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Home > Complaints > Hearings and decisions

Stephen Luff

Profession: Radiographer
Registration Number: RA54211
Hearing type: Final Hearing
Date & Time of hearing: 04/04/2011 - 10:00 End: 05/04/2011 - 17:00
Location: HPC, Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road
Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution


 Notice Of AllegationView Notice Of AllegationView Notice Of Allegation

In the course of your employment as a Radiographer at NHS Hampshire Community Health Care Trust, you were provided with access to a computer belonging to the Trust:

 

1.      Between 05 May 2009 and 31 December 2009, you used that computer to access internet sites of an adult nature with sexually explicit content whilst you were on duty.

 

2.      Between 05 May 2009 and 31 December 2009, you used that computer to access inappropriate web pages and/or proxy websites whilst you were on duty.

 

3.      In December 2009, you used that computer to download and save naked and partly naked adult images on the Radiology shared drive.

 

4.      Between 05 May 2009 and 31 December 2009, you used the Trust IT resources to download a TV programme onto your personal laptop.

 

5.      Your use of the Trust IT resources for those purposes set out in paragraphs 1- 4 was contrary to the Trust’s Information Security Policy.

 

6.      The matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 5 constitute misconduct.

 

7.      By reason of that misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 Committee findingView committee finding View committee finding

Preliminary Matters
The registrant was present and unrepresented. Ms Gemma Gillet of Kingsley Napley presented the case for the Health Professions Council. Ms Gillet made an application to amend particulars 1 and 3 with the insertion of the word “inclusive” on line 1 of both particulars after “2009” and to amend particular 3 by inserting the words “and on the computer’s ‘c’ drive”. The panel agreed to allow the amendments, having been advised by the registrant that he had no objection, and having been satisfied that the amendments served to clarify the particulars and caused no prejudice to the registrant.
Background
The registrant had been employed as a band 6 Radiographer by NHS Hampshire Community Healthcare Trust from 5th May 2009 until 31st December 2009 and was responsible for taking plain x-rays at three community hospital sites. For the purposes of his employment he had access to computers belonging to the Trust. Following a complaint by a colleague who had discovered inappropriate material stored in the Radiology shared drive, an investigation was conducted into the allegation that the registrant had accessed inappropriate websites while on duty and had saved inappropriate images onto the Radiology shared drive.  In the course of the disciplinary process, the Registrant also admitted that he had used the Trust IT resources to download a TV programme onto his personal lap top.
Decision on Facts
The Panel heard live evidence from Jude Diggins, Associate Director of Nursing and Allied Health Professionals, employed by Hampshire Community Healthcare, who conducted an investigation on behalf of the Trust.  The Panel also considered the written statement of Graham Dunnings, the Information Security Manager, employed by Hampshire Primary Care Trust, who conducted a search of the internet logs for the Registrant on the Hampshire Community Healthcare computer systems.  He also found inappropriate pictures stored on the Radiology shared drive and on the ‘c’ drive of the Registrant’s computer.  The Registrant admitted Particulars, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  The Panel is satisfied that his admissions are supported by the evidence which includes copies of the inappropriate material.  The Panel is therefore satisfied that the facts of this allegation have been proved to the requisite standard. 
Decision on Grounds
The Panel next considered whether the facts amounted to misconduct.  The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s actions fell below the standards expected of a health professional and fell short of what would be proper in the circumstances.  His actions potentially compromised the Trust’s security system and the Registrant has confirmed that he was aware of the implications of the use of proxy sites to bypass the Trust’s security system.  The Panel is also of the view that the Registrant’s actions were in breach of Standards, 1 (You must act in the best interest of service users), 2 (You must respect the confidentiality of service users), 3 (You must keep high standards of personal conduct) and 13 (You must behave with honesty and integrity and make sure that your behaviour does not damage the public’s confidence in you or your profession) of the Health Professions Council’s Standards of conduct, performance and ethics.  Taking all these matters into account, the Panel is satisfied that the facts proved amount to misconduct.
Decision on Impairment:
The Panel next considered whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practice is impaired.  Having heard evidence from the Registrant, the Panel was impressed with the manner in which he gave his evidence and is satisfied that he has demonstrated both insight and remorse.  The Panel also noted that he had taken remedial action to change his practice and he was now clearly conscious of appropriate use of the internet in the course of his employment..  The Panel is therefore satisfied that the Registrant had addressed the personal component of his actions.  However, the Panel is conscious of the need to take account of the critically important public policy issues described in the case of Cohen v GMC, as the need to protect the individual patient and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect.  The Registrant by his own admission had potentially compromised the security of the Trust’s IT system by his actions.  The public has a right to expect that their personal details and other patient identifiable information will be kept confidential. Furthermore the panel consider the viewing of inappropriate material during the course of his employment was unacceptable for a health professional.  The Panel is not satisfied that the public component has been addressed and has therefore concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practice is impaired. 
The allegation is well founded. 
Decision on Sanction:
In reaching its decision on sanction, the panel was aware that the purpose of fitness to practice proceedings is not intended to be punitive and that it should consider the risk the registrant may pose to those using or needing his services in the future and determine the degree of public protection required. The panel has therefore considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity.  The panel was agreed that to take no action would be inappropriate in circumstances where the registrant had potentially breached the security system of the Trust. The panel next considered a caution order. The panel was of the view that the allegations arose from an isolated error in judgement on the part of the registrant and that given his insight, remorse and remedial action, there was a very low risk of any recurrence. The panel has therefore concluded that a caution order for a period of one year would be appropriate in the circumstances of this particular case. The panel considers that this a proportionate sanction, taking into account the wider public interest which includes the deterrent effect on other registrants.
 Committee orderView committee orderView committee order

The panel directs the Registrar to annotate the register entry of Stephen P. Luff with a caution which is to remain on the register for a period of one year from the date this order comes into effect.  
 NotesView notesView notes

This will be a two day hearing due to take place on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 April 2011 at the Health Professions Council, London.


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