Mrs Elizabeth Sarah Cohen

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT34184

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 15/12/2015 End: 12:30 15/12/2015

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4BU

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Conditions of Practice

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Allegation

Whilst registered as an Occupational Therapist, on 27 February 2013 at Colchester Magistrates’ Court you:

1. Were convicted of driving a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration above the prescribed limit, contrary to Section 5(1)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and Schedule 2 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988.

2. By reason of your conviction as set out in paragraph 1 your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been served with notice of the hearing in accordance with the Health and Care Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).

2. By a letter dated 23 November 2015 the Registrant notified the HCPC that she would not attend today’s review hearing due to holiday commitments.

3. Ms Healy made an application for the Panel to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant. She submitted that the public interest required that the current Suspension Order be reviewed before 28 January 2016 when it will otherwise expire. The Panel took into account the HCPC Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant and accepted the advice of the legal assessor. The Panel was satisfied that it was necessary in the public interest to proceed with the hearing today. The letter from the Registrant did not seek an adjournment and, in effect, invited the Panel to proceed with the review hearing in her absence. The Panel was mindful that the Registrant could, if appropriate, apply for an early review of any order which the Panel makes upon the review. In the circumstances, the Panel decided to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the Registrant.

Background

4. The Registrant is an Occupational Therapist. On 26 November 2012 the Registrant drove her car to a convenience store in Harwich. Members of staff noticed that she appeared to be drunk. The police were called to the store and arrested the Registrant. A sample of the Registrant’s blood was taken, which on analysis showed a reading of 282 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The Legal limit is 80 milligrams alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

5. On 27 February 2013 the Registrant pleaded guilty at Colchester Magistrates Court to the charge referred to in the allegation above.

6. The Registrant reported her conviction to the HCPC. The substantive hearing took place before a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee on 31 March 2015, at which the Registrant was present but unrepresented. The Panel found the facts proved by production of a certified copy of the certificate of conviction, which, in any event, was admitted by the Registrant. The Panel found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her conviction. The Panel considered that despite progress made by the Registrant in her rehabilitation, there was a potential risk of harm to patients.

7. In determining what sanction to impose, the Panel at the substantive hearing was of the view that the Registrant had shown insight and remorse. However, the Panel noted that in 2011 the Registrant had appeared before a Panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC as a result of a conviction for criminal damage and breach of a restraining order. The Panel decided to impose a suspension order for a period of nine months in order to maintain standards and to uphold public confidence in the profession. That Panel advised that a future reviewing Panel was likely to be assisted by:

• Independent evidence relating to her wellbeing.
• Evidence from the Registrant and from other sources of her re-engagement with the profession, such as (i.e. not necessarily limited to) engagement with professional associations and reading journals.
• Evidence from any employer in the period following her suspension as to her work and reliability, including workplace references.

Decision

1. The Panel today was provided with a bundle of documents by the HCPC relating to the substantive hearing decision.

2. The Panel took into account the content of the Registrant’s letter dated 23 November 2015 and a number of letters relating to her state of health since the last hearing. The Registrant also provided a certificate dated 13 April 2015 relating to her completion of a professional training course.

3. So far as the wider public interest is concerned, the Panel is satisfied that the period of nine months suspension imposed on 31 March 2015 was sufficient to mark the seriousness of the Registrant’s criminal conviction.

4. However, in the Panel’s judgment there remain concerns about the Registrant’s fitness to practise due to concerns about her health.  The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

5. In addition, although the Registrant’s competence as an Occupational Therapist has not been brought into question, the fact is that she has not practised as an Occupational Therapist for almost three years and she needs time to bring her knowledge and skills up to date before she returns to unrestricted practice. There is insufficient evidence before the Panel that she has yet done so.

6. In deciding what sanction, if any, to impose on the expiry of the current Suspension Order, the Panel took into account the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and considered the available sanctions in ascending order, whilst applying the principle of proportionality.

7. The case was too serious for the Panel to take no further action on the expiry of the existing Order.

8. The Panel considered that a Caution Order would not provide any protection for the public because a Caution Order would not restrict the Registrant’s ability to practise.

9. The Panel decided that a Conditions of Practice Order for a period of six months is the appropriate and proportionate sanction upon the expiry of the current Suspension Order. This will provide the Registrant with the opportunity to return to practise as an Occupational Therapist, whilst ensuring that the public is properly protected. It will also ensure that the Registrant’s progress towards full remediation can be monitored in a timely manner as this Order will be reviewed before it expires.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that for a period of six months from the expiration of the current Suspension Order on 28 January 2016 you, Mrs Elizabeth Sarah Cohen, must comply with the following conditions of practice.

1) You must notify the HCPC within 14 days of any Occupational Therapist appointment (whether paid or unpaid) you accept with the United Kingdom or elsewhere and provide the HCPC with contact details of your employer.

2) At any time that you are employed or otherwise providing services as an Occupational Therapist you must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a workplace line manager, mentor or supervisor nominated by your employer. Such supervision is to include the formulation within 14 days of starting work of a Personal Development Plan designed to ensure that within 3 months of resuming your practice as an Occupational Therapist you are fully up to date with your professional knowledge and practice.

3) You must send a report from your line manger, mentor or supervisor (or their nominated deputy) setting out the standard of your performance and your progress towards achieving the aims set out in your Personal Development Plan to the HCPC at least 14 days before any HCPC review of this Order.

4) Redacted
5) Redacted

6) You must place yourself and remain under the care of a general practitioner (GP) and attend upon them as required by them and follow their advice and recommendations. You must inform your GP that you are subject to a Conditions of Practice Order under the HCPC’s fitness to practise procedures and disclose the conditions to them.

7) You must allow your GP to exchange information about your health, treatment and compliance with this Conditions of Practice Order to the HCPC at least 14 days before any review of this Order.

8) Redacted

9) You must inform the HCPC of any criminal or professional disciplinary proceedings taken against you within 14 days of your being aware of them.

10) You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to conditions 2, 3 and 4:

A. any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work as an Occupational Therapist;

B. any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application);

C. any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

11) You will be responsible for meeting any and all costs associated with complying with these conditions.

12) Any condition requiring you to provide information to or obtain the approval of the HCPC is to be met by your sending the information or request for approval to the offices of the HCPC marked for the attention of the Director of Fitness to Practise.

Notes

The order be reviewed before its expiry.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Elizabeth Sarah Cohen

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
14/07/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
29/06/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Adjourned
15/12/2015 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice