Miss Catherine Lucy Sullivan

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW17606

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 05/12/2018 End: 17:00 05/12/2018

Location: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

As found proven at the final hearing on 12 March 2018

While registered as a Social Worker and working at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust ('the Trust') between 8 January 2015 and 5 June 2016:


1.You did not complete visits or meetings, and/ or complete case note clinical recordings of visits or meetings, for:


a)Service User A on approximately 10 occasions, between approximately 9 January 2015 and 25 February 2016


b)Service User B on approximately 14 occasions, between approximately 14 January 2015 and 5 January 2016


c)Service User C on approximately 15 occasions, between approximately 15 January 2015 and 25 February 2016


d)Service User D on approximately 11 occasions, between approximately 15 January 2015 and 29 December 2015


e)Service User E on approximately 16 occasions, between approximately 28 January 2015 and 22 February 2016


f)Service User F on approximately 14 occasions, between approximately 27 January 2015 and 11 February 2016


g)Service User G on approximately 11 occasions, between approximately 27 January 2015 and 18 February 2016


h)Service User H on approximately 15 occasions, between approximately 29 January 2015 and 3 February 2016


i)Service User I on approximately 19 occasions, between approximately 5 March 2015 and 24 February 2016


j)Service User J on approximately 13 occasions, between approximately 13 April 2015 and 11 February 2016

2.On 15 December 2015, despite the training you were due to attend on this date being cancelled, you did not undertake and/or record undertaking work for the Trust on this date;

3.You were recorded in the team central diary informed that you were taking study leave to attend a Practice Educator Forum and Workshop at Brighton University on 8 January 2016 which was not the case.

4. Not proven

5.You recorded in your training record within your AMHP Accreditation Portfolio that you had attended an AMHP Legal Refresher course on 22 June 2015, when this was not the case;

6.Your actions at paragraph 2 and/or 3 and/or 4 and/or 5 were dishonest;

7.The matters set out in paragraph 1 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence;

8.The matters set out in paragraphs 2 - 6 constitute misconduct;

9.By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. The Panel was satisfied that Notice of today’s hearing had been served on the Registrant at her home address. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted to the address on the Register.

Proceeding in absence

2. The Registrant did not appear, nor was she represented.

3. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Simpson applied for the hearing to be conducted in the absence of the Registrant on the basis that the Registrant had been notified of the date, time and location of the hearing at her registered address. Ms Simpson submitted that the Registrant had not attended the substantive hearing in March 2018 and had, in fact, not engaged with the HCPC since before that hearing. Her submission was that adjourning today was not likely to result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date. Ms Simpson submitted that it was in the public interest for the hearing to proceed expeditiously.

4. Having considered the revised HCPTS Practice Note on “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant” and the advice of the Legal Assessor on the case of GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162 (“the fair, economical, expeditious and efficient disposal of allegations against medical practitioners is of real importance”), the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had received reasonable Notice of today’s hearing.

5. The Panel noted that the Registrant had not applied for an adjournment. There was no indication that she would attend at a later date if today’s hearing were to be adjourned. The Panel noted that the Registrant had not engaged with the regulatory process since well before the substantive hearing and it considered that she had voluntarily absented herself. The Panel reminded itself of the overriding public interest in dealing with matters in a timely manner and that this was a mandatory review. In balancing the Registrant’s interests and the public interest, the Panel decided that the matter should be heard in the absence of the Registrant.

Background

6. The Registrant was employed as a Senior Social Worker by Brighton and Hove City Council (the Council) and seconded to Sussex 5 Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust). The Registrant commenced employment with the Council on 25 August 2010. She was seconded to the West Assessment and Treatment Service, where she worked with service users with severe mental illness. Concerns were raised regarding her absences. On numerous occasions, no notes or records could be found for visits to service users that had been scheduled in her calendar. She also recorded herself as attending a training course when she had not in fact done so. The Trust started but did not conclude an investigation, as the Registrant resigned from her position. However, it referred the matter to the HCPC.

7. The Registrant sent a statement to the Investigating Committee of the HCPC on 5 November 2016. She made some admissions as to her failings, although little detail was provided, and she sought to explain the circumstances. She showed some awareness of the negative effect of her conduct on her profession. She maintained that pressure of circumstances and lack of resources were mitigating factors.

8. At a substantive hearing on 12-15 March 2018, a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee of the HCPC found the facts proved in relation to record keeping and dishonesty. The Panel found that the facts as proved amounted to misconduct and lack of competence.

9. In relation to impairment, that panel found that there was insufficient information from the Registrant to indicate whether she had developed insight or remedied her conduct, or whether it was likely to be repeated. The panel found that the Registrant’s acts and omissions, in particular the two instances of dishonesty, were such as to undermine public confidence in her profession and that a finding of impairment was required to uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour.

10. The aggravating factors were that the Registrant had given inaccurate information about her whereabouts on two occasions, that her recordkeeping failures were extensive, and she had only engaged with the regulatory process in a limited way. The mitigating factors included the pressured workplace environment, her previous good character and the fact that witnesses had described her as a previously excellent Social Worker.

11. A Conditions of Practice Order of 9 months’ duration was imposed as a sanction on 12 March 2018. The order required the Registrant to:

• complete courses in workload management and managing stress in the workplace, and submit evidence of these to the HCPC;

• remain under supervision if re-employed as a Social Worker;

• submit records of her supervision; and

• provide a written reflection on her conduct and the effects of this on the wider public interest.

12. The Registrant was encouraged to attend the review hearing with testimonials relating to any recent work. Submissions

13. Ms Simpson reminded this Panel of the history of the case, and of the Panel’s powers as to extending, continuing, varying or revoking the Order or imposing another Order. She submitted that there had been a lack of engagement from the Registrant before the substantive hearing and a total absence of engagement since then. There was no evidence that the Registrant had done either of the courses that she was required to undertake and there was no update or any other information about her current employment. There was therefore no evidence of insight or remediation. The concerns originally raised were serious and wide-ranging and included dishonest conduct. The Registrant had failed to take the opportunity to engage or remedy her failings or to show commitment to the profession.

14. Ms Simpson further submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remained impaired because the risk of repetition was high. She contended that conditions were no longer appropriate because there had been no engagement or compliance. She submitted that the minimum sanction, at this stage, was one of suspension, but she invited the Panel to consider a Striking Off Order in the circumstances. She advised that the Registrant had been notified that this was an option available to this Panel.

Decision

Decision on Impairment

15. A substantive review is a two-stage process. The first task of the Panel is to decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired and, if so, to then consider what sanction to impose, if any. In reaching its decision, the Panel considered all the relevant material and had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on “Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’”. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor on the principles of proportionality and fairness in considering impairment.

16. The Panel had firmly in mind that the purpose of this hearing was to conduct a thorough appraisal of the Registrant’s current fitness to practise, including changes of circumstances and an assessment of future risk, and that this was not a rehearing of the original case.

17. The Panel reminded itself of the public component in Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581: “the need to protect the individual and the collective need to maintain confidence in the profession as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect…and that the public interest includes, amongst other things, the protection of service users and the maintenance of public confidence in the profession.”

18. The Panel considered the two components relating to impairment, the personal component and the public component. It first considered the personal component: whether the conduct was remediable; whether it had been remedied; and whether it was likely to be repeated.

19. The Panel at the substantive hearing found wide-ranging and persistent deficiencies in the Registrant’s practice and made a finding of dishonesty. The risk of repetition was considered to be high. This Panel has received no information to persuade it that the risk has been reduced. The Registrant was given the opportunity by the substantive panel to provide evidence of insight, remorse, and remediation. She has failed to do so. The risk of repetition therefore remains high.

20. The Panel also determined that a finding of impairment was necessary in the wider public interest to protect the public and to maintain public confidence in the profession. A reasonable and informed member of the public would expect such a finding in the absence of any evidence of engagement or insight.

Decision on Sanction

21. The Panel considered the “Indicative Sanctions Policy” of the HCPC and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor that a sanction should be the least that is necessary to ensure public protection. The Panel reminded itself that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant and that a sanction must be reasonable and proportionate.

22. The Panel determined that the nature of the lack of competence and misconduct in this case was too serious to make no Order.

23. The Panel considered whether to impose a Caution Order, but decided that it was inappropriate as this was not an isolated instance of misconduct and a Caution Order would not provide sufficient public protection.

24. The Panel considered that a Conditions of Practice Order was not appropriate because the Registrant had failed to comply with the original Conditions of Practice Order imposed at the substantive hearing. The continuation of the Order would not be workable or verifiable in the absence of any engagement or insight on the part of the Registrant and it was no longer in the public interest to extend that opportunity when it had been disregarded.

 

 

 

25. The Panel went on to consider whether a Suspension Order would be a proportionate and appropriate measure and concluded that this would protect the public. The Panel considered whether the Registrant should be afforded this opportunity to demonstrate insight or remorse, but concluded, on the basis of her lack of engagement, that she was very unlikely to respond and that a Suspension Order would serve no purpose other than to prolong these proceedings unnecessarily.

26. The Panel noted paragraph 48 of the “Indicative Sanctions Policy”: “Striking off should used be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.” The Panel also noted there were two significant findings of dishonesty which amounted to misconduct that was serious.

27. In considering the sanction of Striking Off, the Panel had in mind that it was the sanction of last resort and that there was a public interest in retaining qualified practitioners. However, the total absence of engagement or response on the part of the Registrant was such that the Panel concluded that it was the appropriate and proportionate sanction at this stage. There was no evidence of remorse, insight, engagement or remediation of any kind presented to this Panel. A Striking Off Order was therefore the necessary and proportionate measure to protect the public and to uphold the wider public interest.

Order

The Panel decided to strike the name of the Registrant from the registar on expiry of the current Order. The Order imposed today will apply from 12 January 2019.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Catherine Lucy Sullivan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
05/12/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
12/03/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice