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Whilst registered as a Paramedic with the Health and Care Professions Council:
1. On 26 July 2018, you tested positive for cannabis whilst at work at the British Emergency Ambulance Response Service (BEARS).
2. On 2 August 2018, you advised Person B, Paramedic Service Manager at BEARS that the HCPC had informed you that they ‘wasn’t bothered’ about the matter in paragraph 1, or words to that effect and/or that your positive result had nothing to do with your conduct as a paramedic, when that was not the case.
3. After you were notified of the HCPC investigation regarding the matter in paragraph 1, you sent offensive and / or threatening text messages to Person A on;
a. 25 August 2018;
b. 30 August 2018;
c. 16 July 2019;
d. 17 July 2019
4. You sent offensive and / or threatening text messages to Person B on:
a. 16 July 2019;
b. 17 July 2019;
c. 6 November 2019
5. You sent offensive and / or threatening text messages to Person C on:
a. 16 July 2019;
b. 17 July 2019;
c. 28 September 2019;
d. 6 November 2019
6. You sent offensive and / or threatening emails to Person D on 6 November 2019
7. The matters set out at paragraphs 1 - 7 amount to misconduct.
8. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing (hereafter ‘the Notice’) had been sent by email on 20 December 2022, to the email address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC register.
2. The Panel was also shown a copy of delivery receipt, confirming delivery of the Notice, to the Registrant’s email address on 23 December 2022.
3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended) (‘the Rules’).
Application to adjourn and proceeding in absence of the Registrant
4. Prior to the hearing commencing, the Registrant sent an email to the HCPTS, dated 30 January 2023 and timed at 09.11am, which stated the following:
‘Hi. This is Sachin Pandya, we just spoke a moment ago. As per our conversation could I please request an adjournment for my hearing today. I have been [unwell]. I am really in no fit state to attend today or represent myself properly. Please could we reschedule? This would be very much appreciated. If you could let me know. Thank you in advance. Kind regards, Sachin.’
5. Ms Welsh, appearing on behalf of the HCPC, opposed the Registrant’s application for an adjournment. In her submissions to the Panel she drew the Panel’s attention to the following:
a. The considerations set out in CPS v Picton (2006) EWHC 1108;
b. The general need for the Panel to conduct hearings expeditiously;
c. The fact that the Registrant has not provided any updated information in respect of today’s review;
d. The likely consequences of the proposed adjournment in that, it is unclear how long the Registrant would require for an adjournment and/or whether he would be able to attend and present his case before the expiry of the Order (25 February 2023);
e. The history of the case; the Registrant has only ever attended one hearing (the substantive hearing) and there have been two previous adjournment requests (on 27 January 2022 and 14 February 2022);
f. There is no independent medical evidence provided to support the Registrant’s request for an adjournment;
g. This is a mandatory review of the Order and it is in the public interest for matters to proceed; and
h. The general public interest should be considered and for this reason the hearing should proceed.
6. Ms Welsh also made an application for the hearing to proceed in the Registrant’s absence as permitted by Rule 11 of the Rules.
7. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took into account the guidance as set out in the HCPC Practice Notes “Postponement and Adjournment of Proceedings” and “Proceeding in Absence”.
8. The Panel determined that it would refuse the Registrant’s application for an adjournment and that it was reasonable and in the public interest to proceed with the hearing for the following reasons:
i. the Panel found good service in terms of the Notice;
ii. the Panel was satisfied, having regard to his email dated 30 January 2023, that the Registrant was aware of today’s proceedings;
iii. this was the third adjournment request that the Registrant had made during the history of the regulatory proceedings and he has only attended the substantive hearing and has not attended a previous review when a previous adjournment request had been granted (27 January 2021);
iv. having regard to the aforementioned, the Panel was not satisfied that the Registrant would attend a future review date, if it adjourned today’s hearing and therefore re-listing the hearing would serve no useful purpose;
v. the Registrant has failed to engage in any meaningful way, throughout the duration of the regulatory proceedings and he has not provided any new information or evidence to the Panel since the last review hearing. Whilst the Panel recognised that there may be some disadvantage to the Registrant in not being able to make oral submissions to it, the Panel noted that he had been provided with every opportunity to attend and provide up-to-date information about his progress and has failed to do so. The Panel therefore formed the view that the Registrant has voluntarily absented himself from the hearing and that he was unlikely to attend at a future date even if the Panel adjourned today; and
vi. finally, the Panel noted its duty to act in a manner which was in the public interest and in order to achieve that aim should act in a fair, economical and expeditious manner. Therefore, taking all of the aforementioned into account and noting that this was a mandatory review of an order due to expire on 25 February 2023, the Panel determined that it should proceed in the absence of the Registrant because the public interest in proceeding with the case outweighed any detriment to the Registrant in not being present.
9. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as a Paramedic. During the period referred to in the Allegation he was working, on a self-employed basis, for the British Emergency Ambulance Response Service (‘BEARS’), which is a company supplying services to NHS Trusts. On 26 July 2018, BEARS conducted random drugs tests on some workers in accordance with their employment contracts. The test in respect of the Registrant was positive for cannabis. A letter dated 31 July 2018 placed the Registrant on unpaid leave pending an investigation into the circumstances.
10. On 2 August 2018, the Registrant telephoned his line manager, Person B, to say that he had been in contact with a representative of the HCPC who had told him that it “wasn’t bothered” that he had a positive test for cannabis. BEARS then reported the conversation to the HCPC. Following this the Registrant sent offensive and/or threatening text messages and emails to persons working for BEARS over a sustained period.
11. The substantive hearing took place between 25 - 28 January 2021. The panel at the substantive hearing considered each of the particulars individually. Save for Particular 7, which was not found proved, the substantive hearing panel found all other particulars proved. The panel found that Particular 2 did not amount to misconduct, but did find that each of the particulars taken separately and together amounted to misconduct.
12. With regard to Particular 1 the substantive hearing panel found that the Registrant committed a criminal offence in taking cannabis.
13. In respect of Particulars 3, 4, 5 and 6, which related to texts and emails sent, the substantive hearing panel found that these were not isolated events and had been sent over a period of 16 months. Whilst the substantive hearing panel accepted that the Registrant was experiencing considerable personal difficulties at the time, it found his actions to be unacceptable and unprofessional. The substantive hearing panel also found that the sending of the texts amount to serious misconduct on the part of the Registrant.
14. In relation to impairment, the panel at the substantive hearing found the Registrant to be impaired on both the personal and public components and imposed a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months. Whilst the panel at the substantive hearing recognised that the Registrant had displayed a level of insight and had recognised that he needed help, the panel also considered that the Registrant had considerable work to do to fully understand the negative and damaging impact on others that would be caused if the Registrant were to commit similar failings in the future. The substantive hearing panel concluded that the “Registrant has so far taken little action to develop insight or remediation. Therefore, there is a high risk of repetition of harm to others if there were not to be a finding of impairment”.
15. A review of the 12-month Suspension Order was undertaken on 14 February 2022. The Registrant did not attend that review hearing. At the first review hearing the panel determined the following:
“The Panel considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. It has taken account [of] the submissions made by Ms Welsh, and has noted that the Registrant has not worked as a Paramedic since 31 July 2018. Whilst, the Registrant has engaged in these proceedings, the Panel did not have any evidence to show that the Registrant has addressed the concerns raised by the panel at the substantive hearing. Whilst this Panel recognises that the Covid-19 pandemic may have made it more difficult to access [support], the reality is that this Panel had no evidence before it to show that the Registrant had addressed his…issues. There was no reflective piece before the Panel and no information to suggest that the Registrant has continued to complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) or updated his professional knowledge. In light of these factors, the Panel had concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired on the private component.
The Panel finds that the Registrant also remains impaired on the public component. The misconduct found was serious and that in all the circumstances, a restriction on the Registrant’s ability to practise is still necessary in order to protect service users and also to maintain public confidence in the profession of Paramedic.”
16. In terms of sanction, the previous reviewing panel decided that the appropriate sanction was that of a further 12 months suspension. It determined that “on the evidence available to the Panel, it appears that the Registrant has not begun to address the issues identified by the panel who heard the substantive appeal. [sic] The Panel echoes the words of the substantive panel that the Registrant has a lot of work ahead of him. The Panel is also mindful that the Registrant needs to recover from his recent [health concerns].”
17. The previous reviewing panel stated that a future reviewing panel may be assisted by the following:
i. A reflective piece of writing considering the Registrant’s past actions and the impact they may have had on service users, colleagues and the public interest;
ii. Evidence of any courses, including (but not restricted to) CPD, which are relevant to his work as a Paramedic.
18. Ms Welsh submitted, on behalf of the HCPC, that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired and that the minimum sanction, which was sufficient in the circumstances, was a Striking Off Order. She drew the Panel’s attention to the HCPTS Practice Note titled ‘Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired’.
19. Ms Welsh also submitted the following:
i. the Panel should have regard to the previous panel’s determinations;
ii. there was a theme identified in the previous panel’s decisions that the Registrant should provide evidence of his remediation and insight and he has failed to do so;
iii. he has not adequately engaged since the substantive hearing in January 2021;
iv. the Registrant has provided no evidence of insight or remediation since the substantive hearing decision;
v. he remains a risk to the Public;
vi. there is insufficient information before the Panel to satisfy it that he has discharged the persuasive burden and he therefore remains impaired on both the personal and public components;
vii. the Panel should have regard to the Sanctions Policy published by the HCPC; and
viii. a Striking Off Order is the appropriate order to impose. If however, the Panel is not minded to remove the Registrant from the HCPC Register, a further short period of suspension should be imposed with a robust list of things that ought to be addressed by the Registrant.
20. The Panel took into account the documents furnished to it by the HCPC and had regard to the email from the Registrant dated 30 January 2023. The Panel also had regard to the HCPC’s submissions.
21. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, which had drawn its attention to the HCPTS practice note titled ‘Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired’ and to the HCPC Sanctions Policy (2019).
22. In making its decision, the Panel had regard to both the personal and public elements of impairment.
23. The Panel noted that the Registrant’s conduct in this case, as determined by the substantive hearing panel, was serious and related to attending work whilst under the influence of an illegal substance and to sending offensive and threatening messages, over a sustained period of time, to colleagues. The Panel also noted that the Registrant has failed to engage in any meaningful way during the course of the regulatory proceedings since the Substantive Hearing. Further, the Panel also noted that the Registrant has failed to provide any evidence of a recognition of his conduct; failed to demonstrate a willingness to address and/or remediate his conduct; failed to provide anything which could lead the Panel to determine insight or remorse in respect of his conduct; failed to provide evidence of further training or continuing professional development; and has failed to demonstrate any understanding of the severity and impact of his actions. In view of the aforementioned, and having regard to the previous panel’s determinations, the Panel concluded that the Registrant continues to pose a risk to the public and remains impaired on the personal component.
24. The Panel then went on to consider the public component of impairment. The Panel reminded itself that part of its role was to maintain professional standards and uphold confidence in the Paramedic profession. The Panel considered that there remained a risk of potential harm due to the Registrant’s conduct. The Panel was satisfied that a member of the public, appraised of all of the circumstances of this case, would have their confidence in the profession and the regulator, undermined if a finding of current impairment was not made on public interest grounds. The Panel therefore determined that the Registrant is impaired on the public interest component also.
25. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired on both the personal and public components.
26. The Panel next considered which sanction to impose. The Panel bore in mind that sanction is a matter for its own independent judgment and that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public. Further, it also had regard to the fact that any sanction must be proportionate, so that any order must be the least restrictive order that would protect the public interest, including public protection. In forming its view, the Panel had regard to the HCPC guidance titled ‘Sanctions Policy’.
27. The Panel considered the options of taking no further action and/or a Caution Order. The Panel determined that neither of these options would provide adequate protection to the public given the Registrant’s conduct and the ongoing risk to the public as identified.
28. The Panel next considered the option of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel was of the view, given the lack of engagement by the Registrant, that it could not be satisfied that the Registrant would engage with any conditions of practice imposed. Additionally, the Panel also considered that that it would not be possible to formulate conditions of practice which were proportionate, appropriate or workable in this case given the nature of the substantive hearing panel’s findings and the Registrant’s conduct.
29. The Panel next considered extending the current Suspension Order and in doing so, had regard to paragraphs 123 and 124 of the Sanctions Policy and noted that the guidance stated:
‘123. Whilst short-term suspensions can have long-term consequences for a registrant (including being dismissed from their current employment), they are likely to be appropriate where a staged return to practice is required. For example, where the registrant has previously engaged in the process but is currently unable to respond to and comply with conditions of practice but may be capable of doing so in the future.
124. Short-term suspensions can also be appropriate in cases where there is no ongoing risk of harm, but where further action is required in order to maintain public confidence in our professions.’
30. The Panel noted the Registrant’s lack of engagement. It also considered that he has been subject to a Suspension Order for over 2 years and has continued to fail to engage in the proceedings or to demonstrate a willingness to address his conduct. Additionally, the Panel also noted that the Registrant has failed to provide any evidence of insight, remediation or remorse and concluded therefore that he has demonstrated an unwillingness to acknowledge and/or resolve matters. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant has completely ignored the previous panel’s recommendations and has shown no interest in remaining a member of the Paramedic profession. The Panel considered that a further Suspension Order would therefore serve no useful purpose.
31. In considering the option of a striking off order, the Panel noted paragraphs 131 and 132 of the Sanctions Policy stated:
‘131. A striking off order is likely to be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the concerns are such that any lesser sanction would be insufficient to protect the public, public confidence in the profession, and public confidence in the regulatory process. In particular where the registrant:
• lacks insight;
• continues to repeat the misconduct or, where a registrant has been suspended for two years continuously, fails to address a lack of competence; or
• is unwilling to resolve matters.
132. A striking off order has a significant impact on a registrant, and so when a panel imposes a striking off order, it should provide clear and detailed reasoning in its decision on sanction.’
32. In determining that a Striking Off Order was the only appropriate sanction to impose in this case, the Panel had regard to the fact that it had determined that the Registrant lacks insight, has been suspended for two years continuously and has demonstrated a lack of willingness to resolve matters or to address his conduct. Consequently, taking into account the on-going potential risk that the Registrant posed to the public, the Panel was of the view that, notwithstanding a Striking-Off Order being an order of last resort, it was the only sanction which was appropriate to safeguard members of the public from the real risk posed by the Registrant. Further, the Panel was also of the view that any lesser sanction would be insufficient to protect the public, public confidence in the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.
33. In reaching this decision, the Panel had regard to the Registrant’s interests and balanced those interests with its public interest considerations. In doing so however, the Panel determined that the public interests significantly outweighed any impact that a Striking-Off Order would have on the Registrant.
The Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Sachin Pandya from the HCPC register with immediate effect.
Right of Appeal
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales 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.
History of Hearings for Sachin Pandya
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|30/01/2023||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Struck off|
|14/02/2022||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|
|27/01/2022||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Adjourned|
|25/01/2021||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Suspended|