HCPC v Andrew Stokes

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Paramedic struck off for inappropriate communication with a patient.

Paramedic Andrew Stokes has been struck off the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) Register for communicating inappropriately with a vulnerable female patient whilst working as an Ambulance Technician for the South East Coast Ambulance Service (“SEACAM”).

A panel of the HCPC Conduct and Competence Committee heard that Mr Stokes conveyed a female patient, whom he knew from his work as a taxi driver before he commenced work with SEACAM, to hospital and sent her text messages afterwards.  This occurred before Mr Stokes had made his application for registration as a Paramedic to the HCPC. Mr Stokes later received a three month verbal warning from his employer in relation to these text messages.

The Panel found that not only did the evidence demonstrate that Mr Stokes was taking the lead in making the text message communications, but that two of the text messages were clearly of a sexual nature. The Panel found that these text messages were “entirely inappropriate”, particularly as they were sent to a vulnerable female patient.

The Panel further heard that Mr Stokes failed to disclose the disciplinary finding on his application to the HCPC when he applied for registration as a Paramedic. The Panel found that it was clear from his application form that in reply to the question “Have you been disciplined by a professional or regulatory body or your employer?”, Mr Stokes marked the “No” box. The Panel also found that Mr Stokes’ failure to disclose the verbal warning was deliberate and dishonest.

Giving the Panel’s decision on impairment, Panel Chair Mr Raymond Pattison commented:

Mr Stokes has demonstrated very limited insight into his defaults. Although he has spoken about the hardship he has suffered as a result of his dismissal from his employment, there has been no significant acceptance of wrongdoing, acknowledgement of the reasons for it being wrong or apology for his behaviour.”

The Panel found that Mr Stokes’ fitness to practise was impaired for two reasons: firstly, the Panel felt that they could have little confidence that he would not repeat the inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour; secondly, that the public perception of his actions would require a finding of impairment of fitness to practise.

The Panel determined that the most appropriate sanction was a striking-off order for the following reasons:

“…not only must Mr Stokes be prevented from practising at the present time, but the sequence of defaults committed by him does not permit the Panel to conclude that he will become any more reliable in the future”.