Mrs Rachael C Wheeler

Profession: Dietitian

Registration Number: DT05790

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 23/02/2016 End: 13:00 23/02/2016

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

Panel: Health Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

By reason of your health, your fitness to practise as a Dietitian is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Application for proceedings to be heard in private

1. Mr Newman made an application for today’s hearing to be held in private. He submitted that as this is a hearing which has been convened regarding the Registrant’s health, it will be considering intimate details of the Registrant’s health condition.

2. Mr Newman submitted that it is right that the hearing should be in private in order to protect those details, and that it would not offend the principles of “open justice”.

3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel determined that given the health issues present in this case and the detail in which the hearing will be required to enquire into the health issues, it was appropriate to hear the entire hearing in private.

Submissions

4. The Panel heard submissions from Mr Newman and Mrs Wheeler.

5. Mr Newman outlined the background to the case. He drew the Panel’s attention to the decision of the Panel at the Final Hearing and the reasons it gave for finding the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired then and the reasons for the Suspension Order being imposed.

6. Mr Newman informed the Panel that Mrs Wheeler has indicated to him that she does not desire to return to the profession. He submitted that Mrs Wheeler’s condition is ongoing, albeit recurring in nature. He further submitted that, in the absence of any cogent medical evidence that it would be safe and appropriate for Mrs Wheeler to return to unrestricted practice, her fitness to practise remains impaired today.

7. Mrs Wheeler informed the Panel that her position with regard to her desire to leave the profession remains unchanged since the last hearing. She informed the Panel that she has not worked as a Dietitian since March 2012 and she affirmed that she no longer desired to work as a Dietitian. She informed the Panel that she had considered other areas of work as a Dietitian. However she had no desire to work in any other area other than the one in which she had worked in the past, and in which she recognised that she is no longer able to work because of her medical condition.

8. Mrs Wheeler told the Panel that she still suffers from her medical condition which is still ongoing and recurring. She stated that she recognises her fitness to practise remains impaired and that she has no cogent medical evidence to the contrary. She told the Panel her desire is for these matters to be concluded today if possible and that the longer this matter went on, the greater the likelihood that  it would have an adverse effect on her health. She told the Panel that she was hoping to be suspended for another year so that the power to remove her from the Register would be available to the next Panel reviewing the Order. She also informed the Panel that today she has been told about the Voluntary Removal procedure and that she would be pursuing that line of disposal.

9. Mrs Wheeler stated that she had not brought any references or testimonials from her colleagues and line managers as she did not receive the decision of the previous Panel. She stated that in line with her desire not to return to practice, she has not maintained or complied with the CPD requirements of her as a Dietitian.

10. Mrs Wheeler told the Panel that she has been continuously employed at her previous employer as a ward clerk since November 2012. She said that there have been a couple of relapses of her medical condition but these have always been dealt with well by her and her line managers. She informed the Panel that the relapses have been for shorter periods than before. She outlined to the Panel the coping mechanisms she has in place and how she is actively managing her condition. She informed the Panel that her medication regime is monitored and changes made by her GP as required.

Decision

11. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive appraisal of the Registrant to determine if she is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role is not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor is it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.

12. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired all the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. He reminded the Panel that as this is a health case, the Panel is bound by Article 29(6) and the power to make a ‘Striking-off’ order is not available today.

13. He advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principle of fairness and proportionality and have regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy document issued by the HCPC. He reminded the Panel that any order that it makes under Article 30 should not be punitive in purpose, and that it should be the least restrictive order that would suffice to protect the public and/or is otherwise in the public interest.

14. The Panel first considered whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into consideration all the documentation before it, and the submissions of both parties. In particular it noted the following factors:

a) The engagement of the Registrant with the process.
b) The lack of any cogent medical evidence to indicate that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is no longer impaired by reason of her medical condition. The Panel noted that, whilst the Registrant was in remission, she had a recurring condition.
c) The Registrant’s submissions that she no longer wishes to practise as a Dietitian and has not done so since March 2012, and has not complied with any CPD requirements.
d) The lack of any testimonials or references from her employers.

15. Taking all of the above into consideration, the Panel determined that, whilst the Registrant has significant insight into her medical condition, her fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of that medical condition.

16. Having determined that the Mrs Wheeler’s fitness to practise remained impaired by reason of her health condition the Panel went on to consider what action to take today. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy document and considered its powers under Article 30(1).

17. The Panel first considered taking no further action and allowing the Order to lapse upon expiry. The Panel determined that this was not appropriate as the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired today. Imposing no Order could place the public at risk if Mrs Wheeler changed her mind and decided she wished to return to practice.

18. The Panel went on to consider whether to impose a Caution Order upon the expiry of the current order. For the reason set out above, the Panel determined that the imposition of a Caution Order upon expiry of the current order is not the appropriate action to take today.

19. The Panel next considered the appropriateness of a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel were very pleased to hear that Mrs Wheeler has effective coping mechanisms in place and she is actively managing her condition and is coping with it. The Panel were sorry to hear Mrs Wheeler’s settled intention not to return to practice as a Dietitian and indeed had explored, with the Registrant when posing questions to her, the possibility of her returning to work as a Dietitian in other areas of dietetics. Mrs Wheeler was adamant that no other areas of dietetics appealed to her. In light of that, the Panel had no option but to conclude that a Conditions of Practice Order would serve no useful purpose. In any case, it would have been difficult to formulate appropriate and workable conditions in such circumstances.

20. The Panel then considered imposing a further Suspension Order and determined that this was the appropriate action to be taken today in light of Mrs Wheeler’s submissions.  A Suspension Order would ensure the public was protected. The Panel determined that a further Suspension Order for a period of 12 months be imposed upon the expiry of the current order.

21. The Panel notes that Mrs Wheeler is considering applying for voluntary removal. If she does, in due course, apply for voluntary removal, the Panel expect that it will be dealt with urgently as it recognises that proceedings of this nature can, and are likely to, adversely affect Mrs Wheeler.

Order

The Panel confirmed the existing Suspension Order for a further 12 months.

Notes

The Suspension Order will be reviewed before its expiry on 30 March 2017.

This was a Substantive Review Hearing of the Health Committee heard at the HCPC on 23 February 2016.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Rachael C Wheeler

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
19/08/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Voluntary Removal agreed
23/02/2016 Health Committee Review Hearing Suspended