Dr Anjan Nath
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Allegation (as amended at this hearing):
During the course of your employment as a Practitioner Psychologist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), between September 2011 and March 2012 you:
1. Made inappropriate use of SLaM resources in that you engaged and instructed temporary staff to work on the development of your private brand rather than on SLaM related work during their contracted working hours.
2. On or around 2 November 2011, you:
(a) Missed a patient appointment because you had gone out on a long lunch;
(b) Requested that the patient was inaccurately informed that the appointment was missed due to dysfunctional telephone and/or buzzer systems;
(c) Requested that Occupational Health was inaccurately informed that the patient appointment was missed due to dysfunctional telephone and/or buzzer.
3. Attempted to mislead Colleague C about the number of referrals the Mental Health and Wellbeing (MHWB) service was receiving in that you:
(a) Inaccurately informed Colleague C that referrals were not being received, and/or were being received, but in smaller quantities than they actually were;
(b) Inaccurately informed Colleague C that service users were unable to locate the MHWB service and/or were not attending their appointments;
(c) Asked Colleague B to hide referrals to the MHWB service from Colleague C who was working on the service with you.
4. In relation to Patient A, you did not provide timely access to the MHWB service in that:
(a) By 3 November 2011, no action had been taken in relation to a referral received on 30 August 2011;
(b) When notified of Patient A’s referral received on 30 August 2011, you instructed Colleague B not to telephone Patient A.
5. Made inappropriate contact with a former member of agency staff, namely Colleague A.
6. Your actions described at 1, 2(b), 2(c), 3(a), 3(b) and/or 3(c) above were dishonest.
7. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 6 constitute misconduct.
8. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
Amendment of the Allegation:
1. The Council made an application to amend the Allegation. The Registrant had been sent details of the changes proposed by way of letter dated 15 September 2015. The changes are, in essence, a consolidation and renumbering of the particulars that had been before, and approved by, Panels of the Investigating Committee on the 14 March 2014 and the 29 April 2015. It was stressed that these amendments did not broaden the ambit of the Allegation and were for better particularisation and clarity of what is alleged. The Registrant took no issue with the proposed amendments.
2. The Panel having received legal advice and having heard the parties’ representations accepted the proposed amendments.
3. The Registrant sought the Panels approval to the proposal that the finding of facts be undertaken separately from the issue of fitness to practise. The Council raised no objection to this course of action. Given the diverse nature of the various particulars, and the volume of information and documentation, the Panel considered that this was a pragmatic way of dealing with those issues and agreed to the application.
4. The Registrant presented the Panel with details of the evidential matters that were not in dispute and were admitted. There were no admissions to the particulars of the Allegation.
5. On the resumption of the hearing on the 13 March 2016, the Panel had placed before it an email exchange between the Registrant and the HCPC in which the Registrant indicated that he no longer intended participating in the HCPC proceedings. As a result of his withdrawal from these proceedings his legal representative, BLM solicitors, had written to the HCPC requesting that they and Ms Hobcraft (Counsel) were removed from the record. In light of these developments the Panel gave consideration to the issues of Notice of hearing and Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant.
Notice of resumed hearing:
6. The Panel had placed before it evidence that Notice of the resumed hearing in March 2015 had been confirmed in writing and sent by post to the Registrant on two occasions. The first on the 10 December 2015, which Notice letter set out the dates of this resumed hearing as being the 15 to 17 March 2016. A further Notice letter on the 28 January 2016, in which the revised dates of the 15 to 18 March 2016 were notified to the Registrant with the amended address of the reconvened hearing.
7. The Panel considers that this information is sufficient evidence that the rules relating to Notice had been complied with by the HCPC.
Proceeding in the Registrant’s absence:
8. The Panel also has before it a copy of the Registrant’s email and supporting Final Statement in which he sets out the reasons why he has decided to withdraw from the HCPC proceedings at the reconvened hearing in March 2016. He stated within this document that he has taken advice before reaching his decision not to continue his participation. It is not stated from whom that advice had been sought. It was clear from the information placed before the Panel that the Registrant had made an informed decision not to attend the reconvened hearing. He gave no indication that this view would change or that he is likely to attend at any date in the future.
9. The HCPC maintained that there was public interest in this matter proceeding without delay and given the information supplied by the Registrant the Panel should consider his absence to be a voluntary one.
10. In reaching its decision the Panel balanced Dr Nath’s right to be here with that of the public and decided that on the evidence before it nothing would be gained from an adjournment and that it was fair and just for it to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
11. At the reconvened hearing the Panel had placed before it a copy of the letter from BLM solicitors dated 1 February 2016 in which it is stated that ‘we reviewed the original transcript provided of (EA’s) evidence. Unfortunately this transcript was not complete and did not include the totality of the cross examination of this witness nor the Panel’s questions. We would be grateful for clarification as to whether the Panel relied on this transcript when producing their decision.’
12. The letter goes on to acknowledge ‘that the Panel are yet to deliver their findings and it is open to them to amend these.’
13. The solicitors also identified a typographical error in relation to the year cited for EA subsequent contact with the Registrant’s organisation.
14. This matter was raised by BLM solicitors at a time when they were still instructed. Notwithstanding the fact that the legal representatives and the Registrant have withdrawn from the proceedings, in fairness to the Registrant the Panel has given very careful consideration to the issues raised by BLM solicitor.
15. Before reaching a decision the Panel received representations from the HCPC which included reference to the fact that in the normal course of events a Panel would retire and make a decision based solely on the Panel’s notes and documentation without the benefit of a transcript. Further, it is open to the Panel, in light of a full transcript, to consider whether its decision at paragraph 78 requires further clarification.
16. The Panel has taken the opportunity to check the length of the transcript that was sent to it electronically on 22 January 2016 and is able to confirm that this transcript is incomplete. The Panel has taken the opportunity of refreshing its recall of all the documentary evidence, reading the additional pages of the transcript including cross examination and has noted the observations of BLM solicitors on a portion of this transcript.
17. The Panel’s view on EA credibility has not changed. A further re-examination of her testimony has reinforced the Panel’s view that she was not trying to hide the fact that during this initial period of her employment she was attempting to please the Registrant and to comply with his wishes. She was candid and open about how she had misled others at a time when her understanding of the team matrix and responsibilities was still being formed.
18. Observations of BLM solicitors are that at no point in EA’s evidence did she “lie at the request of Dr Nath” is not supported by the totality of the evidence. In EA’s evidence she noted that the Registrant encouraged her to mislead people in particular MP, Occupational Health and a patient.
19. The Panel has however taken the opportunity of looking again at the terms of paragraph 78 and considered whether it clearly states the Panel’s view of EA’s evidence. The Panel has concluded that this paragraph would be assisted by the insertion of ‘for instance’ in the second line before the words ‘at the Registrant’s request’. The Panel accepts that the reference to contact being made in March 2013 should have referred to March 2014.
20. The Registrant was employed by South London and Maudsley Hospitals Foundation Trust, (SLaM) as a Band 8A Lead Psychologist. Within this role, he was responsible for managing a pilot project, the Mental Health and Wellbeing Service (MHWB). The purpose of this service was to receive and treat internal referrals from Occupational Health and Human Resources relating to employees experiencing mental health problems. In March 2012, an Administrator with the MHWB Service handed in her notice. Upon being asked why she was leaving MHWB Service she stated that she had been asked to undertake various commissions during her employment that did not relate to SLaM work, such as tasks relating to the development of the Registrant’s personal brand and creation of a personal website.
21. During the subsequent Disciplinary Investigation under taken by MK further concerns came to light regarding the Registrant’s contact with a former member of administrative staff, Colleague A.
22. The Registrant was dismissed from his position on the 27 March 2013 on the grounds that he had made inappropriate use of SLaM’s resources, in particular its staff. The Registrant subsequently appealed this decision, but his dismissal was upheld.
23. Details of the Registrant’s dismissal and subsequent appeal were forwarded to the HCPC on 4 December 2013. The HCPC’s undertook further investigations and the Allegation as set out above reflect the findings of those investigations.
24. From the large volume of information presented to the Panel the following is sufficient to give an insight into the unusual nature of this case.
• In 2009 JW, Occupational Health Consultant at SLaM, compiled a case for the introduction of a pilot project to provide an internal service for staff who were suffering from stress and mental health illness. This was called the Mental Health and Wellbeing Service. The objective of the MHWB Service was to identify the opportunity for early interventions in situations that could result in long-term illness and absence from work. The Trustees of SLaM had given financial support for this pilot, sufficient for about a two year project.
• It was stated by the Registrant that JW had a long-term vision for the service to become self-funding: first, as a cost effective support for staff, and secondly, by generating income from outside commercial users.
• The MHWB Service was initially located within the Royal Bethlem Hospital in Bromley and the Service provided Physiotherapy and Occupational Health alongside Psychological and Psychiatric treatment. MP, a Consultant Psychiatric, provided the Psychiatric treatment one day per week, on a Friday. He had been involved in the interviews that led to the Registrant joining the MHWB Service in April 2010.
• The Registrant joined the MHWB Service to provide Psychological treatment. He worked under the guidance of JW.
25. The Registrant alleged that prior to joining the MHWB Service he had an established website called ‘Psychological Evolution’. The Registrant stated that most of the information on this former website was subsequently used as part of the rebranding that became his ‘Genius Website’.
26. The Panel heard in evidence that within the office the Registrant had used the term ‘Genius’ to refer to or describe any thought process, or train of research, that he wanted to pursue: it did not have to be anything to do with the work of the office. There was constant reference in evidence to ‘master’ and ‘genius’ work and the Panel heard that there was a white board which was split into these topics. The Registrant maintained that his reference to ‘master’ work was to the core MHWB administrative work, which was the priority of the team, and his use of ‘genius’ was for the developmental work on taking the MHWB Service into the future in line with the vision of JW. The Registrant stated that it was ‘unfortunate’ that he had employed the same term, ‘Genius’, to refer to this developmental work.
27. In June 2011 the Registrant was made the manager for the MHWB Service although this was not considered to be a promotion. The Registrant took on the overall responsibility for the day to day management and administration.
28. LN, Head of Human Resources, became the Registrant’s line manager in June 2011 and in periodic line management meetings with the Registrant received reports on the MHWB Service. Professional support was provided by AL and his Clinical Supervision was provided, through an external source, AMF, who, in these proceedings, is one of the Registrant’s referees.
29. LN was unable to say why administrative staff had been sought through Reed Employment Agency as there was sufficient funding and internal resources to provide this in-house. In his evidence MK stated that initially the time sheets for administrative staff members were signed off by the Registrant.
30. At the time LN took responsibility for the MHWB Service, EC was providing the administrative support. EC left in July 2011. MK’s Management Case evidence before this Panel provided the dates when other temporary staff members had been employed through Reed Employment Agency. During the relevant period of September 2011 and March 2012 these were:
Colleague A, had been employed between 29 July 2011 and 19 September 2011. The accuracy of these dates was challenged by the Registrant who stated that Colleague A was employed for the calendar month of August only. There was no other evidence for this assertion. MK’s evidence has not been challenged and he has had access to the times sheets. EOA starting on the 12 September 2011, thereby having a one week handover period before Colleague A’s departure on the 19 September 2011, is logical and not at variance with other evidence of chronology. Colleague A initially worked three days per week, although Friday was an unpaid day.
EOA (who was known to Colleague A as they had attended the same college together) worked via Reed Employment Agency for the MHWB Service from 12 September 2011 to 2 February 2012. He worked initially 5 days per week and then reduced to 3 days when EA arrived in October 2011. EOA’s career history (which is included within his letter of reference for the Registrant) states that from January 2012 to September 2012 he had an internship with a firm of architects.
EOA had previously been introduced to the Registrant by Colleague A, because EOA had web design abilities: this is evidenced by the email from Colleague A to EOA on 15 August 2011, which included the following:
‘So basically the psychologist I am working for wants to set up his private life coaching website, I have done a really rough mock up design, he just wants an idea of how much this kind of thing would cost? I would be able to set up the final design but after photoshop I can’t help.’
After further funding was released, EA was employed from 20 October 2011 to the 31 July 2014, although she tendered her resignation in March 2012. The Panel noted that she had been requested to come into the office for her first day on 17 October 2011. This was her first position within the NHS. EA had undertaken counselling training and although she had been looking for a full-time position she took the opportunity to work part-time within the MHWB Service so that she could be within a unit providing counselling treatment.
31. 30 August 2011, PF faxed to the MHWB Service a standard template referral which she had marked for “the Psychological services of Dr Anjan Nath”.
32. In or around August 2011, Colleague A saw a programme about Otters and sent information relating to this to the Registrant.
33. In the last week she worked for MHWB Service in September 2011, Colleague A is recorded as saying (in her interview with MK in April 2012) that things became very ‘weird’ and when she had told the Registrant that she liked chess, a chess set arrived in the office. She is also recorded as saying that she had discovering a CD player set up with a note saying ‘play me’ attached to it. The CD that had been left for her to play was one that she had told the Registrant she wanted as her first dance at her wedding – Sam Cooke’s ‘You were made for me’. The Registrant maintained that as he was not going to be at work that day he had set the CD up as a form of “Good Luck” message for Colleague A who had an interview that day for a new job.
34. On 22 September 2011, a short while after Colleague A had left the MHWB Service the Registrant accidentally sent a text message to her which had been intended for EOA. The Registrant informed MP about this error. The Registrant was given firm advice by MP not to make further contact with Colleague A. According to MP the contents of this text were graphic and included adolescent and highly embarrassing sexual observations. MP was reluctant to tell the Panel, but when pressed said the terms used had included girls and sexual juices, and other very tasteless expressions. He admitted that he didn’t recall whether he had seen the exact terms of the text or had relied on what he had been told. The Registrant stated that he had linked the terms used within this text to the terms of a song by Prince. He asserted that this text had meant to be lighthearted and amusing, but admitted that it made reference to white girls. Colleague A was extremely upset by this text message. She mentioned in her interview with MK that she had been extremely upset. The Registrant, in his statement, said that he was aware Colleague A was upset as she had sent a text telling him so.
35. 27 September 2011 Dr Nath sent a four and a half page long communication to Colleague A entitled ‘Goodbye Twilight’ which was by way of a narrative story/apology for his behaviour. Parts of the text which the Panel considers are particularly noteworthy are set out below:
‘….In the same way that when I wondered whether we would see each other again, after the Maudsley, and you said, yes, and then I actually gave you a real hug. Well, I don’t know about you, but that hug just worked. I’ve seriously hugged lots of people. In my experience it’s incredibly rare that a hug just works….’
‘….On another note, thanks to your original inspiration, I have helped (EOA) create for me what I believe will be a multi=million dollar branded enterprise, entitled Genius under which I will showcase my work – psychological, the novella, the music and the movie. I think you will like it. I understand that your energy is focussed elsewhere; I only wanted you to be the Executive Fine Art Designer because you bring something that neither (EOA) or I, or anyone else that I know (just yet) has, which is ….well I won’t tell you what it is. I don’t want to give away all the gems.’
…(EOA) and I are also brilliant at letting our artistic genius emerge. It’s been a brilliant two weeks with him.’
36. The Registrant makes reference in this communication to his wish to view the new Twilight film with Colleague A when it is released in seven weeks’ time.
37. 17 October 2011 was EA first day at the MHWB Service. She has not so far, according to her testimony, received a job description and had little or no understanding of what the Service did. At interview she is asked questions about her views on website pages and concepts that may lead to web based commercial activities. She recalled that at interview she was in a room that had a chess set, lots of CDs and a white board with conceptual thoughts written on it.
38. 21 October 2011, EA is given the task of recording her daily activities and thoughts and asked to note any ‘Genius’ moments she experiences. Her log of observations for the period of 21 October 2011 to 24 November 2011 was before this Panel. She was also allocated homework, to undertake in her own time, which were short, research-based assignments that had no relevance to her work as an administrator and were as wide and as diverse as Feng Shui and photosynthesis.
39. 2 November 2011, a Patient arrived at the MHWB Service premises and it is alleged that the patient is unable to gain access as none of the team members were present. This is the event that constitutes Particular 2 and which is dealt with in detail within the Panel’s decision on that matter. EA records within her log for this day (amongst other things) that she spent most of the morning in discussion as to which presents the Registrant is to buy for Colleague A and in the afternoon time working on incorporating feedback from the ‘Network of Talent’ on the Registrant’s website design and attempting to get ‘the best’ tickets’ she can for the premiere of the showing of the Twilight Film at the Electric Cinema.
40. The Network of Talent was a group of individuals known to the Registrant and to whom he sent copies of text for comment. The text sent for amendment, comment and critical observation related to what the Registrant considered to be his insight and original thinking on professional concepts. This group included Colleague A and his professional lead, AL. The Panel had evidence that the Network of Talent was invited to consider text sent to it on various dates between November 2011 and March 2012.
41. 3 November 2011, EA is recorded as stating that she has found various referrals around the office, including on the fax machine, that have not been processed by the MHWB Service.
42. 3 November 2011. EA recorded a shopping expedition with the Registrant at lunchtime to Denmark Hill to purchase a gift box decorated with poppies for Colleague A. There is then a trip to Chiswick to purchase more presents for Colleague A. EA states that this visit to Chiswick was in the afternoon and the Registrant maintains that it was after work. EA state the Registrant asked her to go with him and the Registrant stated that EA asked if she could go with him.
43. 4 November 2011, EA goes to the Electric Cinema to buy two tickets for the premier of the Twilight film on 19 November 2011. EA returns to the office and wraps the presents which the Registrant has bought for Colleague A, which include 5/6 CDs, all the Twilight DVDs, sweet popcorn, a necklace, trinket box, scarf and a scented candle. MP observes this and advises the Registrant against sending the presents to Colleague A.
44. 4 November 2011 EA brings to the attention of MP the existence of referrals that had not been processed since receipt. These she maintained had been left on the fax machine or around the office. One of these referrals was the fax sent by PF on the 30 August 2011.
45. 4 November 2011 the Registrant sent, through the personal services of EOA, the gifts he had bought for Colleague A, including the Twilight Cinema Tickets. EOA delivered these to Colleague A whilst she was in a pub. The presents were rejected.
46. 10 November 2011 the Registrant and EA attend a meeting with LN in which LN articulated her concerns about the focus of the Registrant’s work and dismisses his proposal that he contact outside companies with a view to promoting the MHWB Service. LN at this stage was awaiting information on the number of patients seen by the MHWB service, the nature of the outcomes of that treatment, and whether it could be traced back to reduced sickness absence. LN recalls that this was a line manager meeting and she was very surprised that the Registrant had brought an administrator, EA, to this meeting.
47. 11 November 2011 EA log records that today she was asked to investigate music for the ‘Otter’ book which will be made into a film and a CD of the film soundtrack.
48. 11 November 2011 the Registrant sends to the Network of Talent (including Colleague A) an outline of the storyline of his book, ‘The Genius of Dr Spirit Otter’. The storyline appears to make links with the views and interests of Colleague A. Within the story the lyrics to Sam Cooke’s song, ‘You were made for me’ are set out. This is the song which the Registrant acknowledged Colleague A has chosen for the first dance at her wedding and which he had set up as the CD for her to play on her last day in the office.
49. In her email of 23 April 2012 to MK, Colleague A states:
‘The attachment is a short story – where he [the Registrant] compares my boyfriend and him, at the end of the story he proceeds to try and get me to go to the cinema with him.
The story uses made up names but I can quite clearly tell it’s me.’
50. 14 November 2011 an email from Colleague A’s Stepfather who states within his short email to Dr Nath the fact that they are a close family and that he has been informed of the contact Dr Nath has had with his stepchild, contact which has continued despite his stepchild making it clear to Dr Nath that she wishes it to cease. He goes on to say how distressing this continued contact is to his stepdaughter and that if contact continues it will be considered to constitute harassment.
51. 14 November 2011 there is a response from the Registrant to Colleague A’s Stepfather, that extends to four pages. It starts with a greeting but during its progress changes tone and intent. It is clear from this communication that the Registrant is intending the content to be received and understood by Colleague A. It is written in a personal and overly familiar way that belies the scant connection which the Registrant has with this man and his family. In this response, the Registrant quotes from a text from Colleague A to him, a text which he criticises her for being ‘rude, selfish and highly inappropriate’:
52. Colleague A had written to him:
‘I have just read your mental email. You have to stop now! I have tried to ignore your advances but that strange otter story is beyond odd. Stop now or I will be going to the police.’
53. The Panel had before it evidence that EA and EOA had been assigned tasks relating to ‘Master’ and ‘Genius’ work towards the end of November 2011 which was as follows:
Terms and conditions ZCD Model
7 Page presentation Master Deck
PM Log Outtakes
Happiness = work model Website
10-8 Model, Business Cards,
Supervision Group Invoice
54. The Panel found it difficult to understand this division of labour on the basis explained by the Registrant as there are matters mentioned within the ‘master’ tasks that did not correlate with the core administrative work of the MHWB Service.
55. EA said that when asked by MP about whether she was able to cope with her tasks in the time permitted she had shown him this list of allocated tasks. MP was able to confirm at the hearing that at the time he had seen something that looked very similar to this.
56. The MHWB service moved premises a second time on the 17 December 2011 to a different part of the Maudsley Hospital complex. These premises were self-contained and outside of the main Maudsley Hospital building: they had previously been the Junior Doctors’ Rest Room and so were fitted out with facilities aimed at relaxation and were decorated to a better standard than some other areas of the hospital.
57. During the autumn of 2011 LN became increasingly concerned about the Registrant’s behaviour and the identifiable changes to his character. In her sworn statement she identified the Registrant’s behaviour as ‘his growing grandiose and fuller in his sense of his own importance’. In or around December 2011, LN had been ‘shocked’ to hear from the Head of Estates that the Registrant had ideas about the refurbishment of the new ‘suite’ which included features such as a waterfall running down a wall. She stated that she had actually laughed at the notion as it was so far removed from what was intended or possible within the confines of the funding and remit of this pilot project.
58. In an email from the Registrant which wishes a Happy New Year he refers to the Professional Development and Wellbeing Centre and to a future new position. The job description for this post sets out an unusual list of likes and abilities and within the subheading of creatives ‘writing, animation, illustration, branding, marketing, advertising, film production and under a further sub heading of ‘influencers’ sales, media, broadcasting, fashionistas, image consultancy’. The Job Description has been described as a ‘joke’ and nothing more. In her evidence LN mentioned that the Registrant had unilaterally changed the name of the team and it was not a reflection of what the MHWB Service was about.
59. 4 January 2012, EA was signed off work for two weeks due to illness and stated that whilst she was absent concerns about the MHWB Service administrative process had been raised. From the evidence of MP there was a meeting between, himself, the Registrant, the Head of Occupational Health and MO, Senior Nurse and Advisor from the Occupational Health Team. MP described it as tense and said that concerns that referrals were not being seen in a timely manner were aired. LN in her evidence stated that on the 20 January 2012 she had written to the Registrant about patient waiting times; this email was a reflection of informal concerns that had been raised with her about appointments not being made.
60. 2 February 2012 EOA left and EA was not given more working days, a motivation, it was advanced by the Registrant, for her making up her fictional diary of complaints against him. LN in her evidence said she had approved an increase to three paid days for EA. There was no evidence that Dr Nath had authorised it.
61. The Registrant went on leave (at short notice) to India to visit his sick Father from 12 February 2012 to 8 March 2012.
62. 13 February 2012, an email is sent by the Registrant and received by many, announcing the launch of ‘The Genius Network’ and in which he states, amongst other things, that:
‘After 6 Months of work, my team and I are very excited to unveil our niche psychology boutique, GENIUS, in time for Valentine’s Day 2012…..’
Firstly a Valentine’s song: please visit: www.dranjannatjh.com
It finishes with, Happy Valentine’s Day ….to….I think she knows :-)
63. Whilst this email contains a personal message which is aimed at Colleague A, the email was sent to a much wider audience including his professional lead AL who, upon receipt, was sufficiently concerned by the email’s unexpected and unusual contents that she took it directly to LN.
64. LN visited the website referred to in this email and discovered that it was a personal, commercial website, set up by the Registrant and had no connection with the MHWB Service. The website set out an extensive range of services and included prices for the various treatments and reports. The site was been designed by ‘EOA’.
65. 20 February 2012, apparently whilst visiting his ailing father, a further email was sent to the ‘network of talent’ group entitled ‘Little Red Corvette’ in which the Registrant stated, amongst other things:
‘Firstly, a HUGE thank you to everyone for helping me realise the vision of my niche psychological boutique, but especially to Colleague A for her original creative genius, Chief EOA for his technical prowess and mastery, Maestro AF for his world-class psychological gravitas and critique...’
‘After a challenging year, I am now moments away from a long-awaited break. If any of you can recommend places to visit in/near Goa, then that would be great…….’
Finally, I shall leave you with a few words from Spirit Otter’s seriously romantic summer ahead…..’Let’s have our honeymoon in the Aleutian Islands. It’s where Otters are happy and free. By the way, do you really know how to bake fish fingers? When you are ready, I will save you. It is meant to be. I am your Saviour, love, Spirit. P.S. Don’t you want the perfect hug?’
66. At the bottom of this email, and the previous one sent on 13 February 2012, was:
The Genius Network: Aligning deeply-held values and aspirations to enhance our own lives and that of others, we guide, develop and inspire people across diverse professional disciplines to share their niche expertise with us, and the world, for free.’ It also lists twitter and facebook pages for feedback.
67. Colleague A was directly mentioned and also again came to the conclusion that the references of where Otters live and get married referred to her.
68. 20 March 2012, EA is interviewed by AL to establish the reasons why she is leaving MHWB Service. AL takes EA to see LN.
69. 21 March 2012 the Registrant is suspended from duty and LN instigates an independent internal investigation and makes a referral to Occupational Health.
70. MK appointed. MK interviews relevant staff in April and May 2012.
71. March 2013 following a Disciplinary hearing the Registrant is dismissed.
72. March 2013 EA contacted Dr Nath’s then current employer.
73. Other matters were alluded to in the course of the hearing. However, the Panel has been unable to establish the direct relevance on a number of these and in some instances when they occurred. These have therefore been omitted from the chronology.
74. The Panel has heard evidence from three live witnesses for the HCPC. The Registrant also gave testimony. In addition to this oral evidence the Panel had before it one further sworn statement from an HCPC witness, MK, who was not required to attend.
75. The Panel had before it the documentation collected for the Management case presented by SLaM at the Disciplinary Hearing. This documentation has been heavily redacted. It also had before it the documentary evidence on which the Registrant placed reliance. This included a body of references and testimonials from fellow professionals and former colleagues who attested to the Registrant’s abilities, qualities and honesty. These references have been noted within the context of supporting a good character direction at the fact finding stage as well as at the impairment stage.
76. EA, is the temporary staff member who, having offered her resignation in March 2012, identified to Senior Managers at SLaM her concerns about the management of the MHWB Service and the way in which resources were being utilised for personal purposes by the Registrant.
77. EA had been asked by the Registrant when joining the MHWB Service to keep a project management log which he stated he would use for the development of his Genius work. The fact of the instruction to compile a log was not challenged by the Registrant although he stated that how it was constructed was not as he envisaged and he referred to it in evidence as EA ‘complaint log’. The information contained in this log is consistent with EA interview with MK, her sworn statement, and her testimony at this hearing. This log records not only events, but also EA impressions and emotions about what happened. The log has clearly been drafted contemporaneously and includes typing mistakes. It is consistent in terms of terminology and is expansive on surrounding circumstances as well as a recording of timings of events and activities. The Panel placed reliance on this contemporaneous written evidence. The overall picture that her log describes correlates with observations made by others.
78. EA presented her evidence confidently and competently. She was candid to the degree of not trying to hide the fact that, for instance at the Registrant’s request, she had told ‘a fib’ to MP and openly admitted, when challenged, that she had subsequently made contact in March 2013 with an organisation using the Registrant’s services at that time. The Panel found her to be a reliable and credible witness.
79. LN, Director of Human Resources of SLaM had taken over as the Registrant’s line manager in June 2011 but was not responsible for the Registrant’s professional or clinical supervision. The Panel found her to be a trustworthy witness and her evidence was consistent with her written statement. She presented her evidence to this Panel in a fair and balanced way. The Panel found her evidence compelling.
80. MP, Consultant Psychiatrist at SLaM. MP’s evidence reflected his sworn statement. His knowledge was limited by the fact that he worked at the MHWB Service only on a Friday when he was engaged on service user treatment. Whilst he could not be relied upon on the exact dates when things happened he was firm on the issues of responsibilities and priorities for the MHWB Service. He gave clear evidence about the events relating to the text contact with Colleague A and the giving of presents. He was considered by the Panel to be a credible witness.
81. The Registrant’s interpretation of events was at variance with the evidence presented by the Council’s witnesses. The Registrant maintained his denial of all matters alleged. The reasons he offered for the series of events that occurred during the relevant period were, in the Panel’s assessment, overly complicated, convoluted, and at times disingenuous. There was inadequate independent supporting evidence for the matters asserted by the Registrant as being a true reflection of the position.
82. The Registrant presented as being evasive and discursive. He often constructed ways of not answering simple, direct questions. His responses had been confusing and appeared at times to be intentionally opaque. From the totality of the evidence before the Panel it has come to the conclusion that the Registrant is not a reliable, nor a consistent witness.
83. The Panel also had before it the sworn statement of MK, Deputy Head of Human Resources of SLaM and who had undertaken the investigation of events on behalf of SLaM. His written evidence was agreed and accepted by the parties and so MK was not called to give personal testimony. As it was accepted by both parties the Panel has placed weight on his sworn statement and contemporaneously produced supporting documentary evidence including notes of interview with current and former members of staff.
84. In relation to Colleague A, the Panel had MK’s note of the interview he had undertaken (during the SLaM investigation) with this former member of staff. In an email Colleague A stated that she was not prepared to take the matter beyond providing this information given in the interview with MK. The Panel was therefore required to take the documentary evidence of her views expressed in her interview with MK in her absence. As stated above, the Management case presented by MK was unchallenged, and so the Panel has placed reliance on this process and accordingly his notes of interview with Colleague A were accepted and given supportive weight.
85. EOA had also been interviewed by MK and the unsigned note of that interview is before the Panel. The Registrant has told the Panel that EOA had not considered this note of interview to be complete and accurate. In his testimonial for the Registrant EOA confirmed that he had undertaken private work on the Registrant’s website and said that he had received payment for this from the Registrant. He also stated that due to his current situation he was unwilling to give evidence. In this document EOA makes no mention of his dissatisfaction with the statement which he provided to MK. As previously stated, the parties have not challenged the evidence submitted by MK. EOA’s note of interview is therefore standing in his stead. Further, this note of interview, in the main, accords with the documentary and oral testimony of EA and MP. The Panel has therefore placed some reliance on this written evidence.
Findings of Fact:
86. Before the Panel sets out its finding on fact the Panel confirms that it had regard to the fact that the burden of proof is on the Council to prove the particulars of the Allegation to the requisite standard, namely the civil standard of balance of probabilities. There is no burden on the Registrant to disprove anything. The Panel has noted the presumption that comes with the evidence of the Registrant’s previous good character. The Panel has taken into account the detailed and lengthy advice given by the Legal Assessor, advice which had been seen by both parties before it was given and to which no objection was raised by the parties.
