A member of the College of Paramedics shares their experience of receiving notification of an FTP allegation from the HCPC
I’ve been a member of the College since its inception and had the privilege of being a member of the Governing Council at an early stage. I’ve watched with interest as the range of member services and benefits have developed over the years but never dreamt that I would be in urgent need of the expertise and support of the legal services team.
I’ve been in the profession for 44 years in military and civilian paramedic roles and at all levels of the Ambulance Service from road staff and HEMS to senior management. I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognised nationally and internationally and had never had a concern or complaint raised against me. In early 2020, I became concerned at some issues in the management of the organisation I was working for and raised them through correct channels as I had a duty to do.
Within a very short space of time, my world imploded! I was suspended and became the subject of an investigation with serious allegations made against me. As this was initially an employment related issue, I was represented by my trade union and one-by-one the allegations against me were withdrawn, except one. I was offered a settlement package with strings attached that I could not accept and resigned.
As if these few weeks weren’t stressful enough for my family and I, as I’m planning what to do next I open my email to find an email from the HCPC informing me that an allegation concerning my Fitness to Practise had been made. I cannot describe the feeling of dread and stress that immediately ensued and with a sense of rising panic I called the College of Paramedics legal helpline. Andrea James (from Brabners Solicitors) called me back within 30 minutes and I just burst into tears; she was fantastic, calmed me down and asked me to explain what the allegation was. I went through everything in detail and Andrea was as incredulous as I at the basis of the allegation and told me how to proceed.
Having waited for the ‘triage’ stage of the HCPC process, my depression and mood just darkened when the HCPC decided to investigate the allegations as it fell within their scope. The only positive news at this stage was that the case officer had decided that there was no requirement for an application for interim conditions whilst the investigation proceeded. Frustratingly at this stage of the process, my legal representatives could only advise to wait for the HCPC to decide if the matter would proceed to an investigation panel who would in turn decide if the matter should go to a final hearing.
The next seven months were sheer hell; I heard nothing from the HCPC and my physical and mental health deteriorated to the point where I needed professional counselling which was fortunately arranged by the College via TASC. I cannot begin to explain the effect on my family and I and contacting the HCPC for an update proved fruitless; the regulator has no interest in the affect that their processes have on the registrant and this was apparent.
After seven months, the HCPC advised me that the matter would go to an investigation panel and required a detailed response from me within 14 days! I had had no contact from them for seven months or the opportunity to have any input from my perspective and now they wanted a response within a few days. I contacted my representatives at Brabners and a firm email was sent to the HCPC who granted a month’s extension.
Brabners provided me with very clear advice on what I needed to submit and how to construct it and they pulled the information together into a pack for submission to the HCPC with a covering statement summarising our response to the specific allegations and my points of rebuttal.
The outcome: after the worst and most stressful one year, three days and 16 hours of my professional career, as it was, I received a polite and brief email to advise that the investigation panel had met that day and decided that I had no case to answer and the matter was closed. My wife and I just burst into tears.
The effect on my mental health and personal and professional confidence have led to a position where I have had to leave a service, a role and career that I have loved but feel unable to continue in and I am now practising in a different environment.
The allegations and the subsequent HCPC process absolutely felt that ‘guilty until proven innocent’ was the starting point. Without the support of the College, Brabners and TASC I may not have come through this; there were some very dark times in the night-time hours but knowing that a friendly voice was only a call away and that there were those on my side was invaluable.
I’ll never forgive those behind the referral in my case or their motivations, and I cannot encourage strongly enough all Paramedics to join the College, it literally was a life saver for me and I’ll be forever grateful.
Don’t think ‘it won’t happen to me’ or underestimate the massive effect that a referral will have upon you, even if you think you’re confident you have nothing to worry about. The combined impact of an allegation and the subsequent HCPC process will lead to you needing all the help, support and professional representation that you can get. Only the expertise of the College and their legal team can provide this for you.