One of the arguments against regulation of psychotherapy is that if such titles as “counsellor” or “psychotherapist” are made protected titles, then those who are either struck off or were never registered to begin with will simply use other titles. “Life coach”, for example.
Parallels are sometimes drawn with other professions. Dietitians are regulated, but people get around regulation by calling themselves nutritionists. Likewise podiatrists and chiropodists have protected titles, but some people call themselves “foot health professionals”, and work unregulated. An example of someone using this to get around a striking-off order was shown to me by blog reader Patrick Killeen. It’s a tale that stinks worse than a nasty case of bromodosis.
In 2011, chiropodist/podiatrist Stephen Gardiner was struck off by the Health and Care Professions Council for a string of insurance fraud offences while practising at Yorkshire firm A Foot Above.
Over a period substantially in excess of three years, on eight separate occasions Mr Gardiner submitted fraudulent claims to a medical expenses insurer. In doing so he altered receipts and forged signatures of other professionals. The total sum of the fraudulent claims was £938 of which £575 was paid, the balance representing the applicable excess under the insurance policy. When his claims were initially questioned by the insurance company Mr Gardiner not only failed to acknowledge his wrongdoing, but sought to blame others for the false claims.
Around the time of the striking off, Gardiner told the Derby Telegraph that he would continue to work regardless of the order.
With Mr Gardiner’s removal from the HPC list, this means that he can no longer call himself a chiropodist or podiatrist. Mr Gardiner will, however, continue to practise as a foot-health professional.
A foot-health professional is able to attend to all the common conditions that affect the foot and leg, ranging from routine care of nails, hard skin and corn removal right through to functional problems of the foot.
Darren Bloore, company secretary for A Foot Above, said Mr Gardiner would continue to work for the firm.
A look at the Staff Page for A Foot Above confirms that Gardiner is still working there, where he’s the Director of Clinical Services. Also still there is Darren Bloore, the company secretary mentioned in the Derby Telegraph article. He’s now the Director of Quality Assurance and Compliance. These two really give themselves some grand titles for a small company with only 8 staff.
I’m somewhat concerned that two of the staff are registered podiatrists, though both of them appear to be newly-qualified. I hope they get out quick, as I can’t imagine the HCPC will be happy about them having a stuck-off podiatrist as their clinical director.
Although “foot health professional” is not a protected title, the Professional Standards Authority has awarded Accredited Register status to the Accredited Register of Foot Health Practitioners, which is run by the Alliance of Private Sector Practitioners. I can’t say I’m exactly impressed that the PSA has blurred the boundaries between who is and is not a regulated professional in this way.
Not that it really matters in this instance, because Mr Gardiner isn’t on that accredited register. He’s instead a member of the Society of Foot Care Professionals.
Who are they? A quick company check reveals that the directors of the Society of Foot Care Professionals are, er, Stephen Gardiner, and, um, Darren Bloore.
Residing at the same address as the Society of Foot Care Professionals is the College of Foot Care Professionals, where you can study for diplomas in diabetes management, health promotion or sports medicine, among other topics. Another company check reveals that the college directors are, yes you’ve guessed it, Stephen Gardiner and Darren Bloore. The company check also reveals it was founded in 2011, the same year Gardiner was struck off.
Well, I suppose that’s one thing you can do if no professional register will have you. Set up one of your own.