Mr Ian Sayer

: Paramedic

: PA36042

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 16/08/2017 End: 17:00 16/08/2017

: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Caution

Allegation

 

1. On approximately 17 occasions during October and November 2016

used your employer's Allstar Fuel Card to purchase fuel for your personal

use without authority.

2. Your actions as described at paragraph 1 are dishonest.

3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 2 constitute misconduct.

4. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practice is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matter

1. At the beginning of the hearing the Registrant member of the Panel said that he knew the Registrant. The Registrant confirmed this. They worked in the same Trust and knew each other in a professional capacity. The Registrant member said that he had not worked directly with the Registrant and knew nothing of the events that had brought the Registrant to this hearing. Neither the Registrant member or the Registrant had any objections to his continuing to sit on the Panel. The HCPC and the remainder of the Panel also had no objection. The Panel took advice from the Legal Assessor that there was no apparent bias or perception of bias in these circumstances and allowed the hearing to proceed with the presently constituted Panel.

Background

2. On 29 November 2016 Mr Sayer made a self-referral to the HCPC giving a full account of the facts, namely that he had used his company fuel card to purchase approximately £200 worth of fuel for his personal use, he gave his employers’ contact details and confirmed his current work status at that time.

3. On 1 December 2016 the HCPC received a referral from the employer, Mountain Healthcare, providing the same facts given by Mr Sayer, including that he had resigned and had paid back the money in full. The employer expressed regret at having to make the referral and they confirmed, without prompting, that they had no concerns regarding his clinical care or conduct with people in his care.

4. On 22 December 2016 the HCPC received an anonymous, albeit signed, referral giving a similar version of events but providing the employer details for further information.

5. The employer provided the HCPC with their investigation report, which confirmed how they became aware of the misuse of the fuel card and that they had CCTV recordings of Mr Sayer filling fuel cans kept in the boot of his car and then used the company fuel card to purchase the fuel. The report confirmed that the employer suspended Mr Sayer on 14 November 2016 and on the same day he resigned. Mr Sayer had, at that time offered no acceptance, explanation or mitigation.

6. Mr Sayer’s line Manager wrote a report confirming that she was concerned for his well-being and that the events involving the fuel card were completely out of character. She described Mr Sayer as a person with integrity and who held strong views on right and wrong. She alluded to a personal trauma but gave no further details.

7. In an email to the HCPC dated 12 March 2017 Mr Sayer admitted the facts of the allegation, including dishonesty, and offered a full explanation of the personal trauma mentioned by his line manager. Mr Sayer made it clear that this was an explanation and not in any way an excuse. In a letter dated 18 April 2107 the HCPC wrote to the Registrant offering to dispose of the case by way of a Consent Order. The proposal was that the Panel agree to a caution order of 12 months. The Registrant agreed and returned a signed Consent Order dated 25 May 2017. This order had been drafted and signed on behalf of the Council on 24 May 2017. Ms Bass on behalf of the HCPC submitted that this was the appropriate action to take in this case and she invited the Panel to accept the order. She said that the Panel could only accept or reject the application they could not vary it. She referred the Panel to the practice note of ‘Disposal of Cases by Consent’ and the Indicative Sanctions Policy. She said that the Panel should consider the questions of public protection and public interest in relation to the order that they made.

8. In relation to public protection she submitted that since this is not a competence case, and did not involve clinical duties or contact with patients, the public protection argument is limited to whether a Registrant who acted dishonestly is a risk to the public. Although there were approximately 17 occasions of taking fuel for personal use, it could be viewed that this does not demonstrate a propensity for dishonesty generally because:

• it covered a limited period of up to two months;

• involved the same action – using the fuel card for personal use;

• the employer confirmed there were no other concerns;

• the money was repaid in full, and;

• an explanation in mitigation has been provided which offers some reassurance that the actions will not be repeated as the personal circumstances were very particular to that time of the Registrant’s life.

9. In relation to the wider public interest she submitted that whilst the actions under consideration might be considered out of character and did not put patients at risk of harm, dishonesty remains a very serious matter and a serious departure from acceptable standards of conduct.

10. The public would be appalled if a Registrant who was found to have, and admitted, to have acted dishonestly was not subject to any sanction from their Regulator.

11. Since there are no facts which need to be brought out by way of a public hearing, and no witnesses or patients who ought to have the right to have their say, there is little to be gained from a holding a full hearing.

12. However, the sanction must mark the seriousness of the conduct admitted. The Indicative Sanctions Policy states that a caution is appropriate where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence and the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action.

• The lapse is limited – covering a period of no more than two months

• Relatively minor – no patients put at risk

• Low risk of recurrence – a set of personal circumstances unlikely to be repeated

• The Registrant has shown insight and taken remedial action – his email to the HCPC; his appearance here today; and repaying the monies to his employer.

13. She further submitted that although the Indicative Sanctions Policy suggests that a three year caution should be considered the benchmark, it goes on to say that panels must consider sanctions in ascending order and the starting point is therefore 1 year and a Panel should only impose a longer caution if the facts of the case make it appropriate to do so.

14. The Registrant and the Council are agreed that a 12 month caution order sufficiently marks the seriousness of this matter.

15. The Registrant gave evidence. He explained the circumstances which led to the allegation being made against him. He explained the actions that he had taken afterwards. He told the Panel of his present circumstances. He said: ‘There are no reasons or excuses for my actions they were solely my own doing. The email is to make you aware of the background. I have lost the trust of my employer and I nearly lost my registration. The fuel that I took was enough for me to get to and from work. There have never been any clinical concerns. I am fully prepared to accept whatever punishment is due to me. I work as a team leader and heavily involved in teaching Paramedics. I very nearly lost everything and it would be beyond foolish for me to consider repeating it.’

Decision

16. The Panel was aware that for a Consent Order to be used the Panel must be satisfied of the following two points:

• The appropriate level of public protection is being secured, and;

• A Consent Order would not be detrimental to the wider public interest.

17. The Panel must decide whether to either approve this Consent Order or send this matter to a final hearing. Those are the only two options for the Panel today. No variation of the sanction can be made by the Panel today as this is a specific signed agreement between the HCPC and the Registrant. The Panel carefully considered all of the matters put before it and the HCPTS practice note of ‘Disposal of Cases by Consent’ and the Indicative Sanctions Policy.

18. The Panel was greatly assisted by the attendance of the Registrant and the evidence given by him to this hearing. He has fully engaged in this process. In his evidence, the Panel considered that he was truthful, honest and impressive as a witness. He appeared to be dignified but humble. He recognised that this hearing was not just a mere ‘rubber stamp’ formality. He accepted that his registration was at risk. The Panel accepted his evidence in its entirety.

19. The Panel considered its duty of protecting the public and acting in the public interest and balanced that with the Registrant’s own interests. It looked at the matters in the allegation and admitted by the Registrant and considered first of all the aggravating features.

20. The allegation related to 17 separate acts of dishonesty committed over a 2 month period. These acts showed a degree of premeditation and a breach of trust.

21. However, in light of the Registrant’s evidence the Panel considers that the risk of repetition is extremely low. The Registrant clearly understands why he acted as he did and appreciates that it was wholly wrong. He demonstrated remorse. He accepted personal responsibility for his actions and made no attempt to hide or excuse his actions. His evidence that he would not repeat his actions was convincing using such expressions as the action if repeated would be ‘beyond foolish’ and ‘unspeakable’.

22. The Panel considered the mitigating factors. The Registrant resigned his post immediately. He paid back all of the money. He self-referred to the HCPC before his employers referred the matter. He has notified and kept his current employers full informed about these proceedings. He has fully engaged and made early admissions in these proceedings. There are no concerns as to his professional competence or clinical ability. He produced a number of testimonials from his past employers as to his clinical and personal qualities. There were no such testimonials from his present employers as he was not asked to provide them but the Panel has no reason to doubt the evidence given by the Registrant that he is well regarded there and they have provided positive feedback to him.

23. The Panel carefully considered the guidance provided by the Indicative Sanctions Policy. It considered sanctions from the least restrictive progressing upwards to the most restrictive.

24. It first considered whether this would be an appropriate case to take no action.

25. Whilst the actions might be considered out of character and did not put patients at risk of harm, dishonesty remains a very serious matter and a serious departure from acceptable standards of conduct.

26. The Panel considers that the public would rightly be concerned if a Registrant who was found to have, and admitted, to have acted dishonestly was not subject to any sanction. This type of behaviour is unacceptable and damages public confidence in the profession.

27. The Panel then considered a Caution Order. The Indicative Sanctions Policy states that a caution is appropriate where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence and the Registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action. The Panel considered that in this case:

• The dishonesty was limited to a two months period.

• No patients put at risk.

• There is a low risk of recurrence – a set of personal circumstances unlikely to be repeated and the Registrant now fully appreciates the consequences of his actions.

• The Registrant has shown insight and taken remedial action, his email to the HCPC, his appearance here today, and repaying the monies to his employer.

28. Although the Indicative Sanctions Policy provides that a three year Caution should be considered the benchmark, it goes on to say that panels must consider sanctions in ascending order and the starting point is therefore 1 year and a Panel should only impose a longer caution if the facts of the case make it appropriate to do so.

29. The Panel has carefully considered all of the facts put before it in this case. It considers that exceptionally for an allegation of dishonesty a Caution Order is the appropriate sanction to impose in this case. The Panel considers that action is necessary in order to reassure the public that the matter has been taken seriously but because of the significant mitigation and evidence put forward by the Registrant in this case a Caution Order would be the appropriate Sanction. The Panel considered that any higher sanction would be inappropriate. Conditions could not be formulated and would not be appropriate in the lack of any clinical concerns. Any higher sanction would be merely punitive and disproportionate, and would deprive the public of the services of a highly committed and competent paramedic.

30. The Panel considered the correct length for the Caution Order. It bore in mind the starting point of 1 year and, in balancing the aggravating and mitigating features, it could not in this case identify any reasons to increase the period of the Caution Order.

31. The Panel therefore allows the Consent Order, as requested, to be made.

Order

By consent, the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Mr Ian Sayer with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 1 year from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 16 August 2017. 

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Ian Sayer

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
16/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution