Mr Paul A Arrowsmith

Profession: Biomedical scientist

Registration Number: BS33399

Hearing Type: Consent Order Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 16/07/2021 End: 17:00 16/07/2021

Location: Virtual hearing - Video conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Biomedical Scientist (BS33399) and employed by
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust your fitness to
practise is impaired by reason of your misconduct. In that:
1. Over the course of several years from around December 2010
to around June 2018 :
a) Did not complete appraisals for numerous staff under your management;
b) Used staff feedback forms instead of the approved appraisals documentation to complete staff appraisals;
2. Falsely reported to the learning and development team that staff
appraisals had been completed when in fact, they were not completed.
3. Did not undertake one to one meetings with staff to discuss their appraisals and /or document whether or not such discussions took place.
4. On or around April 2015, you inappropriately converted annual leave entitlement to time off in lieu for Colleague B when she was not entitled to it.
5. Matters described in particulars 1, 2, and 4 amounts to dishonesty.
6. Matters described in particulars 1 – 5 constitute misconduct.
7. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service of Notice

1. The Registrant attended the hearing. The Panel was satisfied that notice of this Hearing was sent to the Registrant by email containing the date, time and venue of today’s Hearing. The Panel is satisfied that Notice of today’s Hearing has been validly served.

Remote hearing conducted via video-link

2. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the hearing was conducted via video-link. There is no prohibition on hearings being convened in this manner.

Background

3. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as a Biomedical Scientist. At the relevant time, he was employed as a Biomedical Scientist in the role of Laboratory Manager at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

4. On 10 December 2018, the HCPC received a referral from the Registrant’s Employer following concerns raised about: falsifying individual appraisal documents; falsely reporting appraisal compliance; approving leave for an individual not entitled to it; and breaching the staff code of conduct.

5. The Registrant’s Employer investigated these matters and a disciplinary panel had found all four concerns proven and amounting to gross misconduct. The Registrant was dismissed with immediate effect from 16 November 2018.

Submissions for the HCPC

6. Mr Mullen submitted that this was a case that was suitable for disposal by consent. The Registrant has engaged with the HCPC. He has provided significant written representations demonstrating insight, remorse and remediation. Although the case involves dishonesty, it is at the more minor  end of the scale. A five year caution order would be an appropriate and proportionate sanction.

Submissions for the Registrant

7. The Registrant provided detailed written representation including a reflective statement and four character references. He supplemented the written submissions with brief oral submissions at the hearing. He admits the Allegations and accepts that his fitness to practice is currently impaired. He expressed regret and remorse for his actions. He wishes the matter to be disposed of by consent and has signed the consent order.

Decision

8. In coming to its determination, the Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Mr Mullen on behalf of the HCPC, the Registrant’s representations and the signed consent form.

9. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that the Health Professions Order 2001 does not explicitly provide for consent arrangements. There is a Practice Note that the HCPTS has approved in relation to such matters. It states that a panel should not agree to resolve a case by consent unless it is satisfied that: (1) that the appropriate level of public protection is being secured; and (2) it would not be detrimental to the wider public interest.

10. 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. The Panel had regard to the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note on Consent Orders.

11. The Panel made its own assessment of the circumstances relating to the Allegation, the level of insight demonstrated by the Registrant, and the wider public interest considerations.

12. In assessing the appropriateness of the proposed Consent Order, the Panel carefully considered the balance between its duty to protect the public and the interests of the Registrant. The Panel also had regard to the HCPC Sanctions Policy and took into account paragraph 101 which states:

“A caution order is likely to be an appropriate sanction for cases in which:
•the issue is isolated, limited, or relatively minor in nature;
•there is a low risk of repetition;
•the registrant has shown good insight; and
•the registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation.”

13. The Panel notes that the Allegation has been admitted in full and concluded that, based on the documentary evidence, the particulars of the Allegation were capable of being found proved on the balance of probabilities.

