Ms Sarah Helen Goldby
Please note that the decision can take up to 5 working days to be uploaded onto the HCPTS website. Please contact one of our Hearings Team Managers via email@example.com or +44 (0)808 164 3084 if you require any further information.
During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Durham County Council between December 2015 and 24 August 2016;
- Between or around the 4-6 May 2016, in regards to service user A, prior to his discharge from hospital you;
a) Did not complete an/or any adequate assessment of service user A’s needs and/or what services were identified to meet these needs;
b) Did not complete an/or any adequate Care Plan for service user A;
c) Did not adequately advise relevant parties of the planned discharge of service user A, which included;
i. your colleagues; and/or
ii. the Locality Team;
d) Did not seek the appropriate authorisation for the amended care package;
e) Did not maintain accurate case records in regards to service user A in a timely manner;
f) Did not adequately involve service user A’s family in the assessment process
i. to ensure their views were included; and/or
ii. to ensure that they could provide the level of care required during the day;
g) Did not adequately share appropriate and/or accurate information with;
i. service user A;
ii. the care agency.
2. Your actions as set out in paragraphs 1a - g amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.
3. By reason of this misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.
1. The Panel was provided with a copy of the Notice sent by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address on 16 November 2018, setting out the time, date and venue for this review and the possibility of the Panel proceeding without the Registrant in the event that she did not attend. The Panel was provided with proof of postage by way of a signed declaration by an HCPC employee. The Panel was thus satisfied with service in this case.
Proceeding in absence
2. The Registrant did not attend the review hearing. She did not provide any written representations nor did she respond to the Notice of Hearing, which was both posted and emailed to her. She did, however, respond to an email, sent to her on 27 November 2018, reminding her that her Suspension Order was due to be reviewed. In an email of the same date, the Registrant sent a single sentence reply, which stated, “I intend not to practice [sic] as a social worker in the future.”
3. Ms Simpson, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
4. When deciding whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, the Panel took into account the submissions made by Ms Simpson and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It bore in mind that, although it had a discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, this discretion should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel was cognisant of the fact that this was a statutory review and its purpose was to review a Suspension Order before the date it was due to expire. The review therefore needed to be conducted before 17 January 2019 and, if adjourned, it would be difficult to do so. Furthermore, there was nothing to suggest the Registrant would attend on another occasion.
5. The Registrant had not attended the substantive hearing or the first review and, in her email dated 27 November 2018, had made it clear that she no longer intended to practise as a Social Worker. She had not asked that this hearing be adjourned in order to allow her to attend on another date. The Panel therefore decided that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing and thereby waived her right to be present. The Panel considered there was a public interest in the matter proceeding and it was also in the Registrant’s own interests that the Order be reviewed.
6. In all the circumstances, the Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.
7. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. The Registrant commenced employment as an Intermediate Care Social Worker, for the Intermediate Care Plus Service in the South Durham Team on behalf of Durham County Council (the Council). The Registrant was responsible for adults over 18 with a physical disability and primarily dealt with hospital discharge assessments.
8. Concerns were raised with regards to the Registrant’s practice in relation to the discharge of Service User A. Service User A was approximately 68 years old and was discharged home from University Hospital North Tees on 4 May 2016. The concerns were investigated by the Intermediate Care South Durham Manager and resulted in the matter being referred to the HCPC on 27 June 2016. The allegations in this case arose out of that investigation.
9. The Final Hearing Panel found all but one of the matters alleged proved and that they amounted to misconduct. In reaching its decision on impairment, the Final Hearing Panel stated:
“There has been no engagement from the Registrant during the hearing. As a consequence, there was limited evidence before the Panel that she fully appreciates the gravity of her conduct and behaviour and had reflected on the impact of her behaviour on Service User A, other service users, her employer and the wider public. There was also no explanation as to how she would behave differently in the future. The Registrant demonstrated some insight in that she acknowledged in her letter to the HCPC, dated 10 January 2017, that she was, ‘very disappointed in [her]self…’ and offered an apology for her ‘lack of professionalism.’ However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s insight was inadequate in that it does not acknowledge the risks and consequences of her failings.
The Panel recognised that the Registrant’s failings are, in theory, capable of remediation provided that there is evidence of sincere and meaningful reflection and that appropriate steps have been taken to remedy the misconduct. However, the Registrant has provided no information that would assist the Panel in this regard. The Panel took the view that in the absence of sufficient insight and any steps that the Registrant has taken towards remediation there remains an ongoing risk of repetition which has the potential to place service users at risk of harm.
The Panel concluded that for these reasons the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired based on the personal component.
In considering the public component the Panel had regard to the important public policy issues which include the need to maintain confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and professionalism.
Members of the public would be extremely concerned to learn that a registered Social Worker working with a vulnerable service user had compromised his safety and well-being. The Registrant’s conduct not only placed Service User A at risk of harm, but also brought the profession into disrepute and undermined a fundamental tenet of the profession in respect of the high standards expected of all registered Social Workers. As a consequence, the Panel concluded that public confidence would be significantly undermined if a finding of current impairment of fitness to practise was not made, given the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct. In reaching this conclusion the Panel took into account the Registrant’s submissions regarding her health at the material time. The Panel accepted that the Registrant may have been unwell during the relevant period. However, there was insufficient medical evidence that the Registrant’s health was a significant factor and therefore the Panel gave the Registrant’s assertion only limited weight.
The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of both the personal component and the wider public interest and therefore the HCPC’s case is well-founded.”
10. When considering sanction, the Final Hearing Panel acknowledged that the Registrant’s lapse in professionalism related to a single service user, occurred during a relatively short period of time and was an isolated incident within the context of an otherwise unblemished career. However, as the Registrant had demonstrated only limited insight into her misconduct, provided no evidence of remediation and the risk of repetition remained, that Panel concluded that taking no action or a Caution Order would be inappropriate.
11. In deciding that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate either, the Final Hearing Panel said:
“The Panel noted that a Conditions of Practice Order requires a willingness on the part of the Registrant to comply with them and a willingness to make a determined effort to remediate the previous misconduct. The Panel concluded that given the absence of any evidence that the Registrant is willing and able to perform the role of a Social Worker to a competent standard, the Panel could not be assured that she would comply with a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel concluded that there were no conditions it could devise which would not be so restrictive as to amount to suspension by another name. Furthermore, the Panel concluded that, given the Registrant’s lack of engagement, conditions would undermine public confidence in the profession and undermine the need to uphold proper standards of conduct and professionalism.”
12. The Final Hearing Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Suspension Order for a period of six months. It gave its reasons as follows:
“A Suspension Order would re-affirm to the Registrant, the profession and the public the standards expected of a registered Social Worker. The Panel noted that a Suspension Order would prevent the Registrant from practising as a Social Worker during the suspension period, which would therefore provide protection to the public. However, a Suspension Order would also provide the Registrant with the opportunity to consider carefully the decision of this Panel and properly focus on the issues of insight and remediation.”
13. That Order was first reviewed by a Panel on 8 June 2018. The Registrant did not attend the review or provide any written representations or material for that Panel to consider. Accordingly, there was no evidence before that Panel to satisfy it that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was no longer impaired. Consequently, that Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired for the same reasons as the Final Hearing Panel.
14. In deciding the appropriate sanction, that reviewing Panel decided to allow the Registrant a further opportunity to engage, reflect upon her failings and demonstrate remediation. Accordingly, it extended the period of suspension for a further six months.
15. This Panel has taken into account all the documentation placed before it, together with the submissions made by Ms Simpson. The Registrant had not engaged, other than to say that she no longer intended practising as a Social Worker, and had not provided any material for the Panel to consider. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and in reaching its decisions referred to the HCPTS’s Practice Note on ‘Finding Fitness to Practise is Impaired’.
16. The Panel first considered the issue of current impairment. The Panel took account of the principle set out in Abrahaem v GMC  EWHC 183 (Admin) that there is a persuasive burden at a review hearing for the Registrant to demonstrate that he has “fully acknowledged why past performance was deficient and through insight, application, education, supervision or other achievement sufficiently addressed the past impairments.”
17. The Panel at the Final Hearing, and the first review, found the Registrant’s fitness to practise impaired on both public protection and public interest grounds for the reasons stated above. The first reviewing Panel indicated that the next reviewing Panel would be assisted by the Registrant’s re-engagement with the process, her attendance in person, a reflective piece, evidence that she had kept her skills and knowledge up to date and testimonials. The Registrant had not heeded that advice and thus the Panel could not be satisfied that the risks identified at the Final Hearing and first review were not still present. The Registrant had provided no evidence acknowledging why her past performance was deficient. She had not provided any evidence of insight, application, education, supervision or other achievement to demonstrate that she had addressed the past impairments. The Panel therefore decided that her fitness to practise remained impaired on public protection grounds.
18. The Panel went on to consider whether a finding of impairment on public interest grounds was needed in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the Regulator. The Panel was satisfied that a fully informed member of the public, who was aware of all the background to this case, would have their confidence in the profession and the Regulator undermined if a finding of impairment were not made, given the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct in a number of core, basic areas fundamental to her professional practice.
19. Accordingly, the Panel found the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired on public interest grounds also.
20. The Panel then considered what sanction was both appropriate and proportionate in all the circumstances and in doing so considered the sanctions guidance. The Panel noted that the Registrant had now been suspended for almost a year, but had taken no steps to remediate her failings or to demonstrate insight into them. She had not engaged with her Regulator at the Final Hearing or the first review, or at any stage thereafter, other than to indicate her intention to no longer work as a Social Worker. There was, therefore, no indication that she was in any way committed to resolving her failings. In such circumstances a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate or workable.
21. The Panel thus had little choice but either to further suspend the Registrant or to remove her from the Register. The Panel noted that the first reviewing Panel, when deciding not to make a Striking Off Order at that stage, said:
“The Panel did not consider that the current circumstances are such that they indicated that a Striking Off Order was appropriate, nor justified. However, that is not to say that the position will remain the same at the end of this further period of suspension if there is a continuing lack of engagement by the Registrant and an inability or unwillingness on her part to address her shortcomings.”
22. Whilst not bound by those comments, the Panel noted that, other than her indication that she no longer intended practising as a Social Worker, there was a continuing lack of engagement and no evidence of any willingness on her part to address her shortcomings. The Panel considered this unfortunate, particularly given the nature of this case, the fact that it was an isolated incident and the failings were core basic skills, capable of remediation.
23. The Panel considered it was not sensible to continue the review process where it appeared that the Registrant was unwilling or unable to remediate her failings and had made her intentions clear. In the absence of any remediation or insight, or any evidence that the Registrant was prepared to positively engage with her Regulator, the Panel decided the only appropriate and proportionate sanction was to make a Striking Off Order. The Panel took into account the impact this may have on the Registrant, however this was outweighed by the public interest in appropriately dealing with cases where a Registrant had chosen not to engage with the fitness to practise proceedings.
ORDER: The registrar is directed to strike the Registrant from the Register with immediate effect, in accordance with Article 30(2) and (4).
Right of Appeal
You may appeal to the High Court in England and Wales against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.
Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.
European Alert Mechanism
In accordance with Regulation 67 of the European Union (Recognition of Professional Qualifications) Regulations 2015, the HCPC will inform the competent authorities in all other EEA States that your right to practise has been restricted.
You may appeal to the County Court against the HCPC’s decision to do so. Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. This right of appeal is separate from your right to appeal against the decision and order of the Panel.