Ms Joan Elizabeth Simpson

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW87661

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 15/04/2019 End: 17:00 18/04/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Allegation

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with East London NHS Foundation Trust, you:

1.  In relation to Service User 1:

a) did not complete and/or record an Initial Needs Assessment in a timely manner or at all;

b) did not visit and/or record visits to Service User 1 at least once a month as

required;

c) did not complete and/or record a risk assessment and/or care plan for Service User

1 in a timely manner or at all;

d) did not arrange and/or ensure the arrangement of a meeting with Service User 1’s

family and/or professionals involved in the service user’s care in a timely manner or at all.

 

  1. In relation to Service User 2:

a) did not complete adequate records for Service User 2 regarding an incident on or

around 27 May 2016;

b) did not recognise the risks and/or take appropriate action in relation to Service User 2 taking medication which was not currently prescribed including:

i.ensuring that Service User 2 received adequate medical attention;

and/or

ii.liaising with medical professionals involved in Service User 2’s care

following the incident. 

  1. In relation to Service User 3:

a) did not review and/or update the Care Plan in a timely manner or at all;

b) did not complete and/or record a risk assessment in or around March 2016;

c) did not visit and/or record visits to Service User 3 at least once a month as

required;

d) following concerns raised by staff at Service User 3's accommodation on or

around 19 April 2016, you did not:

i.record the steps agreed with the service user’s accommodation;

ii.take appropriate action including did not manage the risks associated

with Service User 3, namely:

A.Service User 3’s declining health;

B.Service User 3’s increasing aggression;

C.Service User 3’s increased abusiveness towards carers.

e) did not complete adequate records for Service User 3 in that you did not clearly

record on RiO the concerns raised about Service User 3 on 2 March 2016;

f) did not adequately engage and/or make records of engagement with Service User

3’s:

i.carers;

ii.GP;

iii. and/or other agencies.

 

  1. The matters as set out in paragraphs 1 - 3 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

The reasons for the Committee’s decision are set out in the enclosed document

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. Ms Joan Elizabeth Simpson (“the Registrant”) is registered with the HCPC as a Social Worker.

2. The Panel was satisfied that the notice of hearing was sent by post to the Registrant on 7 February 2019. The version sent by post was sent to the address provided by the Registrant to the HCPC for registration purposes. The Panel was satisfied that there had been good service of the notice of hearing.

Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant

3. The Registrant did not attend the hearing. On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Mond-Wedd invited the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She drew attention to previous communications between the Registrant and the HCPC. On 1 September 2018, the Registrant had indicated that she did not plan to attend a preliminary hearing in the present case. She was notified by the HCPC of the outcome of the preliminary hearing. By email dated 25 November 2018, the Registrant contacted the HCPC and asked to be provided with information on the future of her registration. She also contacted the HCPC by telephone on 29 November 2018. A representative of the HCPC returned her call and left a voicemail message. The Registrant did not make any further contact with the HCPC in relation to the final hearing in this case. Ms Mond-Wedd highlighted that the allegations date back to 2016 and there are 2 witnesses in attendance. She submitted that the Panel should proceed in the absence of the Registrant.

4. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the guidance provided in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”. The Panel was advised that it is competent to proceed in the absence of a registrant. However, the decision on whether that is appropriate in any individual case is a matter of discretionary judgment for the Panel.

5. The Panel took into account the advice of the Legal Assessor and the guidance provided in the relevant Practice Note. The Panel was satisfied that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve notice of the hearing on the Registrant. The task for the Panel was to strike the proper balance between the public interest in proceeding with cases such as this in a timely manner and ensuring fairness to the Registrant. In exercising its discretion on whether to proceed, the Panel placed weight on the following considerations:

• There is a burden on professionals to engage with their appropriate regulator in the resolution of allegations.
• There has been little previous engagement by the Registrant in these proceedings. She did not attend the preliminary hearing and has had no contact with the HCPC since November 2018.
• There is a public interest in dealing with cases such as this with reasonable expedition.
• The allegations date back to 2016 and there is a need for the matter to be dealt with as memories will fade with the passage of time.
• There were two witnesses in attendance for the hearing.

6. The Panel placed particular weight on the fact that the Registrant has not previously engaged meaningfully in the proceedings. She is clearly able to make contact with the HCPC if she wishes to do so, having done so in November 2018. The Registrant has made no request for the present hearing to be adjourned. The Panel considers that it is unlikely that the Registrant would attend any future hearing given the lack of engagement to date.

7. The Panel accepts that the Registrant would be disadvantaged to some degree by her absence but concluded, on balance, that the wider public interests meant that the hearing should continue in the absence of the Registrant.

Background

8. The Registrant was employed by East London NHS Foundation Trust (Trust) as a Band 6 Social Worker. She was required to manage a complex caseload of adult Service Users with severe mental illnesses.

9. The HCPC asserts that the allegations amount to misconduct and/ or lack of competence. It is asserted that the Registrant’s conduct fell below the standard of conduct expected of a reasonably competent Social Worker.

10. The HCPC produced a bundle of documents in advance of the hearing. The bundle included detailed witness statements of TA and PW. TA, the Trust’s Investigating Officer and PW, the Registrant’s Operational Line Manager.

11. The Registrant has not engaged in the process. No documentation has been lodged on behalf of the Registrant. She did not appear at the hearing. The Panel has drawn no adverse inference from the Registrant’s absence.

Decision on Facts

12. The Panel considered with care all the evidence presented, together with the submissions made by Ms Mond-Wedd on behalf of the HCPC. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and bore in mind that it was for the HCPC to prove its case and to do so on the balance of probabilities.

13. Having considered all of the evidence, the Panel concluded that all of the facts were proved.

14. The Panel found TA and PW to be open, honest and credible witnesses. They provided their evidence in a balanced, measured and fair way. Their oral evidence was consistent with their witness statements and the associated documentary evidence.

15. The Panel found that PW had engaged in an informal capability process and had undertaken a preliminary investigation into the activities of the Registrant. TA had then undertaken a further disciplinary investigation. The Panel found both internal investigations to be robust and thorough.

16. The Panel accepted the evidence of TA that “RiO” is an electronic patient record system used by the Trust on which visits to, or contact associated with, a Service User should be recorded on the system within 24 hours.

17. The Panel considered each allegation in turn.

Particular 1a) – Found Proved

18. In relation to particular 1a), the Panel found that the Registrant did not complete an Initial Needs Assessment for Service User 1. The Panel accepted the evidence of PW and TA in relation to this matter. If any such assessment had been completed, it should have been visible on the electronic RiO system. There is no record of any such assessment on RiO. The Panel notes that the Registrant accepted during the course of an interview with TA that such an assessment should have been completed within 28 days of the initial referral. The Registrant also accepted that she was familiar with the requirements of the RiO system. The Registrant stated that she had completed the initial needs assessment by hand. However, no handwritten assessment was provided to the Panel. If a handwritten assessment had been completed, this could have been provided by the Registrant to her employer and the HCPC. The Panel found that an initial meeting did take place on 22 February 2016 between the Registrant and Service User 1. However, in an interview on 24 August 2016, when questioned by TA, the Registrant admitted that no needs assessment had been completed.

Particular 1b) – Found Proved

19. In relation to particular 1b), the Panel found that the Registrant did not visit Service User 1 at least once a month which was expected practice. The Panel accepted the evidence of TA and PW in relation to this issue. The Panel found that a visit did take place on 22 February 2018. No other entries are included on RiO suggesting that no further visits to Service User 1 took place before a concern was raised on 27 May 2016. If any such meetings had taken place, they should have been documented on the RiO system. No evidence was available to the Panel which suggested that any further visits took place.

Particular 1c) – Found Proved

20. In relation to particular 1c), the Panel found that the Registrant did not complete a risk assessment or care plan for Service User 1. The Panel accepted the evidence of TA and PW along with the documentary evidence. Any such plan should have been visible on RiO. No such entries were contained on the system. No handwritten plan was made available to the Panel. If such a plan was available, it could easily have been produced to the HCPC and the Panel by the Registrant.

Particular 1d) – Found Proved

21. In relation to particular 1d), the Panel found that the Registrant did not ensure that a meeting was arranged with family of Service User 1 and other professionals involved in the care of Service User 1. The Panel accepted the evidence of TA and PW. The Panel notes that during an interview the Registrant stated that she was trying to arrange a meeting. However, by 27 May 2016 this had still not taken place. When interviewed by TA on 24 August 2016, the Registrant accepted that no such meetings had taken place.

Particular 2a) – Found Proved

22. In relation to particular 2a), the Panel found that the Registrant did not complete adequate records for Service User 2 regarding an incident on or around 27 May 2016. The Panel accepted the evidence of TA and PW. The Registrant claimed to have visited Service User 2 on three occasions. However, not all records of the visits were entered on the RiO system.

Particular 2b) – Found Proved

23. In relation to particular 2b), the Panel found that the Registrant became aware that Service User 2 had been taking medication which was not currently prescribed. She did not take steps to ensure that Service User 2 received adequate medical treatment. She did not liaise immediately with medical professionals involved in Service User 2’s care. The Panel accepted the evidence of TA and PW. During the course of the interview with TA on 11 August 2016, the Registrant accepted that she had not sought advice from nursing colleagues or a doctor.

Particular 3 – Found Proved

24. In relation to allegation 3, the Panel found that the facts are proved. The Registrant failed to update the care plan for Service User 3. The care plan dated 28 April 2015 was significantly out of date by March 2016. It should have been updated, at the very least, every 6 months. The Registrant failed to update the care plan notwithstanding there had been a major change in that the Service User had moved from her own accommodation to residential accommodation. The Registrant did not visit once a month or make appropriate recordings. Following concerns being raised on or around 19 April 2016, the Registrant did not record the steps agreed with the Service User’s accommodation provider and failed to take appropriate actions to manage the risks arising. The Registrant failed to make appropriate entries on the RiO system. The Registrant also failed to engage with carers, the GP and other agencies. During the course of her interview on 24 August 2016 with TA, the Registrant accepted that appropriate assessments had not been carried out and appropriate entries had not been made on the RiO system.

Decision on Grounds

25. Having found the facts set out above to be proved, the Panel then considered whether they amounted to misconduct and/or lack of competence. In so doing, the Panel took into account the submissions of the HCPC and the advice of the Legal Assessor.

26. The Panel also considered the following documents produced by the HCPC: (i) Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics; and (ii) Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England. In relation to document (i), the Panel considered that Standards 1.2 (working in partnership with Service Users involving them, where appropriate, in decisions about care and treatment), 6.1 (take all reasonable steps to reduce the risk of harm to Service Users as far as possible), 10.1 (keep full, clear and accurate records for everyone you treat or provide services to) and 10.2 (complete all records promptly and as soon as practicable after providing care, treatment or other services) were particularly relevant to the present case. In relation to (ii), the Panel considered that Standards 1.3 (be able to undertake assessments of risk, need and capacity and respond accordingly), 1.4 (be able to recognise and respond appropriately to unexpected situations and manage uncertainty), 4 (be able to practise as an autonomous professional, exercising their own professional judgment) and 10 (be able to maintain records appropriately) were particularly relevant to the present case.

27. In relation to particular 1a), the Panel accepts the evidence of TA that the Initial Needs Assessment is a critical document. It requires to be completed within a maximum of 28 days, although it may require to be completed well before then depending on the needs of the Service User. It is critical to ensuring that the care provider is aware of the Service User’s needs and can respond appropriately. The fact that the Registrant failed to complete, and record, such an assessment is a serious failing that amounts to misconduct.

28. In relation to particular 1b), the Panel found that visiting Service Users and documenting visits is a basic, and fundamental, task for a Social Worker. Such visits should have taken place at least once a month. Following the visit on 22 February 2018, the Registrant did not visit Service User 1 for over four months. The Panel accepted the evidence of TA in relation to these issues. The failure is characteristic of the failures on the part of the Registrant and the Panel concluded that the Registrant failed to ensure that appropriate actions were being taken in relation to vulnerable Service Users. The failure to visit vulnerable Service Users at appropriate intervals is a serious failure in relation to basic practices that would be completed by a competent social worker as a matter of routine. The Panel was satisfied that this amounted to misconduct.

29. In relation to particular 1c), the Panel found that the failure to complete the risk assessment and care plan is extremely serious. Such documents are critical to ensuring that the multi-disciplinary team can provide appropriate care to vulnerable Service Users. As TA explained in his evidence, the Care Plan is a critical part of the process whereby the Service User engages in their care and treatment. The failure to complete these documents is a clear failure to comply with Standard 1.2 and 6.1 of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and Standard 1.3 of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England. The lack of diligence and care in relation to such an important matter is an extremely serious failure which, in the view of the Panel, amounts to misconduct.

30. Particular 1d), is another example of a failure by the Registrant to complete basic tasks that should be completed by a competent Social Worker as a matter of routine. The Panel is satisfied that this amounts to misconduct.

31. In relation to particular 2a) the Panel considers that the failure to complete adequate records amounts to misconduct. The Registrant has failed to comply with Standards 10.1 and 10.2 of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and Standard 10 of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers. The Registrant had received appropriate training in relation to record keeping. However, she failed to keep full, clear and complete records in relation to Service Users. This issue is linked to the failures in record keeping in relation to Service User 1. The failure to complete adequate records was not an isolated incident but part of a series of failings which, in the opinion of the Panel, put vulnerable Service Users at risk of serious harm. In the opinion of the Panel, the failures amount to serious misconduct.

32. In relation to particular 2b), the Panel find that the failings are particularly serious. The Registrant was aware that Service User 2 had taken medication which was not currently prescribed. Notwithstanding her knowledge of this issue, the Registrant did not take steps to ensure that Service User 2 received adequate medical advice or treatment. This is a failure to comply with Standard 6.1 of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and Standards 1.3, 1.4 and 4 of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England. The Registrant failed to appreciate the risk this incident presented to Service User 2 and respond accordingly. While this may have been an unexpected situation, it is a scenario that an experienced Social Worker should be able to respond in an effective manner by exercising appropriate professional judgment. The Registrant failed to appreciate the seriousness of Service User 2 having taken medication that was no longer prescribed. For example, the Registrant stated to TA during an interview that “I knew it wouldn’t harm her”. The Registrant had no medical qualifications and was not in a position to make any such assessment. It is highly concerning that the Registrant responded to the incident in the manner that she did. The Registrant’s actions represent a serious breach of professional standards. Her actions fell below the behaviour expected of a registered Social Worker. The lack of diligence and care in relation to such an important incident characterises, in the opinion of the Panel, the practises adopted by the Registrant in this relatively short period. Her actions placed Service User 2 at an increased risk of harm. In the view of the Panel, the Registrant’s actions in relation to particular 2b) amount to misconduct.

33. The Panel was satisfied that particulars 3a) and b), c), d)(i), and e) are sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. They are further examples of the Registrant’s failure to keep adequate records and/ or update records appropriately. Such records are essential so that an appropriate service can be provided to vulnerable Service Users by a multi-disciplinary team. The failures, when viewed alongside those in relation to Service Users 1 and 2 demonstrate a clear pattern of unacceptable practices being adopted.

34. In relation to particulars 3d)(ii) and 3f), the failure to take appropriate actions and engage with others is a failure to comply with Standard 6.1 of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and Standard 4 of the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England. The failings on the part of the Registrant are in relation to basic matters that would be completed by a competent social worker as a matter of routine. The Panel is satisfied that these grounds amount to misconduct.

35. The Registrant failed to complete, and enter on the RiO system, a number of critical records. These included an initial needs assessment and a risk assessment. There were also instances of failures by the Registrant to update care plans as appropriate. TA explained the critical part that such documents play in relation to multi-disciplinary teams providing joined-up care to vulnerable Service Users. In addition to the failures identified above, there are repeated instances of the Registrant failing to maintain adequate and appropriate records. There was a clear failure to comply with the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England in this regard. TA explained the critical function that accurate records play in terms of a multi-disciplinary team responding to vulnerable Service Users. These basic failings fell below the behaviour expected of a senior Social Worker. The failures are particularly acute because the Registrant had received appropriate training in relation to such issues. She was aware of the relevant policies and procedures but failed to implement them. This put vulnerable Service Users at serious risk of harm.

36. The Panel considered there to be serious concerns about the way in which the Registrant had been conducting her practice. The Registrant was a senior Social Worker dealing with extremely vulnerable Service Users. The Panel considers that the Registrant’s combined omissions represent a serious breach of professional standards which fell below the behaviour expected of a registered Social Worker and thereby amounted to misconduct.
 
37. The Panel was satisfied that the above matters amounted to serious misconduct. The Panel gave consideration to the alternative ground of lack of competence. However, the above incidents represent a small percentage of the Registrant’s caseload which at any time would include at least twenty five cases. The Registrant had received all appropriate training and when questioned by TA was able to confirm the correct policies and procedures. The issues in the present case do not stem from a lack of knowledge or competence. Rather, in the opinion of the Panel, they amount to serious failings to apply that knowledge to particular cases.

Decision on Impairment

38. The Panel has taken into account the submissions made by Ms Mond-Wedd, and the HCPTS Practice Note “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired”. It also heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

39. The Panel is required to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired as at today’s date. The Panel’s task is not to punish the Registrant for past acts. However, the Panel does require to take account of past acts and omissions in order to make an informed assessment whether the Registrant’s present fitness to practise is currently impaired.

40. The Panel has taken into account:

• the ‘personal’ component: the current competence, behaviour etc. of the individual Registrant; and
• the ‘public’ component: the need to protect Service Users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

41. The Panel reached its own independent judgement on the question of impairment. It found significant and serious failings by the Registrant in some of the most fundamental and basic of tasks that are required to be completed by a Social Worker.

42. There were a significant number of incidents over a relatively short period of time. They were not isolated incidents with a low risk of repetition. The incidents identified by the Panel led to very significant risk of harm arising to vulnerable Service Users. Moreover, the Registrant had all of the requisite training and should have been well aware of what was required of her. She was aware of the relevant policies and procedures but failed to apply them.

43. Some of the incidents give rise to a risk for significant harm to Service Users. The Registrant failed to appreciate the seriousness of Service User 2 having taken medication that was no longer prescribed and the Registrant stated to TA that “I knew it wouldn’t harm her”. The Registrant had no medical qualifications and was not in a position to make any such assessment. The lack of judgment in relation to such a basic issue is extremely concerning.

44. In respect of the personal component, the Panel concludes that there were multiple failings which related to basic areas of practice. No evidence was provided to the Panel to demonstrate that the Registrant has insight into the serious nature of the failings, showed remorse or that any remedial action has been taken to mitigate the risks of such issues occurring in the future. In the Registrant’s absence, the Panel tried to ascertain, by questioning the witnesses, if any insight or remorse had been shown by the Registrant during their meetings. Both witnesses said that they didn’t recollect the Registrant showing any insight or remorse but they commented on her lack of understanding about the risks involved therefore, the Panel could not have any confidence that the serious failings made in the past would not be repeated in the future.

45. The Panel went on to consider whether this was the type of case that required a finding of impairment on public interest grounds 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. This is because of the serious nature of the errors and the potential harm that could have been caused to Service Users. Moreover, given the lack of any evidence of insight, remorse or remediation, the Panel concluded that the public would rightly be highly concerned about similar mistakes potentially being made in the future by the Registrant.

46. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

Decision on Sanction 

47. Ms Mond-Wedd stated that the decision on what sanction, if any, to impose was a matter for the judgment of the Panel. Ms Mond-Wedd addressed the Panel on the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. While the HCPC did not invite the Panel to impose any particular sanction, Ms Mond-Wedd submitted that on the facts of the present case, the Panel may consider that it is not appropriate for the Panel to impose no order. Ms Mond-Wedd addressed the Panel on relevant mitigating aggravating factors in the present case. In terms of mitigation she stated that the Registrant has not been the subject of any previous fitness to practise proceedings and the errors took place over a relatively short period of time. In terms of aggravating factors, Ms Mond-Wedd stated that the Panel should consider the number of errors, the risk to Service Users and the lack of any insight on the part of the Registrant.

48. The Panel received, and accepted, advice from the Legal Assessor. The issue of what sanction, if any, to impose is a matter for the judgment of the Panel. The Legal Assessor addressed the Panel on the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy and advised the Panel that in deciding what, if any, sanction to impose, the Panel should ensure that any sanction is proportionate and strikes a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of a Registrant.