14. The Registrant has demonstrated a significant level of insight and recognised the serious nature of the Allegation from an early stage. He sought to remediate his failings by undertaking training in relation to appraisals and implementing a suitable system prior to his dismissal by his former employer. The Registrant has admitted the facts of the Allegation from an early stage. He has been consistent in his acceptance of his failings. For example, he wrote to the HCPC on 13 March 2020 admitting the substance of the allegations. He also admitted that his fitness to practice is currently impaired. He offered:
“…a sincere apology for my failings and take complete responsibility for my actions”

15. The Registrant has provided information to provide context. He considers he was not adequately supported and was experiencing a difficult period in his life following the death of his father. However, the Registrant has taken full responsibility for his actions and has not sought to diminish the serious nature of the Allegations. He recognises the impact his actions have had on the public and the profession. A reflective statement has been provided amplifying his views on these issues.

16. Given the level of insight, remorse and remediation demonstrated by the Registrant, the Panel considers that the risk of repetition is low. The Panel also notes that there is no suggestion that patient safety was adversely impacted by his conduct.

17. The Tribunal recognises that the case involves admitted dishonesty. That is a serious matter. Paragraph 58 of the Sanctions Policy provides that:

“Given the seriousness of dishonesty, cases are likely to result in more serious sanctions. However, panels should bear in mind that there are different forms, and different degrees, of dishonesty, that need to be considered in an appropriately nuanced way. Factors that panels should take into account in this regard include:

•whether the relevant behaviour took the form of a single act, or occurred on multiple occasions;
•the duration of any dishonesty;
•whether the registrant took a passive or active role in it;
•any early admission of dishonesty on the registrant’s behalf; and
•any other relevant mitigating factors.

18. The Panel proceeded on the basis that “…dishonesty is not necessarily a monolithic concept…questions of degree obviously arise…” (GMC v Chaudhary 2017 EWHC 2561 at paragraph 57). Biomedical Scientists should display honesty and integrity at all times. Failure to do so breaches a fundamental tenet of the profession. However, the dishonesty in the present case needs to be viewed in context. It was not an isolated incident. However, the dishonesty is at the more minor end of the scale. The dishonesty was not undertaken for financial gain. Moreover, no patient was placed at significant risk of harm. The Registrant has made an early admission and there were potentially some mitigating factors including lack of support. The level of insight shown is significant. Moreover, significant steps have been taken towards remediation such that the Panel considers the risk of repetition is low.

19. The Panel gave full consideration to the public interest. The Panel 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 given the level of insight shown by the Registrant and the low risk of repetition in this case.

20. The Panel considers that there is a legitimate public interest in avoiding a substantive hearing in the present case where full admissions have been made to the Allegation and where the risk of repetition is low.

21. The Panel 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, as outlined above, the Panel is aware that there are different forms of dishonesty, and that it should distinguish between them.

22. Taking the facts and the surrounding circumstances of the Registrant’s misconduct, the Panel was satisfied 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 his misconduct and has demonstrated that he was unlikely to repeat his misconduct.

23. 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.

24. 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 Biomedical Scientist that require conditions to rectify. The Panel considers that a Suspension Order would neither be a just, nor an appropriate sanction in this case as it would be disproportionate.

25. In the circumstances, the Panel was 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.

26. The Panel gave careful consideration to the term of the Order, having regard to the Sanctions Policy, and concluded that a Caution Order for a period of 5 years adequately reflected the seriousness of the Registrant’s behaviour. It will proportionately deal with the damage caused to the reputation of the profession and the need to maintain proper standards of conduct and behaviour. Any lesser period would not reflect the gravity of the matter and the public policy consideration that arise. In all the circumstances, the Panel concluded that approval of the proposed Consent Order was both proportionate and appropriate.

27. The Panel approved the proposed order by consent and imposes a Caution Order on the Registrant’s registration for a period of 5 years.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mr Paul A Arrowsmith with a Caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 5 years from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

This Order is due to expire on: 16 July 2026.

 

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Paul A Arrowsmith

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/07/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Consent Order Hearing Caution