Miss Anna Price

: Chiropodist / podiatrist

: CH15535

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 24/11/2017 End: 17:00 24/11/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Caution

Allegation

The allegation is as follows:

 

On 02 June 2016 at Sheffield Magistrates Court, you were convicted of:

 

·         Driving a motor vehicle after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in your breath, namely 152 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 milliliters of breath, exceeded the prescribed limit.

 

By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to

practise as a Chiropodist is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:
1. Mr Smith, on behalf of the Registrant, made an application for those parts of the hearing that dealt with the Registrant’s health to be heard in private. Ms Rangamuwa did not object. The Panel considered the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Conducting Hearings in Private’ and determined that this hearing should proceed partly in private, in relation to the issues to be raised directly concerning the Registrant’s health.
Background:
2. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as a Podiatrist. On 17 May 2016 at 5.20pm the Registrant was driving when she collided with two parked cars. She was assisted by two members of the public following the collision, who turned off her car ignition, secured her handbrake and called the Police. The Police Incident Log notes that the Registrant was “severely intoxicated, has hit two cars” and “she is so drunk she cannot get out of the car…neighbour has taken the keys…she is still sat in the car”. The Registrant was subsequently breath-tested and arrested by the Police. She was found to have 152 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, more than four times over the legal limit of 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres. The Registrant was interviewed by the Police and admitted consuming a litre bottle of vodka prior to driving, and that her purpose for driving was to purchase more alcohol to drink.
3. On 2 June 2016 at the Sheffield Magistrates’ Court the Registrant pleaded guilty to the charges set out in the Allegation above. The Registrant was convicted of driving with excess alcohol. She was disqualified from driving a motor vehicle for a period of 3 years with the option to reduce this amount of time by 9 months upon satisfactory completion of a driving course approved by the Secretary of State. In addition the Registrant received a Community Order with a curfew and monitoring conditions from 7pm to 6am until 15 October 2016 and was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £85 and costs of £85.
4. A memorandum of conviction has been produced by the HCPC as proof of the Registrant’s conviction. The Registrant has completed a Drink-Drive Offenders course and consequently the period of her disqualification has been reduced by 9 months. She is therefore disqualified from driving until September 2018. The Registrant notified the HCPC of the incident on 31 May 2016, after being charged and before her court appearance and subsequent conviction.
Decision on Facts:
5. As to whether the fact of the conviction is proved, the burden of proof rests with the HCPC to prove the case, to the civil standard, the balance of probabilities. The Registrant has admitted the fact of the conviction. The Panel finds the fact of the conviction is proved both on the Registrant’s admission and on the Certificate of Conviction.
Statutory Ground:
6. Having found the fact of the conviction proved, the Panel was satisfied that, by its nature, it amounted to the statutory ground of conviction.
Submissions and Evidence:
7. The Panel was provided with a witness statement from the Registrant. In that statement she stated that at the time of the offence she had not been well. She had been signed off work at the end of January 2016 for health reasons.
8. The Registrant stated that shortly before the incident she had suffered with medical problems. Subsequently, on 17 May 2016 after consuming alcohol, she drove to a shop and “clipped” two other cars which she said caused no damage to either vehicle. This resulted in her arrest by the police.
9. The Registrant also gave oral evidence before the Panel. The Panel found her to be a genuine, credible and truthful witness. She confirmed that her health problems had not been initially recognised.
10. Following the conviction, the Registrant stated she had completed the drink driving awareness course. She had received support from her employer and was now enjoying her work as a Podiatrist in a job she loved. The Registrant stated she had been back at work for almost one year with no issues. She had started running which helped to manage her health and had in fact raised money for a charity.
11. The Registrant confirmed that she and those close to her could now recognise the triggers and symptoms that had led to her ill health, and would be able to manage them. She had good support both at work and at home, and was confident her conduct would not be repeated. She stated that the consequences had been devastating.
12. The Panel also had a letter from the Registrant’s General Practitioner (GP) dated 13 October 2017 in which the GP stated that the Registrant had returned to work and there were no concerns about her fitness to practice as a Podiatrist. The Panel also had a number of excellent character references and testimonials from her colleagues, managers and friends.
13. In closing submissions, Ms Rangamuwa accepted the Registrant had shown insight but submitted that her fitness to practise was currently impaired as the Registrant had received a significant sentence for a serious offence. She submitted the public would lose confidence in the regulator if a finding of impairment was not made.
14. Mr Smith, in his closing submissions, submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not currently impaired for the following reasons:
• She had demonstrated genuine insight and remorse.
• She had engaged fully and had the support of her employer.
• She had remediated properly
• Her health was being managed effectively.
• She had fully accepted, understood and appreciated her conduct.
15. Mr Smith submitted the risk of repetition was therefore low. He reminded the Panel that the Registrant had significant mitigation which tempered the need for the public component to be engaged.

Decision on Impairment:
16. The Panel considered the HCPC Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practice is Impaired. In determining whether fitness to practise is impaired, Panels must take account of a range of issues which, in essence, comprise two components:
(1) the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual Registrant; and
(2) the ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.
17. The Panel first considered the personal component. The Panel was satisfied that in her oral evidence the Registrant had demonstrated unequivocal insight into the risk and potential harm her actions had placed on her, the public and her profession. She demonstrated genuine remorse throughout her oral testimony. Whilst this was a serious conviction, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s culpability was low as her actions related directly to her health condition.
18. The Panel noted the Registrant had successfully completed the drink driving course and had demonstrated tangible learning as a result. She had fully engaged with remediation and her current health was confirmed to be good. It was also significant that her employer supported her. She had been working for 12 months with no issues in a senior clinical position and indeed her progression in the organisation showed the confidence her employer had in her managerial and leadership skills. There were also a number of other excellent references in support.
19. The Registrant recognises her trigger points and knows how to manage them. She also has significant support in place. The Panel accepted there is therefore a low risk of repetition.
20. As a result, of all the above factors, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not impaired on the personal grounds.
21. The Panel then considered the public component. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant is not a risk to the public and there is no need to protect service users. The Panel has been provided with evidence that the Registrant is currently, and has been, in safe and effective practice for the last 12 months.
22. However, at the time of the incident serious harm could have been caused to members of the public and indeed to the Registrant herself although fortunately this did not happen. This was a serious offence which led to the Court imposing a lengthy period of disqualification from driving as a result of the Registrant being four times over the legal limit for alcohol. Indeed in her evidence the Registrant accepted that the public would not be impressed with her conduct and it did not reflect well on the profession.
23. The Panel considers the nature and circumstances of the conviction to be so serious that not to find impairment would undermine public confidence in the profession and in the regulatory process. The Panel has a responsibility to uphold the HCPC standards of conduct. If a finding was not made of current impairment the Panel would be failing to uphold those standards.
24. Therefore, the Panel finds that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the public component.
Decision on Sanction:
25. The purpose of fitness to practise proceedings is not to punish registrants, but to protect the public. The Panel has considered the Indicative Sanctions Policy and the wider public interest, which includes the need to uphold the reputation of the profession and maintain public confidence in the HCPC regulatory process.
26. In deciding what, if any, sanction to impose under Article 29 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the Panel had regard to the principle of proportionality and the need to balance the interests of the public with those of the Registrant. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Rangamuwa and Mr Smith and advice from the Legal Assessor, before considering (in ascending order) what, if any, sanction to impose. The Panel considered the aggravating and mitigating factors in this case.
27. The Panel identified the following to be aggravating factors:
• The Registrant was found to have consumed alcohol which was four times over the legal limit at the time she was driving
• She was involved in a collision and did put other road users and herself at risk
• She was on her way to purchase more alcohol at the time
28. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:
• This was an isolated incident
• The Registrant had a health condition which meant her culpability for her conduct was low
• She has shown full insight, remorse and regret and has apologised for her conduct
• She has engaged fully with the proceedings, made early admissions and self referred to the HCPC
• She has taken significant remedial action in terms of both addressing the conviction and her health issues
• She has successfully returned to safe practice with the full support of her employers
• There are excellent testimonials from a range of referees
• There is a low risk of repetition
• The Registrant has a previously unblemished record
29. The Panel firstly considered whether it should make no order in this case. The Panel had found a low risk of repetition not no risk of repetition. The Panel concluded that making no order would not be appropriate, as it would not be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the regulatory process or send a deterrent message to other registrants.
30. The Panel considered each of the available sanction beginning with the least restrictive. The Panel went on to consider a Caution Order and was satisfied that this was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in light of the considerable mitigating factors identified above. The Panel is also satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct was out of character and unlikely to happen again.
31. The Panel noted the benchmark period for a Caution Order was normally regarded as three years as set out in the Indicative Sanctions Policy. However, in light of the significant improvements in the Registrant’s health since the conviction, together with the confidence her employer has in her abilities as a Podiatrist, the Panel is satisfied that a Caution order for a period of one year is the minimum necessary in this case. This will also cover the remaining period of the Registrant’s sentence in respect of the driving disqualification. Such an Order is sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession, uphold proper standards of conduct and act as deterrent to other registrants.
32. The Panel did not consider it was proportionate or necessary, in the public interest, to deprive the public of a good practitioner or impose any restriction on the Registrant’s practice. Accordingly, the Panel considered the remaining sanctions available to it would be disproportionate in this case.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Anna C Price with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

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 Article 29(10) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you.  The Panel’s order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Anna Price

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
24/11/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution