Jenna Taylor

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT63166

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 25/04/2016 End: 16:00 26/04/2016

Location: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

Allegation (as amended):

While registered as an Occupational Therapist working as a Disability Assessor for
Capita PIP Assessment Services:
 
1. Between around September 2014 and December 2014, you sent a number of pictures which were inappropriate and/or unprofessional to Person X and/or other people using a social media app (Snapchat). Specifically, you sent:

a. Picture 3, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “Good reason to claim benefits”

b. Picture 4, which:
i. contained an image of ten service users’ names
ii. you had annotated, stating “Here we go”

c. Picture 5, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “Fuk Mondays”

d. Picture 6, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “175 convictions. . Not many then”

e. Picture 7, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “What a gentleman”

f. Picture 8, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “Life for a man like Jen”

g. Picture 9, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “Sunday life”

h. Picture 10, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “And it continues”

i. Picture 11, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. contained an image of a service user’s name
iii. you had annotated, stating “Fabulous”

j. Picture 12, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “Fab”

k. Picture 14, which you had annotated, stating “Thanks” and “Crazy patient does this to my office”

l. Picture 15, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “She on about me shes my old patient lol”

m. Picture 16, which contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes

n. Picture 17, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “Ye..same here :/”

o. Picture 18, which you had annotated, stating “Ye usually nut jobs. First one just left”

p. Picture 19, which:
i. contained an image of a service user’s confidential notes
ii. you had annotated, stating “Goes without saying”

2. Your comments at paragraphs 1(C)ii, 1(K) and/or 1(O) were discriminatory

3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 constitute misconduct

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

Finding

Preliminary application:

1. Mr Foxsmith applied to discontinue Paragraph 1 (c) (ii) and to amend Particular 2 by deleting reference to Paragraph 1 (c) (ii). This was unopposed and the Panel acceded to the application as it was in the interests of justice, given that the remaining allegation, as amended, would remain viable.

2. Accordingly Particular 1 (c) (ii) was discontinued and Particular 2 was amended by deleting reference to Paragraph 1 (c) (ii).

Admissions:

3. The Registrant entered formal admissions to Particulars 1, 2 and 3 in their entirety as amended.

 

Background:

4. On 6 January 2015 the Registrant was employed by Capita Integrated Services as a Disability Assessor, under Capita’s contract with the Department for Work and Pensions.

5. On 31 March 2015 the HCPC received an anonymous referral from a member of the public, Person X.

6. An investigation ensued, conducted by Capita Integrated Services. This concluded that the Registrant had sent at least 16 pictures containing confidential information by means of “Snapchat”, a video messaging application which enables users to add text to pictures prior to distributing them to chosen recipients. The Registrant had chosen to send them to Person X.

7. It was alleged that the pictures were inappropriate in that they disclosed personal and confidential information, and the text that had been added to them by the Registrant was disrespectful to vulnerable service users.

8. It was alleged that the Registrant knew that it was inappropriate to send photographs of this nature due to the training that she had received in the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) Assessment guide which stated at 2.14.131:

“Personal information held by DWP is regarded as confidential. Confidentiality is breached when one person discloses information to another in circumstances where it is reasonable to expect that the information will be held in confidence.”

9. It was alleged and was accepted that the comments contained in Picture 14 (Particular 1 (k)) and Picture 18 (Particular 1 (o)) were discriminatory.

10. It was pointed out on behalf of the Registrant that the recipient of a Snapchat picture is able to see the image for 10 seconds before it is automatically deleted. It cannot be forwarded, nor can it be saved or shared. It was accepted, however, that the recipient is in fact able to capture the image using a screen shot technique, which is what had happened in this instance.


Decision on Facts:
11. In reaching its decision the Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It understood that it could attach such weight to the Admissions made by the Registrant as it saw fit. It also understood that the burden of proof rests on the HCPC and the standard of proof is the civil standard, namely on the balance of probabilities.

12. The Panel concluded that it would be right to accept the admissions of fact in their entirety. The Registrant had entered her admissions in the presence of her legal representative, and had notified the HCPC of her intentions in writing well in advance of the Hearing. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s admissions had been entered after careful consideration and with a full understanding of the legal implications of so doing.

13. The Panel noted the details of the investigation that had been carried out by Capita which had been provided to it in statement form. The Panel also took account the screen shots themselves, copies of which had been provided to it. 

14. In all the circumstances the Panel found the facts proved in their entirety.

Decision on Grounds:
15. The Panel took into account Registrant’s acceptance that the facts admitted by her amounted to misconduct. However the Panel exercised its own judgement in deciding whether the facts found proved did in fact amount to misconduct. 

16. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had breached the following parts of the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics in place at that time.

1. You must act in the best interests of service users
2. You must respect the confidentiality of service users
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.

It concluded that she had also breached the following parts of the Standards of proficiency for Occupational Therapists in place at the time:
 
2.1. understand the need to act in the best interests of service users at all times
2.3. understand the need to respect and uphold, the rights, dignity, values, and autonomy of service users including their role in the diagnostic and therapeutic process and in maintaining health and wellbeing
3.1. understand the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional   conduct
6.    be able to practise in a non-discriminatory manner
7.    understand the importance of and be able to maintain confidentiality

17. The Panel found that the Registrant’s actions had constituted deliberate breaches of confidentiality. Furthermore her commentary had been mocking in tone and showed a lack of respect for vulnerable service users suffering from mental and physical disabilities.

18. Accordingly the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s behaviour in relation to Particulars 1 and 2 was serious and amounted to misconduct.

 

Decision on Impairment:

19. The Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct. In so doing it accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

20. The Panel took account of the Registrant’s evidence together with the documentation that she had supplied.
 
21. The Registrant told the Panel that she was 25 years of age at the time of sending the pictures, and had been working long hours most days of the week, causing her to feel under pressure. She explained that she would not have sent the pictures to anyone other than another health care professional. She explained that it had been her understanding that pictures sent via Snapchat to a particular recipient lasted a matter of seconds, and could not be stored or saved.

22. She described her remarks as a passing commentary, and said that she had not intended any harm, and had not been thinking about the potential consequences of her actions. She accepted that her behaviour was inexcusable, that her comments had been unprofessional, and that some of the commentary had been discriminatory. She explained that she now felt “silly”, “stupid”, “embarrassed” and “ashamed” by her actions. She accepted her comments came across as “horrible” and that they “look really really bad”. She explained that she did her job because she wanted to help people to live happier lives. She said that she “could not imagine doing this sort of thing again in a million years”. She acknowledged the distress which she might have caused to service users if they had learned of her actions, and was visibly upset by this. 

23. The Panel took into account a reference dated 31 March 2016, provided by the Registrant’s current employer, confirming that the Registrant had been in employment for over a year since the alleged events, and had now been offered a permanent position within the team of Occupational Therapists and Prevention Assessors, subject to the outcome of the current proceedings. The referee described the Registrant as a professional and approachable person who was mindful of her responsibility to protect individual personal data and who had made every effort to learn and adhere to policies and procedures. No complaints from colleagues or service users had been received about her behaviour since the allegation.

24. The Panel was provided with certificates of Equality and Diversity and Data Protection training that the Registrant had recently undertaken, together with a bundle of references, all of which confirmed that the writers were aware of these proceedings. They described her as hard-working, compassionate and caring, and described her actions as out of character.

25. Whilst the Panel regarded the Registrant’s behaviour as serious it concluded that it was remediable and that it had in fact been remedied. In so concluding the Panel took into account the fact that she had successfully worked as an Occupational Therapist for the past 18 months without further incident, and that she had voluntarily undertaken and paid for a number of courses, all of which were relevant to her past misconduct. The Panel concluded from the Registrant’s evidence, as summarised earlier in this determination, that she had demonstrated genuine remorse and had developed significant insight. The Panel concluded that the risk of repetition in this case was minimal.

26. However the Panel concluded that the wider public interest demanded a finding of current impairment in light of the nature of the allegations. Public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as its regulator would be undermined if behaviour of this sort by a professional during the course of her work, involving multiple breaches of service users’ confidentiality, were not to result in a finding of impairment. In the Panel’s view, the Registrant’s behaviour had fallen far below the standards expected of an Occupational Therapist.

27. Accordingly the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Decision on Sanction: 

28. The Panel heard submissions from both parties.
 
29. Mr Foxsmith submitted that it was for the Panel to decide what sanction to impose in the circumstances. He reminded the Panel that the decision on sanction should take into account the Panel’s finding on impairment, where the Panel had accepted that the Registrant had shown genuine remorse and had developed significant insight. He reminded the Panel of the additional training that the Registrant had carried out, which would be of relevance if the Panel were to consider a Conditions of Practice Order.

30. Ms Hewitt submitted that the Registrant had engaged with the process throughout and had admitted the allegations. She argued that this had been an isolated lapse, which had been totally out of character, and that the Panel had accepted that the Registrant had now developed genuine insight. She submitted that it would be difficult to formulate suitable Conditions of Practice as the Registrant had already undertaken a considerable amount of relevant further training and there were no issues in her current practice. 

31. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the legal assessor.

32. The Panel kept in mind that the purpose of sanction is not punitive but that it is designed to protect the public interest, which includes protecting members of the public from possible harm, maintaining proper standards within the profession, the reputation of the profession itself and public confidence in the regulatory functions of the HCPC. The Panel took into account the current Indicative Sanctions Policy [ISP] that has been published by the HCPC.

33. The Panel took into account both the mitigating and aggravating circumstances.
34. Mitigating factors were that the Registrant:

• had acknowledged her failings at an early stage and had made full admissions at the commencement of these proceedings
• had provided excellent testimonials, which demonstrated that her misconduct was not reflected in her wider practice in that she has appeared courteous, careful and safe in her professional practice
• had demonstrated insight and genuine remorse
• had now remediated her misconduct
• had not intended harm by her actions
• had presumed that Snapchat was an instantaneous form of communication that could not be recorded and would not be disseminated to the wider public
• had now deleted the relevant Snapchat application from her mobile phone


35. Aggravating factors were:

• The Registrant had demonstrated a lack of respect for clients by her use of social media
• In at least one of her communications, there had been the potential for a number of service users to be identified although there was no evidence that actual harm had occurred.
• Her communications had been careless and thoughtless

36. The Panel considered the sanctions available to it in ascending order of severity. In arriving at its decision the Panel applied the principles set out in the ISP.

37. The Panel concluded that to take no further action would undermine confidence in the profession and in the regulatory functions of the HCPC, bearing in mind the serious breaches of confidentiality that had taken place.

38. The Panel then considered a Caution Order. The Panel concluded that whilst the Registrant’s actions could not be described as isolated, they had been limited in duration. The Panel had found that the Registrant had shown significant insight and remorse, and that the risk that the Registrant would repeat her misconduct was minimal. The Panel concluded that the public interest would be adequately protected by a Caution Order for a period of one year bearing in mind the mitigating factors set out earlier in this determination.

39. The Panel considered the imposition of a Conditions of Practise Order but concluded that nothing would be gained from such an order as the Registrant had already undertaken relevant additional training and had remediated her misconduct, and the public interest would be adequately protected by means of a Caution Order.

40. In those circumstances the Panel decided to impose a Caution Order for a period of one year.

Order

Order:

That the Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Miss Jenna Taylor with a Caution which is to remain on the register for a period of 1 year from the date this Order comes into effect.

 

Notes

This order will come into effect on 24 May 2016 and expire on 24 May 2017.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Jenna Taylor

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
25/04/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution