Mrs Edna Pool
On 23 June 2015 at Dumfries Sheriff Court, you:
1. Were convicted of an offence of failure to provide a specimen of breath for analysis upon request, contrary to Section 7(6) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
2. By reason of your conviction as set out at paragraph 1 your fitness to practise as a Paramedic is impaired.
1. The HCPC was represented by Ms Sharni Willmann. The Registrant was not present or represented.
2. The Panel was satisfied that notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant in terms of rules 3 and 6 of the Conduct and Competence (Procedure) Rules 2003 and thereafter considered Ms Willmann’s application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence in terms of Rule 11. The Panel is aware that its discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. In reaching its decision, the Panel has had regard to the HCPTS’s Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant. The Panel has also taken account of the fact that this is a mandatory review and this order must be reviewed prior to its expiry on 5 January 2018. The Panel notes that the Registrant did not attend the substantive hearing or the subsequent Review Hearing. In addition the Panel has had sight of an email dated 11 November 2017 from the Registrant confirming that she is aware of today’s hearing and that she will not be attending or sending representations. There has been no request for an adjournment. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself and would be unlikely to attend at a future date, if the matter were adjourned. In these circumstances the Panel has agreed to proceed in her absence as it is satisfied that it is both in the public interest and the Registrant’s interest to do so.
3. On 7 June 2017 a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of a conviction under Section 7(6) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (failing to provide a specimen of breath for analysis upon request) and imposed a twelve month Suspension Order. That order was reviewed on 6 June 2017 and extended for a period of 6 months. The Panel today is conducting a further review of that suspension order in terms of Article 30(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.
4. Ms Willmann referred the Panel to the background to the case and the circumstances which led to the imposition of the Suspension Order. Ms Willmann advised the Panel that the Registrant has intimated that she no longer wishes to continue with a career as a paramedic or in any other form of health care. Ms Willmann advised that it was matter for the Panel to determine if the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired and if so, what sanction should be imposed. Ms Willmann advised that the HCPC was of the view that a Suspension Order was the minimum sanction which should be considered.
5. The task of the Panel today is not to go behind the decision of the previous panel but to determine whether or not the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and consequently, what, if any, order should be made when the current order expires. The Panel has considered the submissions of Ms Willmann and the written submission of the Registrant together with the advice of the Legal Assessor. The original panel found that the Registrant had displayed a degree of insight by virtue of her guilty plea. Both the original Panel and the subsequent reviewing Panel have provided guidance to the Registrant as to what might be of assistance at a subsequent review Hearing. The Registrant has failed to engage with these panels in relation to these matters and has expressed a desire to be struck off. In the absence of any evidence to address her failings the Panel has concluded that her fitness to practise remains impaired, and that an Order remains necessary.
6. The Panel next considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. The Panel is aware that the primary function of any sanction is to address public safety from the perspective of the risk the Registrant may pose to those using or needing her services in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel must also give appropriate weight to the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other registrants, the reputation of the profession and public confidence in the regulatory process.
7. The Panel considered that to impose a Caution would not be sufficient to address the wider public interest considerations or to protect the public, in the absence of any evidence that the Registrant has addressed the matters which brought her before the HCPC and given the risk of repetition identified by the previous panel. The Panel also considered that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate in circumstances where the Registrant has made it clear that she does not intend to return to practice.
8. The Panel next considered extending the current Suspension order. The Panel is satisfied that this would achieve the necessary degree of public protection and would allow the HCPC an opportunity to explore the option of a Voluntary Removal Agreement given that the Registrant does not wish to continue to practise. The Panel is of the view that a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate at the present time as it is open to the HCPC to explore the option of voluntary removal. In these circumstances, the Panel has concluded that continuing the suspension would be appropriate.
9. The Panel is agreed that a period of three months would be sufficient to explore this option.