Mr Graham James Murphy

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW29383

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 09:00 23/07/2018 End: 16:00 27/07/2018

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Whilst working at the Flintshire County Council between 08 June 2016 and 07 September 2016 you:

1) Did not attend a core group meeting for service user A on or around 07 September 2016

2) Between 08 June 2016 and 07 September 2016 you contacted service user A on your personal mobile phone without a work related reason for doing so

3) Sent inappropriate whatsapp messages to service user A stating the following or words to the effect of:
a) "without being inappropriate it's a very nice pic of you"
b) "have a nice night x"
c) "thanks people wouldn't get that I'm being nice and just think it's inappropriate!! I should be able to tell you that you look ???? on your profile picture"
d) "now you know I can't say that but it's a good compliment"

4) Did not attend core group meetings for service user B for the following days:
a) 03 August 2016
b) 23 September 2016

5) Did not attend core group meetings for service user C on 23 June 2016

6) Did not attend core group meetings for service user D on the following days:
a) 10 June 2016
b) 11 July 2016 and / or did not record the core group meeting on the Paris database
c) 31 August 2016

7) Did not attend core group meetings for service user E on the following days:
a) 16 June 2016
b) 19 July 2016

8) Did not attend core group meetings for service user F on 01 August 2016

9) Did not attend core group meetings for service user G on the following days:
a) 05 July 2016
b) 19 July 2016
c) 27 July 2016
d) 31 August 2016

10) Did not complete the following assessments:
a) In the case of Service User E Parenting assessment 01 August 2016
b) In the case of Service User F Initial assessment 27 July 2016
c) In the case of Service User G Pre-Birth Risk assessment 5 August 2016
d) In the case of Service User H risk 2 assessment due on 27 July 2016
e) In the case of Service User I Risk 2 assessment 01 August 2016
f) In the case of Service User J Risk 2 assessment 01 August 2016
g) In the case of Service User K Parenting assessment 02 August 2016
h) In the case of Service User L Parenting assessment 3 August 2016
i) In the case of Service User M Risk 2 assessment 27 July 2016
j) In the case of Service User N Pre-Birth Risk assessment 27 July 2016

11) The matters described in paragraphs 1 - 10 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

12) By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters


Notice and Proceeding in Absence

1. The Panel was satisfied that proper notice had been provided to the Registrant in terms of the notice of hearing sent to his registered address with the HCPC on 19 April 2018.  Ms Sheridan applied to proceed in the absence of the Registrant.  By email of 21 February 2018, the Registrant advised the HCPC that for personal and health reasons he would not be attending the hearing. The Registrant has not sought an adjournment. Ms Sheridan told the Panel that since that email there had been no further engagement by the Registrant with the HCPC. Ms Sheridan submitted there was a public interest in proceeding and that there were six witnesses who were scheduled to attend this hearing.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred to the HCPTS Practice Note on Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant. The Panel is aware that its discretion to proceed in absence is one which should be exercised with the utmost care.  The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to Adeogba v GMC  [2016] EWCA Civ 162 which makes clear that the first question the Panel should ask is whether all reasonable efforts have been taken to serve the Registrant with notice. Thereafter, if the Panel is satisfied on notice, the discretion whether or not to proceed must be exercised having regard to all the circumstances of which the Panel is aware with fairness to the Registrant being a prime consideration, but with fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public also considered. 

3. The Registrant has indicated that he will not be attending and has explained his personal circumstances. The events took place in 2016 and witnesses are available to provide evidence at this hearing.  There was a public interest in proceeding and the Panel took the view that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself and waived his right to attend. The Panel determined that in the circumstances it was fair and appropriate to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. 

Further Evidence

4. The Legal Assessor advised that an earlier, undated email from the Registrant was available which he had sent to the HCPC at the Investigating Committee stage.  The Legal Assessor told the Panel that the HCPC had requested that the Registrant provide his consent to disclose this to the Panel, but the Registrant had not positively done so.  Ms Sheridan therefore had no instructions and was not in a position to present this evidence to the Panel.  The Panel took the Legal Assessor’s advice.  He advised that the information in the email appeared to be relevant and would likely be of assistance to the Panel.  It also appeared to be helpful to the Registrant’s case.  He reminded the Panel of the importance of fairness and the public interest. Ms Sheridan did not object.

5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and determined that it was fair and appropriate to admit the undated email from the Registrant into the evidence. It appeared to be relevant and was likely to be of assistance to the Panel. 

Application to Amend

6. Ms Sheridan applied to amend the allegation and set out the proposed amendments.  She submitted that these were required to align the allegation with the evidence of the witnesses and the witness key. The proposed amendments did not increase the seriousness of the allegation.  Ms Sheridan told the Panel that the proposed amendments were sent to the Registrant on 4 September  2017 and he had not objected. Amendments of minor typographical errors in 10 (d) and 10 (i) were also sought.
 
7. The Panel took legal advice and bore in mind the issue of fairness. The proposed amendments better reflected the evidence and do not alter the nature or gravity of the allegation.  The Registrant has received notice of the proposed amendment and has not objected. The Panel determined that it was fair to allow the amendment and that it was in the interests of justice to do so.

Application for Video Link Evidence
 
8. Ms Sheridan set out the application by reference to her written skeleton submission seeking that the evidence of RH be taken by video link.  For health reasons she would prefer not to attend in person as this would require lengthy travel. Ms Sheridan told the Panel that the Registrant has had notice of this application and has not objected.

9. The Panel took and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to fairness and its power to manage proceedings.  He referred it to the HCPTS Practice Note on Case Management, Directions and Preliminary Hearings.  The Panel was satisfied that in the circumstances it was appropriate it allow the evidence of RH to be taken by video link.  This measure will not prevent the Panel assessing and questioning the witness and will allow the hearing to be conducted fairly and appropriately. 

Application to Admit further evidence

10. Ms Sheridan sought that a further document be admitted in to evidence.  She explained that there was an email from the witness RH which set out the deadline dates for the assessments referred to in the allegation, and this supplemented RH’s witness statement.  She submitted that this was fair and it helped to explain the dates in the allegation. She added that the witness could be questioned in live evidence.  The Registrant had been notified of this application and had not objected. The Panel was satisfied that it was fair and appropriate to admit this email in to the evidence and allowed the application.

HCPC Opening

11. Ms Sheridan opened the case for the HCPC.  The Registrant was employed by Flintshire County Council (“the Council”) for three months from 8 June 2016 as a Level 3 Agency Social Worker.

12. Ms Sheridan explained that RH had received a call from Action for Children about the Registrant’s relationship with Service User A and his failure to attend a Core Group Meeting.  It was alleged that the Registrant had crossed professional boundaries with that service user using social media.  Other concerns arose with the Registrant’s practice regarding his alleged failure to attend a number of Core Group Meetings and to complete assessments in a timely manner respect of a number of children.  

13. The Panel heard from seven witnesses.  RH, a Team Manager from the Council; AJ, the Registrant’s line manager at the Council; JL and JJ, School Nurses; and YH, JW and EB , Health Visitors.


Witness 1  - RH 


14. RH affirmed and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief.  She explained that she had interviewed the Registrant who had good experience and she had offered him a job as a Level 3 Social Worker. She said that at that level, the Registrant would be expected to understand all social worker practice and require little in the way of support and direction.

15.  RH explained Service User A’s circumstances and the reasons for her involvement with social work. She told the Panel about her contact with the service user and her concerns about the allegation the service user had made about the Registrant contacting her by social media outside working hours. She told the Panel that the service user had expressed concern that the Registrant had contacted her by social media in what appeared to be an overly familiar way and which suggested more than a professional relationship. RH said she had met the service user along with a colleague who had looked at the service user’s mobile telephone and noted word for word what the Registrant had said in the various messages sent to her by social media “Whats App”.  This was set out in her witness statement and in the allegation. 

16. RH said that she had spoken to the Registrant about this and had been concerned that he did not seem to grasp the seriousness of the matter. He had been very upset during the meeting but he had not provided her with any proper explanation. RH said she felt that the Registrant was not being open with her.  She explained that the messages were clearly sent from the Registrant’s “Whats App” profile as his mobile number and picture appeared.  The number was not his work mobile telephone number and in any event the work telephones could not access Whats App.  RH explained the importance of professional boundaries with service users and the particular vulnerability of Service User A. RH told the Panel that the service user had consequently expressed doubts about the involvement of social services and the Registrant.

17. RH explained that the Social Worker was responsible for scheduling, attending and writing up the minutes of Core Group Meetings.  These were crucial meetings where decisions were made about Child Protection Plans and the meetings need to take place swiftly to make sure plans, if required, are put in place, actions are carried out by the team and are frequently reviewed. The Core Group Meeting assessed and reviewed risk. Having undertaken an audit of the Registrant’s caseload, prompted by concerns raised by other professionals about his performance, RH explained she found that the Registrant had failed to complete assessments and attend Core Group Meetings. He had been supported and was given two days to work alone to catch up with his work.  Despite that, the Registrant had still failed to complete assessments  in an acceptable timescale. 

18. RH said that the Registrant had told her that visits had been done but that he had not had time to enter them on the recording system. She explained the deadlines for assessments to be completed, and the Registrant’s failure to do so.  The period was normally 35 working days from the point of allocation and that was made clear to, and well known by, Social Workers.  A Level 3 Social Worker would be expected to be aware of this timescale.

19. RH said she was not aware of any other issues regarding the Registrant’s personal circumstances which may have affected his practice. 

20. RH told the Panel as regards caseload, that the Registrant would have been given some flexibility about timescales for completion of his work, because he has been allocated his entire caseload at the commencement of his appointment. However, the concern was that none of his work was completed on time. She said that she would expect at least 50% of the assessment of his 15 cases to be completed on time, with work being carried out on the remaining assessments. None should be more than a few weeks late. She said she did not know about the rearrangement of Core Group Meetings after the Registrant left the Council, but she considered that the delay may have impacted on the service users as risks may not have been monitored as closely as they ought to have been. In addition, this could have lead to children remaining subject to a Child Protection Plan unnecessarily

21. RH told the Panel that the Registrant had not seen the typed up log of the “Whats App” messages with Service User A, but at the time she had discussed it with him and asked him to comment  on the conversation.  RH was not aware whether the Registrant had ever asked for support or adjustments to be made.  RH explained that there had been no further investigation by the Council as the Registrant had been instantly dismissed. She did not know over what period of time the conversation between the Registrant and the service user  had taken place.

Witness 2 - AJ

22. AJ took the oath and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief.  She is a registered Social Worker and is a Team Manager at the Council responsible for supervising and managing social workers.  She undertook the supervision of the Registrant. 

23. AJ confirmed that the Registrant raised no issues with her regarding his social work role or any personal circumstances that may have  impacted on his practice.  If he had, she said she would have recorded that in the supervision records. She believed she had an open and honest relationship with the Registrant.  She recalled the discussions regarding the concerns raised about the Registrant’s statutory visits.  She said the Registrant did express a concern about his caseload but was given 2 days in a separate room to catch up with the recording of his statutory visits.  His caseload was the same as other Social Workers. AJ had looked at the Registrant’s caseload and explained that she found that he was not attending Core Group Meetings, although he never told her that. She said she only had one supervision session with the Registrant.

24. In response to Panel questions, AJ said she would have expected the Registrant to meet the timescales applicable to the assessments.  If they were late, she would have expected some explanation or rationale from the Registrant.  She said he had never raised any issues with her, such as his health or any personal issues.

Witness 3 – JJ

25. JJ took the oath and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief.  She is a School Nurse and registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. She explained that she worked in a multi-disciplinary team and liaised with Social Workers very frequently in her role.

26. JJ told the Panel about her attendance at Core Group Meetings with the Registrant and her email to the Registrant on 19 July 2016   following his failure to attend the arranged Core Group Meeting.  He had never explained to her the reason for his failure to attend that meeting and had not responded to her email.  The child’s mother had been unhappy and angry about the lack of progress regarding the Child Protection Plan.  The Registrant would have been aware from other meetings that the mother was anxious.  

27. JJ told the Panel about the manner in which Core Group Meetings are arranged and the importance of reviewing the position at each meeting. For example, whether the child should remain subject to a Child Protection Plan. The lack of a meeting did impact on the mother but JJ did not consider that the missed meeting impacted on the children, with whom she had continued to work.

Witness 4 – JL

28. JL took the oath and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief.  She is a School Nurse and is registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council. She explained that she worked in a multi-disciplinary team and frequently liaised with Social Workers. She liaised with the Registrant in her role and had been the School Nurse dealing with children 7, 9 and 10.

29. JL explained her role with Child 7 and the views of the mother regarding the involvement of social work.  At a Core Group Meeting on 23 June 2016 the mother had expressed an intention not to attend further meetings at the child’s school.  JL knew Social Work had been advised of this and said that she had expected the Registrant to arrange the next Core Group Meeting at another venue. However, the Registrant did not do so.  She said that despite contacting the Registrant, the next meeting on 14 July 2016 was cancelled and she had never heard from the Registrant.  No Core Group Meeting was rearranged.  She recalled that the next Core Group Meeting was not held until September 2016 after the Registrant had left the Council.  JL explained that the mother then removed the child from the school.  She could not say whether the lack of meetings had an impact on the child but said she was not sure the child’s views about the choice of school had been fully considered as he would have been entitled to attend Core Group Meetings and express his views.

30. JL explained her role with regard to Children 9 and 10. On 16 August 2016, she had attended a Child Protection Review Conference where it was noted that the protocols had not been fully complied with, and assessments had not been completed by the Registrant.  As a result, the planned review was deferred and the Chair of the meeting had made clear to the Registrant that this was not acceptable. JL said that she had attended Child Protection Review Conferences for many years and had never been at one where statutory visits had not been carried out by the social worker.

Witness 5 – EB

31. EB affirmed and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She has been a Health Visitor for 15 years. She explained her interaction with social workers during and after a referral and her involvement in Core Group Meetings. 

32. EB explained that she was involved in the case of Child 11. She referred to her notes for 1 August 2016 at the planned Core Group Meeting. EB said that the Registrant failed to attend, as did the mother of the child.  EB left a message for the Registrant but he did not explain his absence or return her call.  She then left messages again on 2, 3 and 4 August 2016 for the Registrant, but she received no response from him.  He also failed to respond to emails she sent about the missed Core Group meetings and Child Protection Review Conferences.

33. EB said that the Child Protection Plan would not have been considered as the Core Group meeting did not take place. She explained that the child’s mother was confused as to why these meetings did not take place and EB understood that the Registrant did not explain the arrangements for meetings to the mother, as was his responsibility.

Witness 6 – JW

34. JW affirmed and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a Health Visitor. She attended a Core Group Meeting regarding Child 8 on July 2016, where the Registrant was present and at that meeting the next meeting was arranged. She confirmed that the Registrant failed to attend the next meeting on 31 August 2016. She had contacted the Registrant and left messages for him on 1 and 5 September 2016 but she had received no reply or explanation from him. JW said  she had probably left the messages at Children Services at the Council and not on the Registrant’s mobile number as she would not have had his number.

Witness 7 - YH

35. YH took the oath and confirmed that the contents of her witness statement were true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a Health Visitor and involved in the Core Group Meetings with the Local Authority in respect of Children 6, 12, 13 and 14.

36. YH referred to her notes and said that the Registrant was the allocated Social Worker for the children.  In relation to Children 12, 13 and 14 he did not attend the Core Groups Meetings on 19 or 27 July 2016. He had attended a Child Protection Conference on 8 August 2016 but had arrived an hour late for the Core Group Meeting on 18 August.  He had arranged a further Core Group Meeting for 31 August 2016, but failed to attend that meeting. The family and School Nurse had also failed to attend. It was for the Social Worker to arrange these meetings and to ensure that all the relevant professionals were invited. 

37. YH said she spoke to the Registrant on the telephone about a reconvened Core Groups Meeting on 6 September 2016, but the parents then refused to attend that meeting.  The parents said that they had not seen the allocated social worker, the Registrant, and there had been no progress with the Child Protection Plan. A home visit to the family (with YH and the Registrant) was also arranged for 5 July 2016. But YH waited for an hour for the Registrant to arrive but he failed to do so and subsequently gave no reason for his absence.

38. YH told the Panel about Child 6. The Registrant had failed to attend the Core Group Meeting on 3 August 2016, at which YH was present. He provided YH with no reason for his failure to attend. YH said that the child’s mother had been disappointed as she had wanted to make progress. YH said that from August 2016 to October 2016, there had been no Core Group Meetings in respect of this child (although the Panel had noted that the Registrant left his employment with the Council on 7 September 2016). YH explained that would mean the child protection plan was not discussed or reviewed. She said that Core Group Meetings were essential to keep the plan moving.

39. YH said she did not get to know the Registrant well.  She said she worried for the families when he failed to attend.  She said she had no cause for concern about the Registrant’s health and that he always seemed positive. 

Closing Submissions for the HCPC

40. Ms Sheridan summarised the evidence and the HCPC case. She addressed the Panel on the burden of proof and on the law in respect of lack of competence and misconduct.  Ms Sheridan referred the Panel to the law on misconduct, lack of competence and on impairment of his fitness to practise.

41. Ms Sheridan referred to the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance  and ethics  (January 2016).  She referred the Panel to standards 1.1,1.7, 2.1 and 10. She submitted that particulars 2 and 3 of the allegation amounted to misconduct and involved a vulnerable, single parent. In respect of failing to arrange and attend Core Group Meetings, she said this was repeated and impacted on the Child Protection Plans. The alleged failures to record assessments would have impacted on the Council’s ability to assess and review risks to the children.

42. On impairment of his fitness to practise, Ms Sheridan referred to the HCPTS Practice Note on Impairment and to the personal and public components. She referred to the guidance in Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Grant  [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin).  She referred to the lack of engagement by the Registrant and the lack of evidence of insight and remediation and to the importance of maintaining confidence in the profession. She submitted that public confidence would be undermined were a finding of impairment of his fitness to practise.

Decision on Facts 

43. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.  He advised the Panel on the approach to facts and that the applicable civil burden of proof, the “balance of probabilities” which rested on the HCPC. The Registrant need prove nothing.  The Panel is required to assess the witnesses and all the evidence before it and make individual findings on fact for each particular of the allegation.

44. On the alleged grounds of lack of competence and misconduct, the Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the guidance in Holton v General Medical Council [2006] EWHC 2960, Roylance v GMC (No 2) [2001] 1 AC 311 and GMC v Meadow [2006] EWCA Civ 1319.  He reminded the Panel that on grounds, there was no burden of proof, and it was a matter for their own professional judgement.

45. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and to the guidance on assessing impairment in the case of Grant. He reminded the Panel of the central importance of the public interest and the need to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct, performance and ethics in the profession. He also reminded the Panel of the need to maintain confidence in the profession and the Regulator.

46. The Panel assessed all the witnesses. It found all the witnesses to be credible, consistent and balanced and did their best to assist the Panel. 

Particular 1 –  Proved

47. RH said that she had been told by her colleague that the Registrant had not attended the Core Group Meeting on 7 September 2016.  Whilst the Panel recognised that this was hearsay evidence, it was satisfied that on balance the particular is proved given the information provided to RH by service user A, who had confirmed the absence of the Registrant at this meeting.

Particular 2 – Proved

48. RH said she saw the screenshots on Service User A’s telephone which identified the Registrant by his personal mobile telephone number and a profile photograph.

Particular 3 a) – d) – Proved

49. The Panel was satisfied that the evidence supported the words allegedly used in the messages. It heard evidence from RH that the messages had been transcribed by a Senior Practitioner who was present along with RH when she viewed the service user’s telephone.  The Panel determined that the messages breached professional boundaries and were inappropriate, particularly given the power imbalance between the Registrant and the  vulnerable service user. 


Particular 4 a) – b) – Proved


50. YH confirmed the non-attendance of the Registrant on both of the dates alleged.  There was some doubt about the date being 2 or 3 August 2016.  The Panel noted that that the other parties attended the meeting on 3 August 2016 but the Registrant, whom the Panel heard would have been responsible for organising the meeting, did not. Even if the date had been 2 August 2016, there was no evidence that other parties, or the Registrant, had attended on the previous day. 


Particular 5 – Proved


51. JL confirmed that the Registrant did not attend the Core Group Meeting on 14 July 2016 and that he had also failed to rearrange that meeting.


Particular  6  a) - Proved


52. AJ and JW both confirmed in their evidence that the Registrant did not attend a Core Group Meeting on 31 August 2016, despite this date having been agreed on 16 August 2016 at the Child Protection Conference.


Particular  6  b) – Not Proved


53. AJ confirmed in her evidence that the Registrant attended a Core Group Meeting on 11 July 2016.  The Panel noted in the bundle an uploaded record dated 11 July 2016 at 14:30, referring to the Core Group Meeting held that day.  It is not clear who made that entry and the Panel noted that it refers to AJ and the Registrant in the third person.   AJ was not taken to this record.  On balance, the Panel cannot be satisfied that the Registrant did not upload this entry and finds this not proved. 


Particular  7 - Proved


54. JJ, AJ and JL referred in evidence to this particular.  The Panel also considered the 19 July 2016 email from JJ to the Registrant about his failure to attend the 19 July 2016 meeting.  Their evidence was clear that the Registrant did not attend the Core Group Meeting on 19 July 2016.


Particular 8 – Proved


55. EB’s evidence was that the Registrant did not indicate he was not attending the meeting on 1 August 2016; he did not attend and he never explained why he had not done so.  EB heard nothing from him despite leaving several messages for him to contact her.


Particular 9 a), b), c) , d) -  Proved


56. YH set out in her evidence that the Registrant had not attended the Core Group Meetings on 19 July 2016, 27 July 2016 or on 31 August 2016 in respect of these children. YH had a clear recollection of arranging the joint visit with the Registrant.  She recalled waiting for an hour for the Registrant at the family home for the joint visit on 5 July 2016, which he failed to attend. She was fair in accepting that she ought to have detailed matters more fully in her notes, but the Panel was satisfied that, on balance, YH’s recollection of the 5 July 2016 meeting was reliable.  


Particular 10 a) – j) -  Proved


57. RH gave evidence about the due dates for the various assessments set out in the particular, being 35 working days.  The Panel accepted that evidence and that the due dates for the assessments are proved. RH also told the Panel that none of the assessments set out in the particular were recorded on the system.


58. The Panel considered the evidence as to completion of the assessments.  RH accepted that the assessments may have been “work in progress”. There was no evidence that any of the assessments were found after the Registrant’s departure from the Council. RH said less than 10% of what should have been recorded by the Registrant had actually been recorded on the system.  RH said it was hard to piece together what work had been done by the Registrant.  She said that in her consideration of the Registrant’s cases, there was no evidence on the system that these assessments had been completed. On balance, the Panel found that it was more likely than not that the assessments were not completed.


Decision on Grounds


59. The Registrant was an experienced Social Worker at Level 3.  The Panel was satisfied that he knew what he ought to do and his failings related to basic social work practice.  The Panel found that the findings of fact do not  amount to a lack of competence.


60. The findings as to the messages sent to Service User A were an abuse of trust and a breach of professional boundaries in respect of a vulnerable service user. The Registrant had the power to recommend whether serve user A’s children remained subject to a Child Protection Plan. The Registrants attempt to engage service user A in personal communication was an abuse of this position of trust and could have placed service user A in a more vulnerable position. In addition, there was also a risk that this could have compromised the Registrants professional judgement.  The Panel determined that these findings alone amount to behaviour which falls far below what would be proper in the circumstances and amounts to misconduct. 


61. The Registrant’s repeated and unexplained failure to attend  Core Group Meetings, and to complete and record assessments were serious.  The evidence was that the Registrant completed only 10% of his work.  These were important meetings, crucial to the development and review of care plans and risk and impacted on the welfare of service users and their families. The Panel found that these findings fell below what would have been proper in the circumstances.  The Panel found that these failures amount to misconduct.


62. The Panel considered the following HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics were breached by the Registrant :-


“1.1 You must treat service users and carers as individuals, respecting their privacy and dignity.
1.7 You must keep your relationships with service users and carers professional.
10.1 You must keep full, clear and accurate records for everyone you care for, treat, or provide services to.
10.2 You must complete all records promptly and as soon as possible after providing care, treatment or other services”


Impairment


63. The Panel carefully considered the HCPTC Practice Note on Impairment and the guidance in the case of Grant.


64. The Panel noted the terms of the undated email statement from the Registrant.  He has expressed some remorse and does not seek to blame anyone.  He states that he accepts responsibility -  “I am wholly embarrassed and disheartened that I have let myself and others around down by my action or lack of action….I could sit and try to look for reasons to blame others for my poor performance, lack of support, isolation from the team, excessive workload.  However, I am responsible for my actions no matter how I feel about other issues”. In addition, in his email to the HCPC dated 21 Feb 2018 the Registrant stated, “I have previously made my position and feelings regarding this case known. I will again convey my sincere apologies for any upset, distress of lack of professional competence my actions have caused.”


65. The Registrant has demonstrated some insight in this statement, but the evidence of insight is limited.  His email statement also indicates that the Registrant may have had, and continues to have, some serious health issues.  It is unfortunate that the Panel has not seen any independent evidence of any health condition that may have impacted on the Registrant’s practice.  The Panel accordingly was not able to form any proper view of the impact any health condition may have had on the Registrant’s fitness to practise.
66. The Panel has no evidence of remediation or the Registrant’s current circumstances.  The misconduct found is serious and there was a potential that children could have been placed at risk of harm.  The Registrant’s misconduct is remediable but in the absence of any evidence of remediation, the Panel finds that there is a risk of  repetition.


67. On the public component of impairment, the findings are such that the Panel considers that the Registrant’s behaviour breached a fundamental tenet of the profession, namely trust. His actions brought the profession in to disrepute and undermined public confidence in the profession.  His failures placed service users and their families at potential risk of harm.  There was evidence before the Panel of damage to the reputation of the profession given the concerns and disappointment expressed by service users, their families and colleagues when the Registrant  failed to attend Core Group Meetings.  The Panel determined that the Registrant  has in the past, and is liable in the future, to bring the profession in to disrepute and to breach fundamental tenets of his profession. The Panel was also mindful of the need to uphold and declare proper standards of behaviour and the reputation of the regulator.  


68. In all these circumstances, and given the lack of evidence of insight and the complete absence of any evidence of remediation, the Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.


HCPC Submissions on Sanction


69. The Panel heard from Ms Sheridan.  She referred it to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and reminded the Panel to consider the degree of public protection required.  She stressed the need for any sanction to be proportionate and reminded the Panel of the need to consider and protect the wider public interest.  She submitted that the Panel should consider the sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.


70. Ms Sheridan submitted that the aggravating features were the finding of abuse of trust regarding the messages sent to Service User A and the repeated failures to complete assessments and attend meetings. As to mitigation, Ms Sheridan submitted that the Registrant has shown some insight and had no previous fitness to practise concerns, and was a man of previous good character. 


71. Ms Sheridan referred the Panel to paragraph 33 of the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and submitted that Conditions of Practice were not appropriate where there is a lack of insight and engagement by the Registrant. She also referred the Panel to paragraph 39 – 45 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy regarding Suspension Orders.


Sanction


72. The Panel took the advice of the Legal Assessor who referred it to the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. He reminded the Panel to consider any sanction in ascending order and to apply the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public. It must act proportionately and consider any aggravating and mitigating factors and be mindful of the public interest and that the primary purpose of sanction was protection of the public. 


Mitigating and Aggravating Factors


73. The Panel first identified what it considered to be the principle mitigating and aggravating factors in this case. The mitigating factors are the Registrant’s apologies and his expressions of remorse.  He had not sought to blame anyone else and had shown some insight.  He had no history of fitness to practise concerns.  The events found proved took place over a relatively short period of three months in a seven year career. 


74. The aggravating factors identified by the Panel were the Registrant’s abuse of trust, his failure to engage meaningfully with the HCPC and the complete lack of evidence of remediation. 


Decision on Sanction


75. The Panel approached the ladder of sanction, beginning with the least restrictive first, bearing in mind the need for proportionality. Taking no further action and the sanction of a Caution Order would not reflect the seriousness of the allegation found proved and the finding of impairment of fitness to practise. Further, these would not be adequate given the wider public interest of maintaining confidence in both the profession and the regulatory process. Neither order was appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case.


76. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel was mindful that any conditions it imposed must be workable, realistic, verifiable and proportionate.  The Panel has found that the Registrant breached fundamental tenets of the profession and placed service users at the potential risk of harm. T as also found that there is a risk of repetition of this misconduct. The Panel has found that the Registrant has shown limited insight and there is no evidence of remediation.  Further, the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC to any meaningful degree, and the Panel knows nothing of his current circumstances. 


77. In the circumstances, the Panel does not consider that a Conditions of Practice Order would be adequate or proportionate and would not serve to protect the public or the wider public interest. The Panel was unable, in any event, to formulate workable, realistic and appropriate Conditions of Practice.


78. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. The Registrant has shown some insight and, although there is no evidence of remediation, the behaviour giving rise to the misconduct is capable of being remedied.  The Panel determined that the public would be protected by a Suspension Order and it would also serve to uphold proper standards of conduct and maintain the reputation of the profession.


79. In all the circumstances of the case, the Panel considered that a Suspension Order for a period of one year would be proportionate.  It would sufficiently protect the public and the wider public interest, and would uphold public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as a regulator. It would also appropriately  and proportionately reflect the seriousness of the misconduct found proved. 


80. The Panel considered that a Striking Off Order was not proportionate at this stage.  The findings are not so serious that nothing less than Striking Off would be sufficient to protect the public and the public interest.


81. There will be a review toward the end of the period of Suspension.  The Reviewing Panel may be assisted by the following :-


• The Registrant’s attendance
• A reflective piece regarding the impact of his actions on service users, colleagues and on the reputation of the profession
• Any relevant medical evidence
• Any relevant character references or testimonials, including any paid or unpaid work since 2016
• Any evidence of continuing professional development

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Graham James Murphy for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect

Notes

An interim suspension order was imposed to cover the 28 day appeal period.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Graham James Murphy

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
23/07/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended