Fitness to practise appeal ruling

24th July 2020

Our regulatory law experts look at a case involving the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) and fitness to practise following the use of a racist acronym by a paramedic.

In the matter of PSA v (1) Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and (2) AR [2020] EWHC 1906, Mrs Justice Foster has declined an appeal bought by the PSA against decision of the HCPC’s Conduct Committee regarding fitness to practise.

A paramedic had used a racist acronym when describing a patient’s condition to his colleague. The Committee found the statement amounted to misconduct, but did not then find the paramedic’s fitness to practise to be impaired.

The argument before the Court included submissions around the issue of what the public interest required.  In the Court’s judgement, the Committee had reached a decision on the basis of a correct understanding of the legal principles, having weighed the relevant considerations. Her Honour determined the decision reached by the Panel was one which was open to them.

It is important to note that the decision makes it clear that, generally, conduct of a racist nature by a professional person would be likely to lead to a finding of impaired fitness to practise. The Court noted that, usually, such conduct may be indicative of an attitude which is totally incompatible with professional practice and the public interest may only be vindicated by a finding of impairment and corresponding sanction.

However, the Court commented that there is no rule that such a result must follow, referring to this case (a “different and a very unusual case“).

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