87. The Panel has noted that in the interview between MK and the Registrant. MK is recorded as saying ‘it is a lot of words but they’re not making sense’. In undertaking its task of cutting through the vast amount of information supplied the Panel identifies with this observation.
Particular 1 - proven.
88. Made inappropriate use of SLaM resources in that you engaged and instructed temporary staff to work on the development of your private brand rather than on SLaM related work during their contracted working hours.
89. The Panel noted the potential ambiguity arising from the chosen wording of this allegation.
90. First, the use of ‘engaged’ within this particular can be interpreted as meaning ‘using’ as well as ‘appointing for employment’. The evidence before the Panel can support either interpretation and so it has taken the word ‘engaged’ and applied it in both its senses.
91. Secondly, the Panel has further noted that whilst ‘staff’ can be used as a singular or plural, the remaining parts of this particular indicate that it should be interpreted as being in the plural. The Panel has relied on the dates given by MK for staff employment and so the temporary staff covered by this particular are Colleague A, EA and EOA.
92. The Registrant’s job description is a standard NHS format for a Practitioner Psychologist, the main focus of which was the treatment of employee service users.
93. The Panel appreciated that whilst the Registrant had been dismissed for misuse of staff resources it is for this Panel to assess afresh whether the evidence before it would support the particular that the Registrant had inappropriately used SLaM resources.
94. LN gave evidence that set the Registrant’s actions during this time into perspective with what was happening within the MHWB Service. She told the Panel that she had reminded the Registrant on several occasions that his focus was to be on an analysis of the clinical benefits of early intervention with staff suffering stress. There is supporting evidence that, by the autumn of 2011, LN had concerns about the Registrant’s focus turning to more commercial development of the MHWB Service and she cited as an example the fact that the Registrant had unilaterally changed its name to ‘Professional Development and Wellbeing’ which did not reflect the purpose of the pilot nor the proposed redecoration of the premises.
95. There is clear evidence that Colleague A had been engaged in working on the development of the website. There is an email from her to EOA in which she openly refers to her work on the early draft pages. The Registrant has publicly thanked her for her creative and inspirational input. In her interview with MK, Colleague A refers to the vast majority of her time while working for the MHWB Service as being taken up on website development.
96. There is evidence by way of email that EOA had been contacted by Colleague A for the purpose of him providing web design services to the Registrant. He was subsequently, for no reason provided to the Panel, engaged, via Reed Employment Agency, to also provide administrative support to the MHWB Service.
97. The evidence of EA was clear. She had started work in October 2011 but had not been given a job description until she had been employed for about a month. She had not been given any information about the MHWB Service pilot project during her interview, which was conducted by the Registrant with EOA. She stated that she had been shown the drafts of the Registrant’s website at her interview and that within the interview room there was a chess set and a stack of CDs as well as a whiteboard on which various ‘concepts’ were recorded. The whole environment presented as being a creative one. EA gained the impression that her creative skills, as well as her training, had gained her the position with the MHWB Service.
98. MP supports this evidence of a creative rather than clinical environment. He clearly recalled the white board in the office on which were noted ‘lots of things that clearly had no connection with the MHWB Service’.
99. EA had been engaged to work two days per week. There was flexibility as to which days those were and some weeks she worked more hours unpaid so that she could better understand and observe the clinical work of the MHWB Service. EA’s log, and her oral testimony is that during this time in October and early November 2011, she had been virtually fully engaged in working on the further development of the Registrant’s ‘concept’ thoughts and processes, which would feature on his personal professional website. Her testimony, and log, support a pattern of meetings to brainstorm and focus on the Registrant’s ‘Genius’ ideas and of long lunchtimes out of the office spent discussing the potential success of the Registrant’s future commercial projects. EA refers, in her log on 3 November 2011, to ‘trying to input the data that has been left sitting in unorganised piles on the master desk, keep being told to stop and that it is not important……’
100. EA, told the Panel that it was not until the meeting she attended with the Registrant and LN that it first became apparent to her that the sole focus of her job was in fact to give administrative support to the MHWB Service pilot.
101. MP told the Panel that from the autumn of 2011 he had growing concerns about the administrative processes within the MHWB Service. He gained the impression that EOA was unsuited to being an administrator. Mr EOA’s character, and in particular his peremptory way of dealing with service users, was inappropriate and he rarely voluntarily undertook administrative tasks. MP could not understand why EOA had been employed and he was concerned about the amount of time EOA spent in a room called by Dr Nath as the Genius room, working on a laptop which, he concluded, could not be anything to do with the MHWB Service, because the MHWB Service was run electronically on NHS dedicated terminals.
102. In interview with MK, EOA stated that he had worked on the development of the Registrant’s website during office hours when there were no service users to be seen. He confirmed that during this period of September 2011 to March 2012, there were lots of times when there were no service user appointments.
103. The Registrant stated that he had never asked EOA to undertake developmental work on his personal website in office time and that he had paid EOA for any independent design work undertaken outside of the office. He stated that EA was making things up and that she had not spent any time working on his personal projects. Any additional tasks, such as shopping for presents for Colleague A, had been in EA own time and she had been willing to engage with the Registrant in these personal tasks.
104. Whilst there is evidence that on Friday 4 November 2011 EA had undertaken the collection of cinema tickets and the wrapping of the presents the Registrant had bought for Colleague A, the Panel has discounted these matters from its consideration of whether the Registrant had inappropriately used staff resources, as these tasks had been voluntarily undertaken on a day when EA had offered to be in the office on an unpaid basis so that she could observe the work of the MHWB Service when the two practitioners were present.
105. There is sufficient evidence that the Registrant was utilising staff members’ time for his personal project(s) and evidence that they may in addition have been recruited specifically to work on his personal project(s).
Particular 1 – Dishonesty - proven
106. The Panel took account of the references submitted by the Registrant that attest to the Registrant’s good character and in particular that he is considered to be an honest person. The Panel found it difficult to reconcile the information in these references with the person who was before this Panel.
107. The Panel has concluded that the work undertaken by Colleague A, EA and EOA on and towards the Registrant’s ‘Genius’ website (during the hours that they were paid to undertake SLaM work of the MHWB Service) was a misuse of the SLaM staff resources.
108. In questioning, the Registrant was unwilling to confirm if misuse of staff resources would be dishonest. His reason for this inability to confirm, or indeed to contemplate the issue, was because this was simply not what happened.
109. The Panel considers that an objective assessment would conclude that this use of resources was dishonest in that it was diverting services for the benefit of the Registrant. As a professional, the Registrant should have realised that this conduct was dishonest.
Particular 2 – proven in its entirety.
On or around 2 November 2011, you:
(a) Missed a patient appointment because you had gone out on a long lunch;
(b) Requested that the patient was inaccurately informed that the appointment was missed due to dysfunctional telephone and/or buzzer system;
(c) Requested that Occupational Health was inaccurately informed that the patient appointment was missed due to dysfunctional telephone and/or buzzer.
110. At this time in November 2011, the team was located within the Maudsley Hospital main building. MPstated there when appointment letters were sent out they were accompanied with information as to where the MHWB Service was situated.
111. The evidence, which is unchallenged, is that this service user had an appointment at 12.45 hours, and this had been duly noted on the MHWB Service Outlook calendar. It is stated by EA that EOA was responsible for administrative matters this day.
112. The contemporaneous evidence in EA’s log is that the three members of the team, EA, EOA and the Registrant, had returned to the office at about 13.30 hours having gone to lunch at 11.45 hours. EA further notes in her log that on their return to the office there had then been a telephone call from Occupational Health to say that a service user had not been able to gain access as there was no one in the MHWB Service.
113. EA further records in her log, and confirmed at this hearing, that when the Registrant was told about the call and the missed 12.45 hours appointment he told her to inform Occupational Health, and in turn the service user, that there had been a problem with the buzzer or the telephone. EA passed this false information on to Occupational Health. In turn Occupational Health informed the service user this was the reason why she had not been able to get into the unit. EA goes on to record in her log that there were no problems with the telephone. MP confirmed that there had been no problems with the buzzer or the telephone. No fault was reported with the buzzer and staff and others had continued to be able to get in and out of the MHWB Service using the buzzer. The evidence is that there was no problem with the telephone and this is evidenced by the successful communication between EA and Occupational Health Department.
114. EA recorded in her personal log, and told this Panel, that within minutes of speaking to Occupational Health at 13.30 hours the service user arrived at the MHWB unit. This supports the position that this Service User had been close by and was not en route from another building. According to EA testimony, on arrival the service user was asked by the Registrant to wait in the reception area whilst he got her notes and refreshed his memory of the detail of the case.
115. The service user was clearly upset and when she remonstrated with the Registrant. EA stated that she heard the Registrant tell the service user that there had been problems with the buzzer and/or telephone.
116. The Registrant maintained that the appointment was missed because the service user had gone to the wrong premises – the Royal Bethlem Hospital, in Bromley. The Registrant stated that he had been in his office fifteen minutes before the appointment at 12.45 hours reading up on the service user’s notes. He maintained that he had not been told by EA that someone from Occupational Health had rung at 13.30 hours. The Registrant stated that when the service user eventually arrived he had attempted to calm her down. He maintained that he did not inform EA to tell Occupational Health of any problems with the telephone. He said that he spent some time again referring to the patient’s notes once the patient arrived. This was despite informing the panel he had spent 15 minutes preparing himself for the service user by reading her notes less than an hour previously.
117. The Panel could not reconcile the inconsistencies in the Registrant’s evidence.
118. The Panel prefers the evidence of EA on this event. Her oral evidence was consistent with her contemporaneous log, which is supported, in part, by the evidence of MP.
Particular 2(b) and 2(c) – Dishonesty - proven
119. Instructing someone to inform Occupational Health, and intending that a service user is in turn told that there were reasons for the missing of the appointment, when those reasons were knowingly wrong, are dishonest on an objective, subjective, and common sense basis.
Particular 3 (a) and (b) not proven.
Attempted to mislead Colleague C about the number of referrals the Mental Health and Wellbeing (MHWB) service was receiving in that you:
(a) Inaccurately informed Colleague C that referrals were not being received, and/or were being received, but in smaller quantities than they actually were;
(b) Inaccurately informed Colleague C that service users were unable to locate the MHWB Service and/or were not attending their appointments;
120. The Colleague C referred to is MP.
121. The event is alleged by EA relate to incidents in late November 2011. The Panel has information from EA’s log and her testimony that in early November 2011 she had found eight referrals around the office and on the fax machine which had been received but had not been actioned and appointments allocated. Her log records her concerns that the Registrant had generally been trying to conceal administrative matters from MP.
122. The Panel heard from MP that he had been told that there had been some problems with appointments and people not being able to access the MHWB Service and with a view to establishing what the problems were there was a meeting, in January 2012, involving MO, himself and the Registrant. He recalled there being some unpleasantness between the Registrant and MO, but his recollection went no further. He was unable to recall any issues arising from referrals in November 2011 and had thought that the issue of missed appointments was more likely to arise from the office move in December 2011.
123. Although EA has recorded her view that MP could see up to 10 service users per day and Dr Nath 5 to 7, the Panel has no information from SLaM as to how many referrals had been sent, nor how many were anticipated to have been received. The Panel has no further or better information that would assist it in assessing whether any information was given to Colleague C, and whether it was correct or not. It had no information as to how many if any service users had failed to keep their appointments.
124. The Panel’s assessment of the evidence is therefore insufficient to support these two particulars as they have been drafted.
Particular 3(c) - Proven
(c) Asked Colleague B to hide referrals to the MHWB Service from Colleague C who was working on the service with you.
125. Again the Panel has struggled in reconciling the evidence within EA log and her sworn statement and oral testimony with the wording of this particular.
126. The evidence for this incident again came from EA and MP.
127. EA log records, and her oral evidence was, that in early November 2011 she had discovered, in a variety of places referrals including the fax machine, that had been received but not processed and filed. She had attempted to enter these onto the system but had been interrupted by the Registrant and told to focus on other tasks. When MP had asked about how many referrals had been received that week EA had shown him the 8 historic referrals, one of which is the subject of particular 4 below. The Registrant had, according to EA, then intervened and tried to imply that these referrals were in process it was only the filing that was not up to date. When EA said that they had not been processed the Registrant had implied that EA, who had been in post only a few weeks, was not yet confident in what she was doing. The correct information about the number of referrals and how many were being received was therefore not given to MP. EA log notes that she was told on several occasions not to involve MP in office matters and to defer to the Registrant on all matters first.
128. There is further evidence within EA’s log that the Registrant had instructed her to put referrals where MP would not see them and this had resulted in an incident towards the end of November 2011, when she had been criticised by MP for keeping sensitive personal information contained within patient referrals in her desk drawer.
129. The Panel find, that on the balance of probabilities this particular is proven.
Particular 3(c) – dishonesty – proven
130. The Panel considered that asking EA to hide referrals from a senior professional colleague, MP, was a deliberate attempt to mislead him. To do so was in a common sense, as well as objective and subjective basis dishonest.
Particular 4 - proven.
In relation to Patient A, you did not provide timely access to the MHWB service in that:
(a) By 3 November 2011, no action had been taken in relation to a referral received on 30 August 2011;
131. There is evidence of the referral made by PF, addressed directly to Dr Nath, requesting psychology services for this member of staff. In August Dr Nath was responsible for actioning all referrals which came to MHWB.
132. At this distance from the event, MP had poor recollection of this particular case. However when directed to the terms of the referral he expressed his concern that it had not been actioned immediately. This matter was first brought to the attention of MP on the 4 November 2011 by EA, by which time he had assumed responsibility for the management of this case. There is no evidence of any action until a letter from MP, to PF, records on the 29 November 2011, that he had contacted this service user and arranged for her to attend on the 25 November 2011 however this service user had cancelled the day before the appointment.
133. The Panel find this particular proven.
(b) When notified of Patient A’s referral received on 30 August 2011, you instructed Colleague B not to telephone Patient A.
134. The evidence of the EA and her log is that when shown the 8 historic referrals the Registrant had told her they were not urgent and when she had offered to telephone this patient the Registrant had, notwithstanding the apparently urgent nature of this case, told her not to and that it could wait.
135. The Panel accept this evidence of the Registrant’s actions.
Particular 5 - proven.
136. Made inappropriate contact with a former member of agency staff, namely Colleague A.
137. The evidence on this inappropriate contact came from EA, MP, an email from Colleague A’s stepfather, and MK’s notes of the interview he conducted with Colleague A. The fact of there being contact was confirmed by the Registrant in his evidence although he maintained that it was not inappropriate.
138. As noted in the chronology, EA had shopped with the Registrant for presents for Colleague A. EA told the Panel that she had then been asked by the Registrant to wrap these gifts. This wrapping process was noticed by MP who told the Panel that he was aware that the Registrant had bought gifts for Colleague A and he had, at that time, advised the Registrant not to send these. EA records in her log of the 4 November 2011 that MP told the Registrant ‘not to give gift to [colleague A] because he is asking for a law suit’.
139. MP confirmed in his evidence that he had concerns about the Registrant’s level of interest in this former colleague and believed that it would turn out badly. EOA confirmed in his interview with MK that he had been told by Colleague A and the Registrant that there had been contact after Colleague A left SLaM. EOA further confirmed that the Registrant’s interest in Colleague A had not been reciprocated.
140. The email from Colleague A’s stepfather of 14 November 2011, was clear and had contained the following:
‘……your communications which have continued despite her having made it clear that she wishes you to cease. This is distressing and alarming her and us and I am sure that this is not what you want.
Please do not attempt to contact Colleague A again. To do so will be harassment and we should then need to take the matter further.
141. The Registrant had then replied at length to this email and had continued with his email and web based contact with Colleague A.
142. Colleague A is recorded in her interview with MK that after she left the MHWB service she had received a number of communications [over a 100 texts and 17 emails] from the Registrant and that these had been uninvited. Colleague A had not accepted the Registrant’s birthday gifts and had found his Valentine Day communication to her extremely upsetting. She had become distressed with his persistence. In her evidence to MK, Colleague A stated unequivocally that she did not wish to be contacted by the Registrant and that she had tried to make this clear to him.
143. The evidence demonstrates the unusual and inappropriate nature of the Registrant’s behaviour which is recorded by Colleague A as ‘scary’ that the Registrant had fashioned her brief work relationship with him into developed mythical characters and published stories.
144. There is evidence that not only had communications been inappropriate in terms of being sent but also in their intent. The email entitle Goodbye Twilight, sent to Colleague A on the 27 September 2011, whilst alleged to be an apology for the text he had sent in error, and which had caused offence, was in fact used as a further means of pleading his cause and issuing an invitation to meet. The email from the Registrant to Colleague A’s Stepfather had been utilised as a means of maintaining and strengthening contact with Colleague A. This email expressed friendly intent at the beginning but by the end had developed a threatening tone.
145. During this hearing the registrant was often contradictory. As an example, when cross examined he maintained “I’m not really a hugger. I don’t really do hugs” yet in an email to Colleague A he says “I’ve seriously hugged lots of people” and described the hug with Colleague A as ‘perfect’.
146. Considering all the evidence, the Panel finds this particular proven.
Your actions described at 1, 2(b), 2(c), 3(a), 3(b) and/or 3(c) above were dishonest.
147. The Panel has made findings above relating to dishonesty in relation to particulars 1, 2(b), 2(c) and 3(c).
148. There is no finding in relation to 3(a) and 3(b).
Decision on Grounds:
149. There was no fresh evidence presented by the Council. In relation to the Registrant’s documentation, the Panel had before it the Final Statement which had been submitted by the Registrant since the last hearing dates. This document and electronic exchanges between the HCPC and the Registrant and his solicitor is referred to above within the Panel’s determination on preliminary matters.
150. The Council in its submissions identified the various ways in which the Registrant’s conduct was demonstrably below the standards expected of a Practitioner Psychologist. In the Council’s view the Registrant’s dishonest behaviour was both morally culpable and disgraceful. The Panel’s attention was directed to the sheer volume of evidence that supported the Panel’s finding that there had been misuse of NHS services: NHS services that should have been dedicated towards the care of those within the NHS who needed psychological support. The wanton misuse of valuable NHS time had manifested itself in long lunch breaks that were utilised to discuss the development of the Registrant’s personal professional website. These actions were inconsistent with his professional duties: the Registrant had allowed his personal interests to spread into his professional practice and to take precedence over his clinical responsibilities. Further, the dishonesty extended into misleading a patient and attempting to cover up his actions. His personal interest in a former colleague had also taken precedence over his care of, and duty to service users.
151. The Council suggested that the Registrant’s acts and omissions were sufficiently serious to make a finding of misconduct. It was advanced in support of this position that the Registrant’s actions were in breach of the following provisions of the standards.
Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2012 edition):
1. You must act in the best interests of service users.
3. You must keep high standards of personal conduct.
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.
Standards of Proficiency for Practitioner Psychologists (2015 edition):
3. be able to maintain fitness to practise.
4. be able to practise as an autonomous professional exercising their own professional judgement
152. From the beginning of the internal NHS investigation, during the subsequent internal disciplinary process and these HCPC proceedings, the Registrant has denied any wrongdoing. There were no fresh representations from the Registrant on this specific issue of misconduct before the Panel at this stage in the proceedings.
153. In reaching its decision the Panel has taken into account the Council’s representations; the published guidance, in addition to the documentation before the Panel; the relevant standards current at the time of these events in 2011/2012; and the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has discounted the matters on which it has made no finding, namely 3(a) and 3(b) and 6, dishonesty, in relation to these two particulars.
154. The matters found proven include dishonesty, misuse of resources, misleading of colleagues and inappropriate behaviour towards a young woman who was a former colleague. The matters found cover a range of failings but all have at the core behaviour which is consistent with a practitioner who has placed his personal interests over those of his professional duties. These matters were individually unacceptable but in total presented, in the Panel’s view, a picture of a professional who had not only indulged in what could best be described as a personal fantasy, but also a professional who had also lost sight of the core principles of his profession.
155. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s acts and omissions were in breach of the standards required of him. In this regard the Panel noted that the August 2012 Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics had been produced to reflect a change in organisational name from HCP to HCPC and the inclusion of Social Worker within the HCP’s regulatory function. The terms of the standards provisions had, however, remained unchanged. In the Panel’s view the Registrant has, in addition to the provisions highlighted by the Council, namely 1, 3 and 13, breached the provisions of standard 7 relating to his duty to communicate effectively with colleagues.
156. In relation to his duties arising out of the Standards of Proficiency for Practitioner Psychologists, the Panel’s findings had identified fundamental breaches of the relationship of a Practitioner Psychologist with his service users and colleagues. There had been a demonstrable abuse of power which took three forms: the abuse of trust; the abuse of resources; the abuse of colleagues. These actions struck at the heart of the Registrant’s professional duty and were fundamentally at variance with the tenets of his profession. The sections of the Standards of Proficiency within the relevant edition (2010 edition reprinted in 2012) which the Registrant has, in the Panel’s view breached, are:
1a. professional autonomy and accountability
1a.1 be able to practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession.
- Understand the need to act in the best interests of services users at all times;
- Understand what is required of them by the Health and Care Professions Council
- Understand how the power imbalance between practitioners and clients and how this can be managed appropriately.
1a.8 understand the obligation to maintain fitness to practise
- Understand the need to maintain high standards of personal conduct
- Be able to manage the physical, psychological and emotional impact of their practice
1b.1 be able to work, where appropriate, in partnership with other professional, support staff, service users and their relatives and carers
- Understand the dynamics present in therapeutic and other relationships.
157. In the Panel’s judgement the Registrant’s acts and omissions, individually constitute serious misconduct and collectively amount to misconduct that is deplorable.
Decision on Impairment:
158. The Council invited the Panel to make a finding of current impairment of the Registrant fitness to practise on both the personal, and the public component of its decision. It was asserted by the Council that the Registrant has never, and still does not acknowledge nor appreciate the import of his actions and their impact on others. The extent of the Registrant’s denial of the true situation manifested itself at the start of the NHS investigation when his reaction to the concerns raised by colleagues was to produce a lengthy document in which he discredited their reputations. The Panel was directed to relevant passages that impugn the integrity and honesty of those who have given evidence against the Registrant and in which he also calls into question their sexuality, professionalism and private practices. Of particular note were the assertions made about Colleague A’s alleged potentially criminal conduct. It was Colleague A, who had been admired by the Registrant and been the focus of his uninvited attentions. There has been consistent assertions that others had been the orchestrators of the Registrant’s misfortune and it was others who should be under scrutiny. This pattern of denial had continued, and in his Final Statement the Registrant has focused on the sole actions and evidence of EA and ignored the totality and weight of evidence that has come before the Panel from a variety of other sources. In the Council’s view this demonstrates a historic and continuing lack of insight into the Registrant’s actions and so there is real cause for concern about a repetition of the misconduct.
159. In addition, the Council stressed that members of the public, with full knowledge of the facts of this case would consider that the Registrant’s actions would warrant a finding of impairment.
160. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• In relation to impairment, the Panel reminded itself that the test of impairment is expressed in the present tense, that fitness to practise ‘is impaired’.
• Whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired is a matter of judgment for the Panel.
• Rule 9 of the Health Professions Council (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 20003 (as amended).
• The guidance issued by the Council entitled ‘Finding that fitness to practise is impaired.’
161. The Panel noted that the ‘Final Statement’ had been sent to the HCPC by the Registrant as his representations even though this document referred to the Registrant in the third party and was unsigned and undated. The Panel noted the Registrant’s stated intent to withdraw from practice that required his registration with the HCPC.
162. The Panel noted that at the end of this Final Statement the Registrant has included wording which it is suggested had formed the redacted section of a letter produced by the Registrant to the Panel. The Panel has no evidence to support this position although the expressions on the issue of bias are consistent with the content of the remainder of this letter, which is more in the form of an opinion rather than a professional reference.
163. In relation to the number of positive references produced by the Registrant the Panel noted the following:
• Those references which attested to the Registrant’s honesty and integrity were, in light of the Panel’s findings on this issue, at variance with the views of this Panel and therefore discounted in this regard.
• None of the referees had expressed a willingness to attend and give personal testimony.
• The former colleague, EOA had stated that he was unwilling to be further involved.
• Some of the references made no reference to knowing the nature and extent of the allegation
• Others were constructed in terms that indicated that the writer had limited knowledge of the particulars of the allegation.
• Of particular note was the reference provided by Dr F, who at the time of these events had been the Registrant’s supervisor. Given the terms in which this referee has written his reference the Panel had concern about the referee’s extent of knowledge and understanding of the true nature of the matters brought against the Registrant by his employer and his regulator.
164. The Panel has therefore given the references limited weight.
165. In the Panel’s view there is no evidence of the Registrant acknowledging, addressing or remedying his behaviour that has led to the Panel’s finding of serious misconduct. He has shown no insight and the evidence contained in his Final Statement supports the position that he is still denying the basis of any finding against him. The Registrant’s recent allusions to the potential unfairness of proceedings against him are a further example of his lack of understanding of the nature of his behaviour which, as a practising psychologist, is a matter of real concern. In light of the lack of any steps to remedy his misconduct and this continued demonstration of total lack of insight, in the Panel’s view, there remains a real likelihood of a repetition of the misconduct.
166. The Registrant’s actions are, in the Panel’s view, also sufficiently serious as to warrant a finding of impairment in the public interest. The Registrant has brought himself, his employer, his former colleagues, and his profession into disrepute by his conduct. To make no finding of impairment would undermine the regulatory process and the standing of the Registrant’s professional regulatory body.
167. The Panel therefore finds that on the personal and the public components of its decision there is current impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise.
Decision on Sanction:
168. The Panel has taken into account the representations of the parties and the advice of the Legal Assessor. It has referred to and taken guidance from the Indicative Sanctions Policy issued by the HCPC (revised edition September 2015): the Panel appreciates that this Policy is persuasive but not prescriptive of the sanction that is likely to be proportionate and appropriate in this case. To assist in reaching its decision the Panel has taken into account the following mitigating and aggravating factors in this matter.
169. The Council, whilst having no particular submission on the level of sanction as it is a matter for this Panel, helpfully identified some salient aggravating factors and this Panel has adopted those within its analysis of aggravating and mitigating factors below. The Council emphasised that the Registrant’s denial in the face of overwhelming evidence from a variety of sources demonstrated that a sanction in this instance was demanded for service user protection and to have a deterrent effect.
170. As directed the Panel started its deliberations at the bottom of the scale and worked its way up till it found a sanction that was the minimum required for service user protection, and to uphold public confidence in the regulatory process and the reputation of the profession.
171. The Panel considered that the matters found were too serious to warrant the Panel taking no further action. The terms of the matters found were inappropriate for mediation.
172. When considering whether a Caution Order would be proportionate the Panel identified factors that might support such a level of sanction and those were:
• There was no record of any previous complaint to the HCPC.
• The testimonials before the Panel were complimentary of the Registrant’s personal qualities.
• The Registrant had engaged in the majority of the HCPC process and proceedings.
• There was some evidence that at the time of these events in 2011/2012 there were stressful personal circumstances that may have contributed to the Registrant’s unusual and inappropriate behaviour. However, if these were contributory factors, as identified below, there has been time for reflection and remedy. Further the Registrant’s total denial at the time and since militate against these personal mitigating factors being given much weight.
• Despite hearing and facing direct evidence of his wrongdoing from his senior manager, LN, the Registrant has not accepted the factual basis nor any acknowledgment of the effect his actions would have whilst working within SLAM.
• There was evidence of multiple examples of extremely poor judgement and practice.
• There was total disregard for his professional duties to patients and colleagues.
• The NHS physical and staff resources were misused over a long and sustained period of time.
• There was a repeated and sustained course of dishonest behaviour.
• A vulnerable service user was accused of being in the wrong and had been demonstrably distressed as a result and another had been ignored when her case had been marked as ‘urgent’.
• There was no level of insight demonstrated or expressed into the Registrant’s previous or current behaviour.
• Allied to the issue of insight, the Registrant has had time within these proceedings and for many years before, to consider, reflect and address his behaviour but has not done so.
• The Registrant has continually and aggressively defended his practice and has not acknowledged that his behaviour has been in any respect unprofessional or inappropriate.
• The Registrant has consistently sought to move the blame for his own dishonest practice onto colleagues and service users.
• Despite clear evidence of his unacceptable conduct towards Colleague A, evidence which could not be refuted, there has been no expression of personal apology to Colleague A who had been sufficiently distressed by the events that her Father wrote threatening to pursue the matter as an issue of harassment.
173. Having identified these factors the Panel came to the conclusion that a Caution Order was neither appropriate nor sufficient as it would provide no level of service user protection.
174. In relation to the imposition of conditions of practice the Panel was mindful of the fact that within the Registrant’s ‘Final Statement’ he had stated, unequivocally, that he is not prepared to participate in these proceedings or its outcome and he had in essence disassociated himself from the HCPC. This clearly indicates that the Registrant is not prepared to cooperate or comply with any conditions which this Panel may consider to be appropriate to address his personal and professional lack of insight. Notwithstanding this the Panel considers that Conditions of Practice are not appropriate in this instance where there is evidence of repeated acts of dishonest behaviour to his employer, his colleagues and a service user.
175. The Panel then moved on to consider a period of suspension. When considering whether a Suspension Order would be proportionate or appropriate the Panel considered whether or not the Registrant’s actions were fundamentally compatible with remaining on the register. In reaching its decision the Panel took account of the following very serious matters.
176. The potential psychological harm the Registrant inflicted on the service user referred to in particular 2(b) when the Registrant transferred culpability for the lateness of his appointment onto the service user and suggested that she was mistaken in the relevant particulars of the clinical appointment.
177. The considerable amount of time over which the Registrant had used scarce and precious NHS resources to support his personal schemes for a professional ‘Genius’ website and his personal creative work towards a fantasy story involving the Spirit of Dr Otter.
178. The totally unprofessional and ill-judged lengthy response the Registrant had sent to the step-father of Colleague A which in tone moved from friendly to threatening and unpleasant and for which there has been no acknowledgement of wrong doing.
179. Notwithstanding the clear evidence of his behaviour towards former Colleague A which had been inappropriate, sexually motivated and at times in Colleague A’s words ‘weird’ and made her ‘really worried’ there had made no acknowledgment from the Registrant no apology nor any expression of remorse or regret for his behaviour.
180. In the Panel’s view these matters, and the totality of the evidence before it that the Registrant is unable or incapable of understanding or reflecting on his role in all the events brought before this Panel, would not be addressed by a period of suspension. This, coupled with the Registrant’s stated lack of intent of using a period of suspension for any positive remedial purpose and his repeated examples of dishonesty is incompatible with remaining on the register. The Panel has therefore come to the inescapable conclusion that the only course of action in this case is to permanently remove the Registrant’s name from the Register. In the Panel’s view this level of order is not only required to ensure future service user protection and to be in the wider public interest but is considered to be, by this Panel, also in the Registrant’s interest.
That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Dr Anjan Nath from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.
The order imposed today will apply from 13 April 2016.
A Interim Suspension is imposed to cover the 28 day appeal period before the Strike Off takes effect.
Please note the hearing took place on the following days:
18-20 November 2015;
23-26 November 2015;
4 and 15 January 2016;
15 and 16 March 2016
History of Hearings for Dr Anjan Nath
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|18/11/2015||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Struck off|