Miss Natasha Badhan

: Operating department practitioner

: ODP35972

Interim Order: Imposed on 06 Jan 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 06/01/2017 End: 17:00 06/01/2017

: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Conditions of Practice

Allegation

Allegation

On 11 May 2016 at Black Country Magistrates’ Court you were convicted of:

1.  Driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 75 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, exceeded the prescribed limit.

2.    By reason of your conviction as set out in paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied on documentary evidence provided, that the Registrant, Ms Natasha Badhan, had been given proper notice of this final hearing in accordance with the relevant rules.   The Panel has seen a letter sent by first class post to the Registrant dated 17 November 2016 to her registered address.   The same letter was also emailed to her on the same date.

Proceeding in Absence of the Registrant

2. The Panel heard submissions on behalf of the Council as to the power to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.   Ms Mond Wedd submitted that the Registrant had, by her conduct, shown that she had voluntarily waived her right to attend and to be represented.    She has not attended today, has provided no explanation for her non-attendance and she has not applied for any adjournment.
3. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered the HCPC’s Practice Note entitled “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and it also received and accepted legal advice.  The Panel noted that it should exercise the utmost care and caution before deciding to proceed in the absence of a registrant.  In this case, the Panel accepted Ms Mond Wedd’s submissions, and concluded that the Registrant has voluntarily waived her right to be present. Importantly, although she has previously engaged with the process, she had not explicitly stated that she would not be present today.   She has not requested an adjournment of today’s hearing and the Panel decided that an adjournment would be unlikely to result in her attendance at any later date.   The Panel decided that there would be no unfairness to the Registrant by proceeding in her absence especially as it was in the public interest that final hearings should take place expeditiously and at the allotted time. 

Background

4. The Registrant, Natasha Badhan, is employed as an Operating Department Practitioner (OPD) by Dudley Group Hospital (the Hospital).

5. On 22 February 2016 at 07:58, police responded to a call from the Registrant’s former partner who stated that they were together and that the Registrant had been drink driving.   When the police attended outside a public house in West Bromwich, they found a motor vehicle parked at an awkward angle in the High Street with the former partner sitting in the passenger seat and the Registrant walking towards them from a nearby bus stop.   The Registrant told the police that she and her former partner had been drinking heavily.   As it was unclear at that time who had been driving the car, both the Registrant and her former partner were arrested.  At the police station, the Registrant admitted that she had been driving the car, and she signed a police officer’s notebook confirming the same.  She then provided two breath specimens.   The specimens were analysed and the lower of the two readings showed 75 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath.   This exceeds the prescribed legal limit of 35 microgrammes.   The Registrant informed the HCPC of her arrest and charge by email the next day.

6. On 11 May 2016 at Warley Magistrates’ Court (part of the Black Country Magistrates’ Court), the Registrant changed her initial not guilty plea to one of guilty and was convicted of driving a motor vehicle with excess alcohol.  She was disqualified from driving for 18 months, fined £450 and ordered to pay the Crown Prosecution Service costs of £300.   The Registrant notified the HCPC of the outcome of the court hearing on the same date, and informed the Council that the 18 month disqualification, would be reduced by 25% if she completed a drink drive course.  

7. On 28 June 2016 the Registrant sent an email to the HCPC in which she gave an account of how she came to be driving her car with excess alcohol over the prescribed legal limit.  

Decision on Facts

Particular 1

8. In finding this particular proved, the Panel relied on the Certificate of Conviction which was produced in evidence.   This showed that, on 11 May 2016, at Warley Magistrates’ Court, part of the Black Country Magistrates’ Court, the Registrant pleaded guilty and was convicted of driving whilst over the prescribed limit of alcohol in her system.   The offence took place in the early morning of Monday 22 February 2016.    The Panel also noted that, in her written representations, the Registrant accepted that she was driving whilst over the prescribed limit. 

Decision on Grounds

Conviction

9. In reaching its decision on the statutory ground of conviction, the Panel has taken account of its finding in relation to particular 1 of the Allegation and is satisfied that the statutory ground is made out.

Decision on Impairment

10. In relation to whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel has borne in mind that the purpose of these hearings is not to punish the Registrant for past misdoings but to protect the public against the acts and omissions of those who are not fit to practise.  It has also borne in mind the HCPC’s Practice Notes regarding “Finding That Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and “Conviction and Caution Allegations”. 

11. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired by reason of her conviction.   The Panel noted that the conviction referred to in particular 1 of the Allegation involved driving whilst the alcohol in her breath was double the prescribed legal limit.   The Panel also noted the evidence of the two police officers who attended at the scene as to the condition of the Registrant at that time.  Her eyes were glazed and her breath smelt of alcohol. 

12. The Panel was particularly concerned, in light of the level by which she was over the prescribed limit, that the Registrant did not appear to have realised that she was still under the influence of alcohol when she went out that morning and drove her car.

13. The Panel noted that the Registrant has shown some remorse and that, in pleading guilty to the offence, she has acknowledged her wrongdoing.   However, the Panel was concerned that the Registrant had shown only limited insight into that wrongdoing.  

14. The Panel was concerned that the most recent information before it was in the Registrant’s written representations dated 28 June 2016.   It had no information about the Registrant’s practice either before or since the matter that led to her conviction.   There are no references or testimonials from her employer or her colleagues there, despite there being a reference to such in the Registrant’s written representations.  

15. The Panel was also concerned that, in those written representations, the Registrant appeared to have been on her way to work when she was stopped by police and subsequently arrested.   If that is so, there is a clear risk to service users (i) in any ODP working whilst under the influence of alcohol and (ii) in the Registrant’s case as she did not appear to realise the effect the alcohol had on her.

16. The Panel noted that, in her written representations, the Registrant had stated that she would not repeat this conduct.   She refers to having seen her GP and that she had received support.   However, there is no evidence as to what she had actually done in order to remedy her shortcomings such as educating herself as to the effects of alcohol.   In those circumstances, the Panel is unable to say other than that there is a risk of repetition.       

17. In relation to the wider public interest, the Panel has no doubt that an informed member of the public would consider that public confidence in the ODP profession would be undermined if there was no finding of impairment in this case.   This was particularly so given the level of alcohol in the Registrant’s system and her lack of appreciation, on the day in question, that she was under the influence of alcohol.  

18. The Panel also took the view that it would be failing in its duty to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour in the ODP profession if it did not find impairment in this case.  

Decision on Sanction

19. In considering the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case, the Panel was referred to and took account of the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy.   

20. The Panel was aware that the purpose of any sanction it imposes is not to punish the Registrant, although it may have that effect, but it is to protect service users and to maintain confidence in the ODP profession and to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.   It also had in mind that any sanction it imposed must be appropriate and proportionate, bearing in mind the conviction involved.

21. The Panel considered mitigating and aggravating factors.    In relation to mitigating factors, the Panel noted:

• the Registrant’s admission and plea of guilty at the Magistrates’ Court
• the Registrant had demonstrated some remorse and some insight into her wrongdoing
• that she had engaged with the regulatory process at least up to the end of June 2016
• that she had sought the support of her GP
• that she has an unblemished professional record
• that there were elements of her relationship with her former partner which may have been a contributing factor.

22. In relation to aggravating features, the Panel noted
• the Registrant’s lack of acknowledgement of the level of consumption of alcohol
• that she had been double the legal limit
• that she had been on her way to work where it was possible that   she would have had some contact with service users whilst    under the influence of alcohol
• that there were no supporting testimonials or references
• that her conviction was in breach of the standards found in the  HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics:
Standard 3:  you must keep high standards of personal conduct, as well as professional conduct.

23. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.   Mediation did not apply in the circumstances of this case.   The Panel decided that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order in this case would not be appropriate or proportionate given that the offence could not be characterised as minor and the risk of recurrence could not, at this stage, be regarded as low.   The Registrant had shown only limited insight and remediation.   The Panel was satisfied that to ensure that public confidence in the profession was not undermined, it had to consider a more severe sanction. 

24. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order and decided that it was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in this case.   The level of insight and remorse shown by the Registrant into her conviction was such that an informed member of the public would not be unduly concerned if she was allowed to continue in practice, subject to appropriate conditions designed to address issues of insight and understanding of the effects of inappropriate alcohol consumption.   The Panel considered that it could devise conditions that were appropriate, workable and verifiable in this case.   Even though the Registrant was not present at today’s hearing, the Panel decided that the proposed Conditions of Practice Order was one with which she could reasonably be expected to comply.   The Panel also concluded that such an Order would adequately provide public protection and safeguard public confidence in the ODP profession and ensure a suitable deterrent effect.  

25. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order.   It took account of the relevant paragraphs in the Indicative Sanctions Policy and determined that it would be unduly harsh and disproportionate to impose a period of suspension in the circumstances of this case. 

26. The Conditions of Practice Order would be imposed for a period of 12 months and would be reviewed before it expires, and the Panel noted that either party could apply for an early review if the circumstances warranted it.    The period imposed of 12 months was to give the Registrant sufficient time to comply with the conditions and provide relevant evidence of such compliance.   The Panel was of the view that a reviewing Panel would be assisted by the personal attendance of the Registrant at the Review Hearing.   The Registrant should provide evidence of her compliance with the first two conditions prior to that review hearing.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that for a period of 12 months, the registration of Natasha Badhan is subject to a Conditions of Practice Order, as follows:

1. You must complete a reflective piece which demonstrates:

• Your understanding of safe and appropriate alcohol  consumption

• Your understanding of the potential impact of alcohol  consumption upon your ability to practise safely and  effectively

• Your understanding of the potential impact of inappropriate  alcohol consumption upon the reputation of the profession  of ODP
 Furthermore, you must outline the measures you have  undertaken to develop your awareness and understanding.

2. You must provide an appropriate reference from your line  manager which testifies to your safe and effective practice  as an Operating Department Practitioner professional.

3. You must inform the HCPC in writing within 7 days if you  cease to be employed by your current employer or take up  any other or further employment.

4. You must inform the HCPC in writing within 7 days of any  disciplinary proceedings taken against you by your  employer.

5. You must inform the following parties that your registration  is subject to these conditions:

A. any organisation or person employing or contracting with  you to undertake professional work;

B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be  registered with (at the time of application); and

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

Notes

This Order will be reviewed before its expiry. The Panel made an Interim Conditions of Practice Order to cover the appeal period. 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Natasha Badhan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
15/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
06/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice