Ms Sarah Helen Goldby
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During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Durham County Council between December 2015 and 24 August 2016;
1. 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. Not proved.
iii. 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.
Service of Notice
1. The notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant at her address as it appeared in the register on 8 May 2018. The notice contained the date, time and venue of today’s hearing. This notice was also served to an alternative address the Registrant had provided to the HCPC on 20 January 2018.
2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and is satisfied that notice of today’s hearing has been served in accordance with Rule 6(1) of the Conduct and Competence Committee Rules 2003 (the “Rules”).
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
3. The Panel then went on to consider whether to proceed in the absence of the Registrant pursuant to Rule 11 of the Rules. In doing so, it considered the submissions of Ms Simpson on behalf of the HCPC.
4. Ms Simpson submitted that the HCPC has taken all reasonable steps to serve the notice on the Registrant. She further submitted that the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC, save for the email regarding her address, and that an adjournment would serve no useful purpose. Ms Simpson reminded the Panel that this was a mandatory review and there was a public interest in this matter being dealt with expeditiously.
5. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that the Panel had the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant, if it was satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing. The Legal Assessor also referred the Panel to the case of GMC v Adeogba and Visvardis  EWCA Civ 162.
6. It was clear, from the principles derived from case law, that the Panel was required to ensure that fairness and justice were maintained when deciding whether or not to proceed in a Registrant’s absence.
7. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable efforts had been made by the HCPC to notify the Registrant of the hearing. The notice of hearing had been sent to her registered address, an alternative address provided by the Registrant, and also to her email address. It was satisfied that the Registrant should be aware of the hearing. The Panel was shown an email from the Registrant dated 20 January 2018 advising of a change of her address. The Registrant was informed by the HCPC in an email dated 22 January 2018, to contact the Registrar to change her address on the register. It appears she has not done so.
8. The Panel was mindful that it must exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant with utmost care and caution. The Panel took into consideration the HCPTS practice note entitled ‘Proceeding in the Absence of a Registrant’. The Panel weighed its responsibility for public protection and the expeditious disposal of the case with the Registrant’s right to a fair hearing.
9. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the following:
• The notice of hearing was sent to the Registrant’s registered address, and also to the alternative address provided by the Registrant following the final hearing in December 2017;
• The Registrant had not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing;
• The Registrant had not engaged with the process save for the email communication about her address;
• There is a public interest that this substantive order is reviewed before it expires.
10. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing. It determined that it was unlikely that an adjournment would result in the Registrant’s attendance at a later date before the expiry of this Order, in the light of the non-engagement of the Registrant. Having weighed the public interest for expedition in cases against the Registrant’s own interest, the Panel decided to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
11. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. She had been a qualified Social Worker for over 16 years. At the time of these matters, the Registrant’s employment was 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.
12. Concerns were raised with regard 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 Witness 1, the Intermediate Care South Durham Manager.
13. The matter was subsequently referred to the HCPC on 27 June 2016, and the case was heard on 18 - 20 December 2017, when the above matters were found proved. The Registrant’s registration was suspended for a period of 6 months.
14. Ms Simpson outlined the background of the case and submitted, that in the light of the lack of engagement on the part of the Registrant, her fitness to practise remains impaired by reason of misconduct. Ms Simpson also submitted that an extension of the Suspension Order would serve no useful purpose and would not further the public interest. Therefore the HCPC submitted that the Registrant’s name be struck off the register.
15. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that its purpose today was to conduct a comprehensive review to determine if the Registrant is fit to return to unrestricted practice. Its role was not to conduct a rehearing of the allegations nor was it to go behind the previous findings. He advised that in carrying out this assessment, the Panel must exercise its own independent judgment.
16. The Legal Assessor advised that the Panel might find the questions formulated in the case of CHRE v NMC and Grant (2011) EWHC 927 (Admin) of some assistance, albeit slightly modified for these proceedings:
Does the evidence before the Panel today show that the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains impaired by reason of her misconduct in the sense that she:
a) is liable in the future to act so as to put a service user at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) is liable in the future to bring the social work profession into disrepute; and/or
c) is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the profession?
17. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired then the Panel must go on to consider what sanction, if any, should be imposed. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that, if it determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remained impaired, any of the options under Article 30 of the 2001 Order could be exercised by the Panel. He also advised the Panel that it should bear in mind the principles 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.
Panel’s considerations and decision
18. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. 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 Ms Simpson. In particular it noted the following factors:
(a) This is a case of misconduct and there is no suggestion that the Registrant lacked the requisite competence to carry out the role of a Social Worker.
(b) The lack of engagement of the Registrant with the process. Therefore the Panel had no indication whether the Registrant remains committed to the profession nor any information regarding the Registrant or her current circumstances.
19. There is no evidence or information before the Panel today that could satisfy it that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is no longer impaired. The Registrant did not engage with the final hearing nor has she engaged in this review process. There is no indication whether the Registrant has started the remediation process, including whether she has reflected on her past failings, by taking any of the steps suggested by the previous panel.
20. In the light of all the above, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
21. The Panel then went on to consider what the appropriate and proportionate sanction should be. It bore in mind that the purpose of a sanction was not to be punitive, although a sanction may have that effect.
22. The Panel also bore in mind that its over-arching objective is:
(a) to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of the public;
(b) to promote and maintain public confidence in the social work profession; and
(c) to promote and maintain proper professional standards and conduct for members of the profession.
23. In reaching its decision, the Panel took into account that the Registrant had a previously unblemished career of approximately 16 years as a Social Worker, and that these allegations related to a single incident in 2016, which related to failures of the Registrant when arranging services following the hospital discharge of a service user. The Panel also noted the references to on-going health issues that were not being managed successfully, mentioned in the previous panel’s decision. The Panel was mindful that it should not speculate on the detail or the nature of any health issues.
24. It had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy issued by the HCPC and considered the available sanctions in order of severity, starting with the least restrictive. In the light of the Registrant’s lack of engagement the Panel determined that taking no further action or imposing a caution would not be sufficient to protect the public, nor would either be in the public interest.
25. The Panel considered whether to impose a Conditions of Practice Order but concluded that it would neither be appropriate nor could it formulate adequate conditions that would properly address the root of the issue, as there was no information as to what caused the Registrant’s failures. Moreover, the Panel has been provided with no evidence that the Registrant is currently able or willing to comply with conditions.
26. The Panel considered extending the current Suspension Order and determined that it was the appropriate and proportionate sanction in the light of the allegations and in these circumstances. In coming to this decision, it also took into account there was some evidence of remorse on the part of the Registrant, albeit this seemed limited.
27. The Panel also determined that the period of further suspension should be six months. This will provide the Registrant with a further opportunity to engage with the HCPC and reflect upon the findings made by the previous panel at the final hearing. Six months will provide adequate time for the Registrant to remediate her failings and to reflect upon the seriousness of her misconduct as articulated in the previous panel’s findings.
28. 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. The Panel reiterates the suggestions of the previous panel that any reviewing panel could be assisted by:
(a) The Registrant’s re-engagement in this process, even if to a minimum of demonstrating that she is committed to remaining in the profession;
(b) The Registrant’s attendance in person, or some communication from her if that were not possible (e.g. due to health reasons.);
(c) A written reflective piece which demonstrates the Registrant’s understanding of her misconduct, its causes (or triggers), and in particular its possible impact on Service User A, her employer and the reputation of the profession as a whole;
(d) Evidence of the Registrant’s current state of health;
(e) Up to date and relevant testimonials from paid or unpaid work (including from any current or previous line managers);
(f) Evidence that the Registrant has attempted to keep her skills and knowledge up to date, or an explanation why this has not been possible.
29. Any panel conducting a review of a substantive order is aware that the public interest includes a Registrant’s return to safe practice. However, a Registrant’s continued lack of engagement or communication, with his or her regulator without good reason, is likely to be taken as an indication of a lack of commitment to remaining in the profession.
Order: The Registrar is ordered to further suspend the name of Sarah Helen Goldby from the Social Worker part of the HCPC register for a further period of 6 months upon the expiry of the current order.
No notes available