Mr Colin G Towner
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During the course of your employment as an Occupational Therapist at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust:
1. On 5 July 2013, you did not conduct risk assessments prior to taking 5 vulnerable people who use services (A, B, C, D and E) on a walk.
2. Your actions in 1 above, placed service users at risk.
3. On or around 24 May 2013, following a home assessment with Service User F you did not complete an adequate report in that:
(a) There was no background history recorded;
(b) Information relating to agencies involved with the service user was not recorded;
(c) Statements made in the report were contradictory (Not proved)
(d) The risks recorded did not adequately reflect the service user’s situation;
(e) An assessment of the service user’s capacity was not recorded;
(f) Referral and/or liaison with other agencies were not recorded.
4. On or around 10 July, 2013 you did not complete an adequate washing and dressing assessment report in respect of Service User G in that:
(a) The report was completed on the incorrect template document;
(b) There was no clinical formulation recorded;
(c) The risks recorded were inadequate;
(d) There were no recommendations recorded.
5. Your actions described in paragraphs 1-4 amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.
6. By reason of that misconduct and/or lack of competence, your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. The Panel was satisfied that the notice of today’s hearing had been properly served on the Registrant on 2 May 2018, in accordance with Rule 3 of the Conduct and Competence Committee Procedure Rules 2003.
Proceeding in absence
2. Ms Senior made an application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel is aware that its discretion to proceed in absence of a Registrant is one which should be exercised with the utmost care and caution. The Panel has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel has also had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Proceeding in Absence’.
3. The Registrant had not attended the Final Hearing on 6 June 2016. He had admitted the failings found and stated at the time that he was no longer practising as an Occupational Therapist and had no intention of returning to the profession. He did not attend the first review hearing on the 8 June 2017, or engage in the hearing at all.
4. In response to the notice of hearing sent on 2 May 2018 for this hearing, the Registrant sent a short email dated 24 May 2018 to the HCPC, stating that he would not be submitting any documentation for the hearing. He added that he has not worked as an “OT since his dismissal and does not intend to work as an OT again” .
5. The Registrant’s position appears clear. He has voluntarily absented himself from this mandatory review and would almost certainly not attend at a future date if the matter were adjourned. The Panel is aware that the Registrant has had limited engagement with the HCPC prior to today’s hearing. In all these circumstances the Panel is satisfied that no useful purpose would be served by adjourning today’s hearing and that it is in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.
6. From February 2012, the Registrant was working as a Band 5 Occupational Therapist in the Meadows 24/7 Assessment Treatment Unit within the Surrey Health Community Mental Health Teams.
7. On 5 July 2013, the Registrant led a walk, involving five service users who were in-patients at the Meadows. He had not conducted risk assessments prior to the walk. As such, he placed the service users, who were all vulnerable people, at risk.
8. Furthermore, there were a number of failures to make records in relation to this episode. For instance, no background history was recorded nor was there any record of the capacity of the service users. Referral and/or liaison with other agents were not recorded either.
9. On or around 10 July 2013, the Registrant failed to complete an adequate washing and dressing assessment report in respect of Service User G. The report was on the wrong template, there was no record of any clinical formulation, the risks recorded were ‘woefully inadequate’ (according to the determination of the previous panel) and no recommendation was recorded.
10. The Registrant admitted that these failures amounted to a lack of competence and the previous panel found that to be well founded.
11. The sanction imposed was a Suspension Order for 12 months, on the grounds of public protection and the wider public interest. That panel expressed the view that such a sanction would provide the Registrant with the maximum time to reflect on his shortcomings and would enable him to decide whether he wished to return to the profession of Occupational Therapy.
12. That same panel, in its determination, added that, if the Registrant did desire to return to practice, it might be of assistance to any reviewing panel if he were able to attend the review and provide it with information relating to his insight, a plan of how he would hope to remediate his deficiencies, evidence of Continuing Professional Development and any references and testimonials to shed light upon his ability to identify and manage risks.
13. Ms Senior submitted at today’s review hearing that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired and that the appropriate course for the Panel would be to extend the suspension order for a further six to twelve months, on the grounds of public protection and the public interest.
14. Since 2015 the Registrant has been consistent in his assertion that he no longer intends to work as an Occupational Therapist. His email of the 14 September 2015 was in almost identical terms to the one received on 24 May 2018, stating that did ‘not intend to work in this profession again.’
15. There has therefore been no material change in circumstances over the past twelve months. If the Registrant were to change his mind and seek to practise as an Occupational Therapist, then the risk of harm to service users would remain as the fitness to practise of the Registrant is still impaired.
16. In considering what sanction to impose today, the Panel adopted the views of the previous panel in determining that taking no action or imposing a Caution Order would be wholly inappropriate. Furthermore, it considered that imposing a Conditions of Practice Order would be equally inappropriate and unworkable because the Registrant is not working and has indicated that he does not wish to return to work.
17. At the time of the first hearing the Registrant admitted his failings but was clear that he did not intend to go back to practise as an Occupational Therapist. It may well be that the Registrant does not wish to be on the register and would like this process to be ‘over’, and the Panel recognises that these proceedings may be stressful for him.
18. However, as the findings in this case were based on lack of competence rather than misconduct, this Panel does not have the option to make a Strike Off Order because this review hearing has been listed just short of the two years required under the legislation. In these circumstances, the only proportionate sanction is to expend the Suspension Order for a further six months. This will bring the sanction over the two year suspension period and a future reviewing panel would then have the option of a Striking Off Order available to it.
The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Colin Towner for a further period of six months on the expiry of the existing order.
The order imposed today will apply from 5 July 2018. This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 5 January 2019.