49. The Panel has taken into account the HCPC Indicative Sanctions Policy. However, the Panel has reached its own independent decision on the appropriate sanction based on the individual facts of the present case.

50. The Panel proceeds on the basis that it is not automatic that any sanction will be imposed merely because the Panel has found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired. The purpose of any sanction is not to be punitive. The primary objective is public safety. However, other public interest objectives have a role to play. These include:

i) the deterrent effect to other registrants;
ii) the reputation of the profession concerned; and
iii) public confidence in the regulatory process.

51. The Panel first considered whether there were any aggravating and/or mitigating factors to be taken into account when deciding the appropriate sanction.

52. In relation to mitigation, the Panel accepts that the errors took place over a relatively short period of time. The Registrant is previously of good character. There was no evidence of any previous fitness to practise concerns in relation to the Registrant. Furthermore, for certain of the issues, the Registrant had accepted, during the internal investigation by her employer, that she had made errors.

53. The Panel also notes that TA did have concerns in relation to the level of supervision that was being provided to the Registrant. This provides a degree of mitigation. However, it is required to be viewed in context. The Registrant was placed on an improvement plan by her employer and measures, including additional support and guidance from PW, were put in place by the Registrant’s employer to provide her with support. The additional measures that the Registrant’s employer had put in place did not result in the Registrant adopting appropriate practices in relation to the issues outlined above.

54. Aggravating factors in this case include the following:

1. The number of failures, of a similar nature, which took place over a short period of time.
2. The fact the Registrant was a senior Social Worker and the failures identified above put vulnerable Service Users at risk of significant harm.
3. There was no evidence of any genuine insight, remorse or steps being taken to address the likelihood of recurrence.

55. The Panel considers that the above factors are highly relevant as, in the opinion of the Panel, there still exists a risk of serious harm to Service Users who encounter the Registrant.

56. In this case it is not appropriate to make no order because of the serious nature of the allegations that are now proved. Mediation is not appropriate because the failings of the Registrant were neither minor nor isolated.

57. A Caution Order is not appropriate because the behaviour on the part of the Registrant was of a serious nature, the Registrant has shown no meaningful insight and has not provided any evidence of any significant remedial action being taken.

58. The Panel considered a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel considers that the issues highlighted above are capable of remediation by the Registrant and, accordingly, the Panel gave serious consideration to a Conditions of Practice Order as a potential sanction. The major obstacle for the Panel in relation to this option was the complete lack of engagement by the Registrant with the fitness to practise proceedings. She did not appear at the hearing and provided no material to the Panel. The Panel sought to ascertain from the witnesses who did attend whether the Registrant had demonstrated insight or remorse in relation to the relevant issues. The Panel also sought to ascertain whether any remedial steps had been taken by the Registrant. However, neither of the witnesses were able to provide the Panel with any significant assistance in relation to these issues.

59. A Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate where a Panel is confident that a Registrant will adhere to the conditions, is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so.  The Panel considered that the Registrant’s failings are capable of being remedied. However, the Panel has no evidence of any insight on the part of the Registrant regarding the serious nature of the failings identified above. At the moment, the Panel has no evidence that allows it to be confident that the Registrant is committed to resolving the issues identified above and that she will make a determined effort to comply with conditions. The Panel could not therefore formulate any Conditions of Practice that would provide sufficient public protection, maintain confidence in the Social Work profession and which would be workable and enforceable. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that such an order is not appropriate.

60. A Suspension Order may be appropriate where the allegation is serious and cannot be addressed by any of the lower sanctions, but there is a potential for the Registrant to remedy their failings. The view of the Panel is that the allegations that have been proved are of a serious nature. Moreover, for the reasons recorded above, there is no evidence that the Registrant has any meaningful insight into the seriousness of her actions. The Panel has however taken into account the fact that the failings are potentially capable of remediation, that the Registrant was previously of good character and there were issues surrounding the supervision being provided to the Registrant at the relevant time. The Panel considers that the Registrant may, with appropriate help, training and support, be capable of developing insight and addressing her failings in the future.

61. In these circumstances, the Panel has determined that the Registrant should be suspended for a period of nine months. This marks the gravity of the matters at the heart of the allegations that have been found to be proved. However, it also gives the Registrant, who has had a previously unblemished career, an opportunity to demonstrate that she is capable of remediating the relevant failings with a view to continuing her career.

62. To test the proportionality of the sanction of a Suspension Order, the Panel gave consideration to making a Striking Off Order. The Panel concluded that such a sanction would be disproportionate at this stage as the failings on the part of the Registrant may be capable of remediation.

63. The Panel, in the exercise of its discretion, has determined that nine months is the appropriate period for the Suspension Order. The errors identified above are serious but are not at the most extreme end of the scale. The period should be long enough for the Registrant to re-engage with the fitness to practise process and allow her to undertake appropriate remedial steps with a view to potentially returning to the profession. The Panel considers that a Suspension Order for nine months adequately meets the public interest in this case including a deterrent effect on the profession.

64. The Suspension Order will be reviewed by the HCPTS before the expiry date and the Registrant will be invited to engage in that process. This Panel cannot tie the hands of any Reviewing Panel but this Panel suggests that, in connection with any Review, the Registrant (when invited by the HCPTS to do so):

• attends any future review hearing because it would be helpful to hear from her directly.
• provides additional information in order to demonstrate insight into the errors identified above. One way to do that would be for the Registrant to provide a written reflective piece for that Review Panel in which she reflects upon the impact of her past failings and addresses the impact which her actions have had on members of her profession and public confidence in the Social Work profession. Any reflective piece should also set out what the Registrant would do differently to ensure that her past mistakes and poor practices are not be repeated.
• provides additional information and documentation to show what steps she has taken to remediate the failings identified above. References from any paid or voluntary work may also be of assistance to any future Panel.

65. The Registrant should be aware that if she does not positively engage with a future review Panel the option of a more serious sanction i.e. a Striking Off Order may be considered.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to suspend the name of Ms Joan Elizabeth Simpson from the register for a period of nine months from the operative date

Notes

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 Article 29(10) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. The Panel’s Order will not take effect until the appeal period has expired or, if you appeal, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

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 prohibited. 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.

Interim Order

1. HCPC made an application for an Interim Suspension Order. HCPC applied for the Panel to consider this matter notwithstanding the absence of the Registrant. The Panel heard submissions from Ms Mond-Wedd on the need for an Interim Suspension Order to cover the period during which an appeal may be made and, if one is made, whilst that appeal is in progress.

2. The HCPC’s application is made on the 2 statutory grounds as follows:
• it is necessary for the protection of members of the public
• is otherwise in the public interest.

3. The Legal Assessor provided advice to the Panel in relation to proceeding with the application in the absence of the Registrant and on the legal principles relevant to an Interim Order. The Registrant must have appropriate notice. If the Registrant has been provided with notice, it is competent for the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. However, the decision on whether it is appropriate to do so is a matter for the discretionary judgment of the Panel. The Legal assessor summarised the statutory grounds upon which an interim suspension order can be made and advised the Panel that the ultimate decision on whether any such order should be imposed is a matter for the judgment of the Panel. The Legal Assessor drew the Panel’s attention to the relevant practice notes. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

4. The Panel has taken into account that in the Notice sent to the Registrant in advance of the hearing, the Registrant was put on specific notice that such an application may be made and therefore notice in that respect has been served. The Panel has considered whether it is fair to proceed in the absence of the Registrant and has taken into account the reasons the Panel relied upon when deciding to proceed in the absence of the Registrant for the main part of the hearing. On that basis the Panel has decided that it is fair and appropriate to consider this application in the absence of the Registrant.

5. The Panel has found that the Registrant failed in some significant, fundamental and basic tasks required to be completed by a Social Worker. Those failures exposed vulnerable Service Users to a real risk of significant harm. There is no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant has demonstrated significant insight into her failures or has taken any remedial steps. Consequently, there remains a real risk of significant harm to the public if the Registrant was to be allowed to practise without restriction. The Panel is also of the view that public confidence in the regulatory process would be undermined if the Registrant was allowed to remain in practice on an unrestricted basis. For these reasons, the Panel has determined that an Interim Suspension Order, in the same terms as the substantive order, is necessary to protect the public and is otherwise in the public interest.
 
6. This order will expire: upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order); or the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order).

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Ms Joan Elizabeth Simpson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
15/04/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended