Mr Andrew Jones
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Allegation(as amended at the Final Hearing)
As a registered Paramedic (PA08858) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, in that:
1.Between 1 June 2016 and 25 June 2017 On one or more of the dates set out in Schedule 1, you made duplicate mileage and/or expenses claims to the Welsh Ambulance Service and to the College of Paramedics.
2.Your actions at Particular1 were dishonest.
3.The matters set out in particulars 1 and 2 constitute misconduct.
4.By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
Application to Amend the Allegation
1.In the notice of allegations sent to the Registrant on the 16 June 2020 it was outlined that amendments to the allegations would be sought on the first day of the hearing. The amendments sought were to change the wording of Particular1 to remove the reference to a range of dates during which alleged duplicate mileage claims were made and instead to list those claims individually within a schedule. It was proposed that the wording of the charge was changed to read “On one or more of the dates set out in Schedule 1, you made mileage and/or expenses claims to the Welsh Ambulance Service and the College of Paramedics.”
2.Mr Foxsmith, on behalf of the HCPC applied to amend the Particulars of the Allegation as set out above and submitted that they served to clarify the Allegation by explicitly setting out which claims were alleged to be duplicated. He submitted that the proposed amendments did not substantially alter the nature or gravity of the case against the Registrant.
3.Ms Shah on behalf of the Registrant did not oppose this application. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
4.The Panel was mindful of the issues of fairness and the avoidance of prejudice. The Panel considered that it was fair to allow the application to amend the Particulars of the Allegation as they did not fundamentally alter the case against the Registrant and provided clarity of the claims that were alleged to be dishonest. There was no prejudice to the Registrant and the Panel considered the amendments could be made without injustice.
Application for part of the hearing to be held in private.
5.At the point of the Registrant’s oral evidence dealing with his health Ms Shah submitted that any matters relating to the Registrant’s health or private and family life should be heard in private. This application was not opposed by Mr Foxsmith on behalf of the HCPC. The Panel received and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
6.The Panel took account of the principles set out in the HCPTS Practice Note, ‘Conducting Hearings in Private’. The Panel also had regard to the need for transparency in the regulatory process. The Panel determined that those parts of the hearing that concern the Registrant’s health and personal life should be conducted in private for the protection of his private life. The Panel therefore granted the application under Rule 10 1 (a) for part of the hearing to be in private.
Application to hear witness HM’s evidence remotely
7.Ms Shah initially made an application for the evidence of Mr Hywel Martin (HM) to be heard via video link. HM gave character evidence as opposed to evidence of fact. Ms Shah explained that this witness had originally been coming to give live evidence but was unwell and unable to travel. Ms Shah submitted that Mr Martin’s evidence could be given via video link and the Panel would have an opportunity to ask questions. Mr Foxsmith did not oppose that application.
8.The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
She submitted that although the rules did not specifically provide for video evidence there was a discretion to allow the evidence to be given in this way subject to the principles of fairness.
9.The Panel determined to allow the application. It considered that it would be fair to the Registrant to allow the evidence to be given in this way and there was no unfairness to the HCPC.
10.Technical difficulties prevented Mr Martin joining the video call and the Panel determined to allow Mr Martin’s evidence to be given by telephone. The Panel determined that there would be no injustice to the Registrant if Mr Martin gave his evidence over the telephone for the same reasons as outlined in relation to the video evidence. The Panel considered that not to allow the application would be unfair to the Registrant and cause unnecessary delay.
11.The Registrant was employed as a Paramedic by the Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust (WAST) in the role of a Band 7 Advanced Paramedic Practitioner. Following an injury at work, he was unable to carry out his substantive duties and was placed on alternative duties from September 2016 to July 2017. During this period the Registrant was also carrying out duties on a voluntary basis for The College of Paramedics (COP) where he was a Trustee.
12.In October 2017 an anonymous referral was made by a member of staff at WAST, to their Counter Fraud team regarding the Registrant’s expenses claims. In November 2017 the Counter Fraud team commenced an investigation into the Registrant’s mileage claims as well as other matters. In a letter dated 23 March 2018 the Registrant was advised of the ongoing investigation by the Counter Fraud team and invited to attend an interview on 30 April 2018.
13.The Counter Fraud investigation looked into the Registrant claiming mileage from WAST and COP for the same journey. The investigation identified a number of mileage claims where it appeared that the Registrant had claimed in full for the same journey on the same date from both organisations.
14.On 14 May 2018 the Registrant made a self-referral to the HCPC and disclosed that he was being investigated about an alleged fraud relating to his mileage claims.
15.In June 2018 WAST began a separate disciplinary investigation in relation to the mileage claims. The initial investigator Mr Andrew Long (AL), left WAST in December 2018 and a new investigating officer Mr Jeff Morris (JM) was appointed. A disciplinary report was finalised on 22 February 2019 and a disciplinary hearing took place in April 2019 in the Registrant’s absence.
16.Following this, the Counter Fraud team concluded the investigation, and the investigation report was sent to the National Counter Fraud Team for review. No criminal charges were brought following this review, and the matter was closed in June 2019.
17.At the outset of the hearing the Registrant admitted all of the factual element of the particulars. The Registrant did admit that he had been dishonest and that his conduct amounted to misconduct. The Registrant did accept that his fitness to practise was currently impaired on the basis of the public interest components only.
Decision on Facts
18.On behalf of the HCPC the Panel heard live evidence from AL who was the first investigating officer for the disciplinary process at WAST. The Panel also heard from JM who took over AL’s investigation in December 2018. The Panel also heard live evidence from Ms Lynne Haddow (LH) the Counter Fraud investigator.
19. On behalf of the Registrant the Panel heard directly from the Registrant and from HM who is a former colleague and friend of the Registrant. The Panel was provided with a bundle of documents comprising of statements and investigation reports together with the documents that were gathered as part of the investigations and notes of interviews with the Registrant.
20.The Panel was also provided with an additional bundle of documents consisting of evidence relating to the Registrant’s practice together with references and a reflective account from the Registrant.
21.The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. In respect of the facts, the Panel understood that the burden of proving each individual fact is on the HCPC notwithstanding the admissions of the Registrant. The HCPC will only be able to prove a particular fact if it satisfies the required standard of proof: namely the civil standard, whereby it is more likely than not that the alleged incident occurred. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor in relation to the test for dishonesty as outlined in the case of Ivey v Genting Casinos (UK) Ltd  UKSC67 and took into account the Practice Note “Making decisions on a registrant’s state of mind”.
Particular 1 Found Proved
1. On one or more of the dates set out in Schedule 1, you made mileage and/or expenses claims to the Welsh Ambulance Service and the College of Paramedics
22.The Panel considered the evidence. It considered the evidence contained within investigation report prepared by LH to be conclusive and compelling and demonstrated that the Registrant had claimed for the same journey from both WAST and COP. For example, the Panel noted that on the 1 June 2016 the Registrant had claimed 25.17 miles from WAST at 10p per mile and also claimed 64 miles at 45p per mile from COP for a journey to the Welsh Assembly Government. The Panel noted that the claims made by the Registrant were duplicated in this manner for each of the occasions as listed in Schedule 1.
23.It was not disputed by the Registrant that he had engaged in this behaviour and the claims were made by him for the same journey. The Registrant accepted each and every claim as listed in the schedule in his evidence.
24.The Panel was satisfied on the basis of the admissions made by the Registrant and the evidence contained within the bundle that the Registrant had made duplicate mileage claims to WAST and COP on each date as set out in Schedule 1.
Particular2 - Found Proved
2.Your conduct in relation to Allegation1 above was dishonest.
25.The Registrant accepted that the conduct was dishonest. In his evidence he said that he knew it was wrong now, as he had come to appreciate the dishonesty. However, at the time, the Registrant stated that he was trying to avoid going over his personal mileage in his car and he believed that he was representing both WAST and COP at the same meeting. The Registrant stated he should have known that it was wrong, but he had compartmentalised and rationalised his actions at that time.
26.The Registrant stated that he had tried to clarify the position and enquired about whether it would be possible to claim zero pence per mile so that the miles would be recorded as business miles. He states that he was told by WAST payroll that this was not possible, therefore on 14 June 2017, he emailed various senior managers within WAST, in order to make enquiries “for clarity moving forward” regarding the best way to claim. The Registrant accepted that he had not pursued those enquiries and had continued to make duplicate claims believing that it would be “picked up” and he could repay it if necessary.
27.The Registrant stated that his actions stemmed in part from a period of time when he was unwell both with a physical injury and a mental health condition.
28.In considering the Registrant’s state of mind at the time of the conduct the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant appreciated it was dishonest. The Panel considered that making a mileage claim for the same journey from two different organisations, regardless of the Registrant’s belief that he was representing both organisations, was a simple and straightforward concept. The Registrant appreciated in his evidence that it would be dishonest to make a duplicate claim for the same train journey, for example. The Panel did not accept as credible the Registrant’s explanation that he had not considered the duplication of mileage claims to be dishonest in the same way.
29.The Panel considered that the Registrant’s explanations that his verbal query about claiming zero pence per mile, together with his worry about exceeding his personal mileage and his belief that he was representing both WAST and COP were distractions from the simple and obvious conclusion that this double claiming was dishonest behaviour.
30.The Panel considered that the Registrant’s conduct was undertaken for financial gain. Even on the Registrant’s own explanation he was seeking to avoid a tax consequence for exceeding his personal mileage. If, as the Registrant suggested, he believed he was representing both organisations at the same meeting there was no reason why he could not have claimed the journey solely from WAST as business mileage. The Panel considered that claiming the additional mileage from COP was financially motivated.
31.In relation to the first limb of the test set out in the case of Ivey the Panel was satisfied for the reasons set out above that the Registrant was aware that his conduct was dishonest.
32.The Panel concluded that in relation to the second limb there was no doubt that the Registrant’s conduct in claiming mileage from two different organisations for the same journey would be considered dishonest by the standards of ordinary decent people.
Decision on Grounds
33.The Panel then considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct. Misconduct must be serious and not every falling short will give rise to a finding of misconduct. The Panel noted that the Registrant accepted that his conduct amounted to misconduct. Nevertheless, the Panel has exercised its own judgement.
34.The Panel has made findings in relation to the Registrant engaging in multiple duplicate claims to obtain a monetary benefit over a significant period of time.
35.In submitting 45 separate duplicate mileage claims, over a 12 month period, the Panel considered this represented a repeated pattern of dishonest conduct from the Registrant, which fell far short of the standards expected of a registered professional.
36.The Panel notes the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics January 2016 and in particular Standard 9.1 “You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.”
37.The Panel considered that the reputation of Paramedics was damaged by the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel considered that members of the profession and the public would be shocked and appalled to learn of the Registrant’s actions.
Decision on Impairment
38.The Panel went on to consider the issue of impairment by reason of the Registrant's misconduct. It had careful regard to all the evidence before it and to the submissions of Mr Foxsmith for the HCPC and those made by Ms Shah on behalf the Registrant. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and had particular regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Fitness to Practise Impairment”.
39.Mr Foxsmith for the HCPC submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired both on the personal component and the public component. Mr Foxsmith submitted that in considering whether the misconduct had been remedied and was unlikely to be repeated the Panel should consider the degree of insight and remediation shown by the Registrant. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the Registrant’s evidence lacked credibility, demonstrated limited insight into his behaviour and sought to detract from the seriousness of his conduct by alluding to outside factors which had no relevance. Mr Foxsmith submitted that the Registrant had not fully appreciated the basic concept of his dishonesty and as such there was a risk of repetition. Further, he submitted that the need to uphold proper professional standards would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made in this case.
40.On behalf of the Registrant Ms Shah submitted that a finding of impairment was not made out in relation to the personal component. Ms Shah drew the Panel’s attention to the full admissions given by the Registrant in the disciplinary proceedings, to his employer and to the HCPC. Ms Shah submitted that the misconduct occurred during a time when the Registrant was under significant pressure, and he had made extensive efforts to remediate his failings. She submitted that the Registrant had put in place administrative strategies to prevent any repetition and there had been no repeat of the conduct. Ms Shah submitted that the Registrant was of good character until this episode and was clearly well thought of and a highly skilled Paramedic. Ms Shah urged the Panel to consider the Registrant’s reflections and remorse. Ms Shah referred the Panel to the devastating effect that the Registrant’s actions have had on his career and personal life and submitted that he had learned from this behaviour such that it would never be repeated.
41.The Panel first considered past impairment. It noted its findings that the Registrant had dishonestly made duplicate mileage claims from two different organisations for an extended period. This conduct only ceased following a report from a whistle-blower. It had also found that the Registrant’s misconduct had breached a key standard of the HCPC’s “Standards of conduct, performance and ethics” as set out above, had brought the profession into disrepute and had undermined confidence in the profession.
42.The Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of that misconduct. In addressing the personal component of impairment, the Panel asked itself whether the Registrant is liable, now and in the future, to repeat misconduct of the kind found proved. In reaching its decision, the Panel had particular regard to the issues of insight and remediation.
43.The Panel noted that in the case of CHRE v NMC & Grant  EWHC 927 (Admin) Mrs Justice Cox stated: “When considering whether or not fitness to practise is currently impaired, the level of insight shown by the practitioner is central to a proper determination of that issue.”
44.The Registrant submitted documents including a reflection and relevant training certificates and references. The panel has heard oral evidence from the Registrant and from the Registrant’s friend and former colleague HM. The Registrant has expressed within the documents and in his evidence an apology and has explained that he feels shame, embarrassment and remorse.
45.The Panel had careful regard to Silber J’s guidance in Cohen v GMC  EWHC 581 (Admin) that Panels should take account of:
•Whether the conduct which led to the charge is easily remediable;
•Whether it has been remedied; and
•Whether it is highly unlikely to be repeated.
46.The Panel recognised that remediation of misconduct which involves dishonesty may be less easy than remediation of misconduct involving clinical failings. The Panel had regard to the context of the dishonesty and the fact that it occurred within the Registrant’s working life and whilst he was undertaking his duties as a Paramedic.
47.The Panel accepted the oral evidence of HM and the written references in the bundle that the Registrant is a very clinically experienced and competent practitioner and has had an extensive career. It considered that with the development of meaningful insight the Registrant’s misconduct is remediable. It noted the Registrant’s assurances that he has learned from this experience and his reflection as to the reasons why it arose. The Panel noted the Registrant’s statement that his judgement may have been clouded by some of the difficult personal circumstances.
48.The Panel also noted that the Registrant has continued to work as a Paramedic in different roles since the incidents in question, and that there has been no repetition. The Panel noted that the Registrant had repaid COP and offered to make a repayment to WAST for the duplicate claims.
49.The Panel determined that the Registrant had not fully developed his insight into the reasons for his conduct. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s reflective piece was very academic in nature. The Panel considered that in his evidence the Registrant appeared unable or unwilling to confront the simple and basic nature of his dishonesty. The Registrant stated he had “compartmentalised” his thought process at the time and sought to put forward explanations for his thought process which were not credible. For example, his concern about exceeding his personal mileage. The Panel did not consider that the Registrant’s insight was sufficiently developed to enable him to fully explain why he could not see that his actions were dishonest at the time. The Panel considered that the Registrant, either in his reflection or in his oral evidence to the Panel, had not adequately identified or addressed the underlying reasons for his misconduct.
50.The Panel accepted the evidence of HM that the Registrant had been significantly affected by these proceedings and was remorseful and ashamed of his actions. The Panel considered that as a friend and former colleague of the Registrant, HM’s evidence was understandably focussed on these aspects. However, the Panel considered that HM’s evidence did not assist in determining whether the Registrant posed a significant risk of repeating his dishonesty.
51.In light of its findings in relation to insight and remediation, the Panel considered that there remained a risk that the Registrant could repeat matters of the kind found proved. For these reasons, the Panel determined that a finding of impairment in relation to the personal component is required.
52.The Panel then went on to consider whether a finding of impairment is necessary on public interest grounds. In addressing this component of impairment, the Panel had careful regard to the critically important public issues identified by Silber J in the case of Cohen when he said:
“Any approach to the issue of whether .... fitness to practise should be regarded as ‘impaired’ must take account of…the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour.”
53. The Panel considered that honesty and integrity is a cornerstone of the profession, and the public rightly expects professionals to act with honesty. The Panel considered that the public would be concerned to learn of the Registrant’s conduct in this matter. Further, the Panel had no doubt that the need to maintain public confidence in the profession, and to declare and uphold proper standards, would be undermined if a finding of impairment of fitness to practise was not made in the circumstances of this case. The Panel did not consider that a finding of misconduct alone would be sufficient. The Panel considered that this was far from an isolated act in exceptional circumstances.
54.For all the reasons set out above, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired on public interest grounds.
Decision on Sanction
55.Having determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of his misconduct, the Panel next went on to consider whether it was impaired to a degree which required action to be taken on his registration by way of the imposition of a sanction.
56. The Panel had regard to all of the evidence in the case and the submissions made by Mr Foxsmith on behalf of the HCPC and Ms Shah on behalf of the Registrant. The Panel also had regard to the oral evidence given by the Registrant at the sanction stage and revisited all of the material it had seen and heard.
57.Mr Foxsmith stated that the HCPC did not contend for a particular sanction and drew the Panel’s attention to the features he considered were relevant.
58.Ms Shah set out in her submissions the extensive mitigating factors she stated that were present in this case. Ms Shah urged the Panel to have regard to the Registrant’s long unblemished career and his genuine commitment to the profession. Ms Shah set out that the Registrant had acknowledged his dishonesty and the impact his actions had on the reputation of the profession and the Panel could be confident that his remorse and insight were genuine. Ms Shah submitted that it was unlikely that the Registrant would repeat his dishonesty. Ms Shah submitted that a Suspension Order would adequately protect the public and would be sufficient to act as a deterrent and uphold proper professional standards.
59.The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and exercised its independent judgement. The Panel had regard to the Sanctions Policy (the Policy) and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was mindful and had at the forefront of its considerations that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the wider public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.
60.The Panel first identified what it considered to be the principal aggravating and mitigating factors in this case.
61.The Registrant’s dishonesty persisted over a year and involved 45 claims to obtain a financial benefit from his employer and from his professional representative organisation for which he was carrying out a Trustee role. The claiming only came to an end after a report by a concerned member of staff.
62.The Panel considered that the Registrant has not taken full responsibility for his actions and his recognition of the nature and extent of the dishonesty came very late in the process. The Panel had some difficulty accepting the genuineness of his insight in these circumstances.
63.The Registrant has had a lengthy professional career, and there have been no previous regulatory concerns.
64.The Registrant admitted the facts of the allegations to this Panel and repaid money to COP. The Panel also noted that the Registrant self-referred to the HCPC at the earliest opportunity.
65.The references and evidence provided to the Panel attested positively to the Registrant as a committed paramedic and the training certificates presented demonstrated that the Registrant was an able practitioner. However, this information was of limited assistance when considering the Registrant’s character in the round as it did not provide detailed information about the Registrants honesty.
66.The Panel noted that there had been no repeat of the conduct. However, when considering all of the evidence adduced in the case and looking particularly at the Registrant’s reflective statement and his oral evidence to the Panel on two occasions, the Panel considered that the Registrant had not fully developed his insight for the Panel to be satisfied that there was a low risk of repetition. The Panel noted that the Registrant had only recently accepted the extent of his dishonesty. The Panel reminded itself of its findings in relation to impairment and in particular the conclusion that the Registrant posed a risk of repeating his behaviour.
67.The Panel considered that the Registrant had not yet fully taken responsibility for his conduct and, in the Panel’s view, was unable to adequately grasp the nature and extent of the dishonesty.
68.The Panel considered the sanctions available, beginning with the least restrictive. The Panel did not consider the options of taking no further action, mediation, or the sanction of a Caution Order to be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case. In view of the limited insight demonstrated by the Registrant, none of these options would address the consequent risk of repetition which the Panel had previously identified nor would they reflect the seriousness of the case.
69.The Panel next considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel was satisfied that this case did not raise any workplace concerns which may be appropriately addressed through conditions. The Panel was of the view that it was not possible to formulate workable or practicable conditions which would address the Registrant’s dishonesty. Further, the Panel considered that the case was too serious for a Conditions of Practice Order.
70.The Panel next considered a Suspension Order and applied the guidance in the Sanctions Policy. The Panel concluded that this was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in the circumstances of this case. The Panel considered that such an Order is required to maintain public confidence in the profession and to uphold professional standards. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s conduct undermined public trust in the profession and therefore a serious sanction of suspension was required. The Panel considered that the length of the Order should be for 12 months which is the maximum permitted. The Panel determined that the maximum period was required to uphold public confidence and to demonstrate to the wider profession that the Registrant’s misconduct was serious.
71.Although the Panel had found that the Registrant’s insight was limited at this time, it considered that a 12 month Suspension Order would provide a further opportunity to the Registrant to reflect on his misconduct and to demonstrate that he had developed an appropriate level of insight.
72.The Panel acknowledged that the Policy lists dishonesty as the type of case in which a Striking Off Order may be appropriate. The Panel considered this very carefully. The dishonesty, while serious, was not fundamentally incompatible with remaining in the profession. The Panel did not consider that the Registrant had displayed entrenched attitudinal dishonesty. The Panel noted that the Registrant had taken some steps to address his misconduct and had indicated to the Panel that he would be willing to take further steps. As the Panel had previously found, the dishonesty could be remediated with the development of insight. Having found that a Suspension Order would adequately protect the public and the public interest it considered that this was the least restrictive sanction and therefore proportionate. Taking account of all of the above the Panel was of the view that in these circumstances a Striking Off Order would be unduly punitive and would deprive the profession of a skilled practitioner.
73.This Panel does not seek to fetter the discretion of a future reviewing panel, but it considers that such a panel may be assisted by any information which evidences a developed level of insight. This might include an appreciation and understanding of the nature and extent of the dishonesty and a fuller appreciation of the reasons behind it. This Panel considers that a future panel would be further assisted by evidence about any personal learning the Registrant has undertaken. This Panel also considers that a future reviewing panel may be assisted by the submission of a contemporary reflective piece from the Registrant.
74.The Panel acknowledged that such an Order will have an adverse impact upon the Registrant both personally and professionally. However, the Panel determined that the interests of protecting the public and maintaining public confidence in the profession outweigh the interests of the Registrant.
The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Andrew J Jones from the register for a period of 12 months from the day this order comes into effect.
1.The Panel considered the application by the HCPC for an Interim Order to cover the appeal period.
2.The HCPC’s application is made on the 2 statutory grounds as follows:
•it is necessary for the protection of members of the public
•is otherwise in the public interest.
3.The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public and being otherwise in the public interest. The Panel considered that to do otherwise would be inconsistent with its earlier findings and would not protect the public against the risk of repetition identified.
4.This order will expire:
•if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made;
•if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months to cover the length of any appeal.
History of Hearings for Mr Andrew Jones
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|22/11/2021||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|