The Professional Standards Authority review all final decisions made by nine different regulators’ fitness to practise committees and can refer those decisions to court if they consider that the sanctions issued are unduly lenient and do not protect the public.
The Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care appealed against a decision of the Health and Care Professions Council to impose a two-year caution on a social worker for misconduct. The registrant in question had been dismissed from her employment with a Local Authority after an incident in her private life had led to police involvement and allegations against her by her former partner. She applied for new jobs through a recruitment agency but excluded details of her employment with the Local Authority from her CV, instead stating that she had been on a career break during that period. She then failed to mention her employment with the Local Authority at a subsequent job interview. The issue came to light and she was referred to the Health and Care Professions Council. At the disciplinary hearing the registrant told the committee that it was the recruitment agency who had forwarded the wrong CV. This was not supported by the evidence. The allegations were proved and a finding of dishonesty made, along with a finding of misconduct, impaired fitness to practice which crucially involved a failure to demonstrate insight. The sanction imposed was a two-year caution.
The basis of the appeal by the Professional Standards Authority was that the sanction was too lenient. The Indicative Sanction Guidance stated that a caution was unlikely to be appropriate where the registrant lacked insight. The committee had given no reason why it deviated from the Guidance. The registrant had denied dishonesty and had even tried to shift the blame onto the recruitment agency. The appeal was upheld and the case remitted to the committee for re-determination of sanction.
Whilst the Courts must give weight to the considerable experience and professional expertise of a committee, if the committee has not considered all the relevant facts in light of the evidence their decision can be overturned. It is perhaps reassuring for the public to know that the Regulators' decisions are being overseen in the name of public protection.