendance at Bankhall Court Care Home (“the Home”) was receipt of a short notice request from the Home, when you knew this was not the case.

 

3. Your conduct in paragraphs 1 and/or 2 was dishonest.

 

4. The matters described in paragraphs 1 to 3 constitute misconduct.

 

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

 

Finding

Background
1. The Registrant’s employment with the NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (‘the Board’) commenced in 2007. She was employed as a Band 7, Advanced Podiatrist.

2. In December 2018, the Registrant worked clinically for two days a week in the out-patients team at Stobhill, a hospital in North Glasgow. She also worked non-clinically on two other weekdays. Her work days were Monday to Thursday. The Registrant did not work for the Board on Fridays. The Board commenced an investigation into an allegation that the Registrant had undertaken private work on 12 December 2018, while taking sick leave from her employment with the Board.

3. On 30 July 2019, the Registrant referred herself to the HCPC in respect of her conduct. On 27 August 2019, the Board referred the matter to the HCPC, following the conclusion of their investigation and disciplinary inquiry earlier in August 2019.

4. The substantive hearing took place between 10-13 May 2021. The Registrant attended the hearing and was represented by Mr Hutchison. The Registrant admitted the factual Particulars and admitted that her conduct was dishonest.

5. The substantive hearing panel (‘the May 2021 panel’) found the Allegation proved in its entirety and went on to find that the Registrant’s behaviour amounted to misconduct. The May 2021 panel found that the Registrant failed to comply with Standard 9.1 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, January 2016, which states:
“You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.”

The May 2021 panel stated in its determination on misconduct that:

“30. By acting dishonestly in taking privately paid work on 12 December 2018 while on sickness absence from her main NHS employer and in receipt of sick pay for that work and then giving a dishonest explanation for that private work in her employer’s investigative and disciplinary process, the Registrant’s conduct fell seriously short of what was proper in the circumstances.”

6. The May 2021 panel, in considering the personal component of impairment of fitness to practise, stated:
“40. The Panel concluded that the Registrant did understand the seriousness of her dishonesty. She made admissions to each of the factual particulars and also admitted that her actions amounted to misconduct. She explained that by acting as she did, she had lost the trust and respect of her professional colleagues and her integrity had been damaged. Both the genuine remorse shown by the Registrant in giving evidence and shame she expressed about letting down her colleagues, the apologies she offered to them in her evidence and the embarrassment she showed when interviewed by AB, all showed that she well understood the seriousness of what she had done in carrying out private work while off work sick and taking sick pay.

41. The Registrant’s oral evidence persuaded the Panel that she grasped how serious it was to have lied to the Board’s representatives in the investigation and disciplinary process. She did not attempt to excuse her conduct, even though she explained that she found part of her work for the Board (on the non-clinical side) to be very stressful. Her self-referral to her regulator underlined her appreciation of the gravity of her conduct and she told the Panel that she had learned a painful lesson and referred to the deep personal pain and regret that she felt about her actions.

42. The Registrant also understood that the effect on public confidence in the profession. In her evidence, she explained how she had let down the profession and that members of the public would be shocked and disappointed by her conduct.

49. In view of all the considerations…, the Panel has concluded that the risk of repetition of the misconduct is very low and further, that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired by reference to the personal component.”

7. In relation to the public component the May 2021 panel stated:
“55. Even though the Registrant has undergone a rigorous assessment of her fitness to practise and a finding of misconduct has been made, the Panel has concluded that in view of all the circumstances of this case and the gravity of the misconduct in particular, a finding of current impairment is necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold professional standards.”

8. At the sanction stage, the May 2021 panel, stated:
“The Panel has concluded that a short period of suspension is the appropriate response in view of the gravity of the misconduct and all the circumstances. Such a measure shows that misconduct of this nature is wholly unacceptable, whereas a Caution would not carry that message sufficiently. A short period of suspension is also the appropriate response in order to maintain public confidence in the profession. Members of the public aware of all the circumstances of this case would be surprised if, notwithstanding all the mitigation and other points in favour of the Registrant, the outcome of the case were a less serious sanction.”

Submissions
9. Ms Welsh, on behalf of the HCPC, outlined the background circumstances and the history of this case. Ms Welsh referred the Panel to the guidance in Abrahaem v GMC [2008] EWC 183 (Admin) which confirms that registrants bear the persuasive burden.

10. Ms Welsh acknowledged the steps that the Registrant has taken to reduce the likelihood of repetition. She informed the Panel that the HCPC is neutral as to whether the Registrant remains currently impaired and whether a further order is necessary.

11. Mr Hutchison, during his oral submissions, adopted the written submissions he had prepared on behalf of the Registrant. In summary the written submissions state that the Registrant:
i. has put in place a proper booking system in order that any difficulties with being able to provide appointments etc. would be covered by an alternative practitioner.

ii. has demonstrated insight and remorse during the course of the substantive hearing.

iii. fully accepts the severity of the sanction and has decided to ensure that she takes a break from the profession for health reasons. She believes that a break from the profession has reinvigorated her to provide the best possible level of care.

iv. has not been subject to any other fitness to practice concerns.

v. has fully complied with suspension order.

The Panel’s Approach
12. In undertaking this review, the Panel took into account the hearing bundle and the submissions from both parties.

13. The Panel accepted and applied the advice it received from the Legal Assessor as to the proper approach it should adopt. In particular that:
• The purpose of the review is to consider the issue of impairment based on the findings of the May 2021 panel.

• The Panel should have regard to the HCPTS Practice Note: Finding that Fitness to Practise is impaired and must take into account, based on the May 2021 panel’s findings, the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

• It is only if the Panel determine that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, that the Panel should go on to consider sanction by applying the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Sanctions Policy (SP).

Decision
14. The Panel was mindful that the May 2021 panel determined that the Registrant is not unfit to practise from a personal perspective. The May 2021 panel, having carefully considered all of the available evidence, had no ongoing concerns with regards the Registrant’s character and competence and concluded, based on her oral evidence, that the risk of repetition was very low. The Panel noted that there has been no material change in circumstances since the substantive order was made and there has been no breach of that order. In these circumstances, the Panel was unable to identify any basis upon which the Registrant’s fitness to practice could be said to be impaired based on grounds of public protection.

15. The finding of impairment by the May 2021 panel was based solely on the need to declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel concluded that the wider public interest has been fully satisfied by the imposition of, and compliance with, the Suspension Order made on 13 May 2021. The Panel was satisfied that public confidence in the professional and regulatory process would not be undermined by allowing the order to lapse on expiry as the order has served its intended purpose.

16. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is no longer impaired by reason of her misconduct. Accordingly, the Panel has determined that the Suspension Order should be allowed to lapse on expiry.

Order

The Registrar is directed to allow the Suspension Order against the registration of Miss Jolene McHugh to lapse upon expiry.

Notes

Right of Appeal
You may appeal to the Court of Session against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.

Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Jolene McHugh

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
11/08/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing No further action
10/05/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended