Mr Stuart Martyn Hill

Profession: Social worker

Registration Number: SW31671

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 17/01/2019 End: 12:00 17/01/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Struck off

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Allegation

As found proven at the final hearing on 23 April 2018: 

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker at Defence

Primary Health Care, between 6 June 2015 and 13 May 2016, you:

1. Did not undertake contact and/or record contact in the cases of:

a) Service User 2;

b) Service User 3;

c) Service User 11;

d) Service User 12;

e) Service User 13;

f) Service User 14;

g) Service User 17;

h) Service User 18 ;

i) Service User 19 ;

j) Service User 26;

k) Service User 27;

l) Service User 28;

m) Service User 31;

n) Service User 32;

o) Service User 33;

p) Service User 34;

q) Service User 38;

r) Service User 39;

s) Service User 40;

2. Did not maintain records and/or maintain records in a appropriate

manner in the cases of:

a) Service User 1;

b) Service User 4;

c) Service User 5;

d) Service User 6;

e) Service User 7;

f) Service User 8;

g) Service User 9 ;

h) Service User 10;

i) Service User 15 ;

j) Service User 16 ;

k) Service User 20 ;

l) Service User 21 ;

m) Service User 22 ;

n) Service User 23;

o) Service User 24;

p) Service User 25;

q) Service User 29 ;

r) Service User 30;

s) Service User 35;

t) Service User 36 ;

u) Service User 37;

3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1 - 2 constitute misconduct and / or

lack of competence.

4. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to

practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters:

Service

1. The Panel was aware that written notice of these proceedings was posted by first class post to the Registrant at his registered address on 12 December 2018.  Notice was also served by email. The Panel was shown documents which established both the fact of the service and the identity of the Registrant’s registered address and also of his email address. In these circumstances the Panel accepted that proper service of the notice had been effected in accordance with the rules.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

2. Mr Stockling on behalf of the HCPC submitted that the Panel should consider the case in the absence of the Registrant.

3. Mr Stockling told the Panel that the Registrant had informed the HCPC by an email dated 16 January 2019 that he would not be attending this hearing. In that email he stated “I would have liked to attended [sic] the panel hearing, however work commitments prevent me from doing so and my priorities lay [sic] elsewhere”. The Panel has seen and read that email. 

4. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

5. The Panel was aware that a decision to proceed in the absence of the Registrant was one to be taken with great care and caution.  However the Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The reasons are as follows:

• Service of the appropriate notice of this hearing has been properly effected.

• The Registrant has not applied for an adjournment and has stated that he would not be attending this hearing.

• There is no reason to suppose that an adjournment would result in the future attendance of the Registrant.

• There is a public interest in proceeding.

• This review of the Order is mandatory.

• In all the circumstances the absence of the Registrant should be treated as voluntary.

Background:

6. The Registrant began his employment as a locum Senior Worker at the Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH) in the Defence Mental Health Social Service within Defence Primary Health Care, Ministry of Defence in 2007. His role became permanent in 2014 and he continued to work at DCMH. As a senior Social Worker, the Registrant is an experienced practitioner. The service users consisted of Armed Services personnel and eligible veterans, all with serious mental health problems and some with additional health issues. The service provides mental health care and treatment. As a social worker within the DCMH, the Registrant’s role would mainly be to support service users through the medical discharge pathway. Care and treatment is noted in an integrated health record, Defence Medial Information Capability Programme (DMICP).

7. In May 2016, the Registrant was suspended from his role pending investigation into a matter unrelated to the current allegation. At a disciplinary hearing on 20 July 2016 he was dismissed. However, he successfully appealed the decision to dismiss him and was reinstated in January 2017. As a result of the dismissal, his line manager reviewed his caseload after he left and audited his case notes. She identified a number of concerns. These related to cases for which there was no recorded contact made at all with service users following referral to the service and cases where there was no follow up contact made or recorded with service users following initial appointments. A referral was made to the HCPC in respect of these concerns.

Hearing on 23-25 April 2018

8. At the hearing in April 2018 the Registrant was not present at the hearing and was not represented.

9. Having considered all the material before it, the panel made the findings of facts that are set out above. The panel determined that the acts and omissions in relation to Particulars 1-3 constituted Misconduct going to his fitness to practise. The panel then determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise had been impaired by reason of his Misconduct. In coming to this conclusion the panel commented:

“The Panel noted that the Registrant had fallen seriously short of the standards expected of a registered Social Worker, and had thereby breached fundamental tenets of the profession, put vulnerable patients
at unwarranted risk of harm and brought the profession into disrepute. In those circumstances, the Panel had no doubt that the Registrant’s fitness to practise had been impaired by reason of his Misconduct.”

10. The panel concluded that it was likely that the Registrant would repeat the failings of the kind found proved and therefore a finding of impairment was required on the ground of public protection. The panel also determined that a finding of impairment was required in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards. A finding of impairment was therefore also made on the grounds of public interest.

11. In determining the sanction that was appropriate, the panel concluded that to take no action, to refer the matter for mediation or to impose a Caution Order were inappropriate. The panel further concluded that as it had no confidence that the Registrant would co-operate with a Conditions of Practice Order and as there was a risk of repetition, a Conditions of Practice Order was neither appropriate, nor proportionate “at this time.”

12. The panel determined that the appropriate sanction was the imposition of a Suspension Order for a period of 9 months. It explained its reasons in the following terms.

“The Panel went on to consider the imposition of a Suspension Order. It gave careful consideration to Paragraphs 39-45 of the ISP. Such an order would both protect the public and send a clear message that the
Registrant’s actions and omissions were unacceptable and must not be repeated. It would also provide the Registrant with an opportunity to reflect on his failings and decide whether he wishes to engage with his
regulator for the purpose of remediating those failings. The Panel considered that a period of nine months suspension is sufficient, necessary, and proportionate but noted that it would be open to the
Registrant to seek an early review if his progress is rapid.

The Panel did consider a Striking Off Order. It concluded that if the Registrant satisfactorily addresses his attitudinal problem, there is no reason why he should not be able to fully remediate his failings, thereby facilitating a return to safe and effective practice. In those circumstances, the Panel decided that a Striking Off Order is not
necessary, proportionate or appropriate at this time.”

13. The panel gave guidance as to what might assist a reviewing panel. It stated as follows;

“For all the reasons set out above, the Panel decided to impose a nine month suspension order. That order must be reviewed by another
panel prior to its expiry. The reviewing panel may be assisted by the following:

• the Registrant’s engagement with the process and attendance at the hearing;

• evidence of any relevant training activities and/or professional development undertaken by him during the period of suspension;

• a reflective piece from the Registrant, following a recognised model. This should demonstrate the Registrant’s reflection on the gravity of his failings, the importance of maintaining
consistent contact with Service Users and of maintaining full and up to date records, and the potential impact of failure to do so on Service Users and colleagues, and on the reputation of the
profession and public confidence in the profession.

• testimonials relating to any work undertaken in an employment and/or voluntary capacity after this hearing that evidences the Registrant’s performance in working effectively and consistently
with colleagues and/or members of the public.

The Registrant should be aware that at the next review hearing the reviewing panel will have the power to make a Striking-Off Order, if appropriate.”

Today’s Hearing

14. Mr Stockling summarised the relevant facts and the conclusions of the previous Panel. In summary he submitted that the Panel should find that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. He said that the Registrant had not addressed any of the failings established at the substantive hearing; he had not complied with any of the suggestions made by the substantive hearing panel as to what might assist a reviewing panel.  He said that the Registrant’s email dated 16 January 2019 displayed a complete lack of insight. He submitted that in all the circumstances a Striking Off Order was the appropriate Order to make.

15. The Panel has read the email from the Registrant dated 16 January 2019. The Panel noted that the Registrant did not seek to meet any of the suggestions made by the substantive panel as to what would assist this panel. The email did not contain any evidence of reflection or remediation or information as to his present employment. There was no evidence which suggested that the Registrant wished to resume his career as a Social Worker. The Registrant has not provided any other information to the HCPC and with the exception of this email the Registrant has not engaged with the HCPC since the last hearing, which he did not attend and at which he was not represented. 

16. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

17. The Panel is aware that it has all the powers that are set out in Article 30 [1] of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 [The Order] and which are summarised in the letter dated 12 December   2018 sent to the Registrant and giving notice of this hearing.

18. This Panel is aware that the process under Article 30 [1] of the Order is one of review and not one of appeal and that its function is to determine whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is still impaired and if so whether the Suspension Order under review remains the appropriate and proportionate means of public protection or should be varied or replaced by some other Order.

Decision of this Panel on Impairment

19. Having taking account of the submissions made by Mr Stockling and noting the contents of the Registrant’s email dated 16 January 2019 the Panel has concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. In coming to this conclusion the Panel noted that the Registrant has not complied with any of the suggestions made by the substantive Panel as to what would assist a reviewing Panel. In its view those suggestions provided the Registrant with a very manageable way to demonstrate insight, reflection and commitment to professional work standards. The Panel agreed with Mr Stockling that the Registrant’s email dated 16 January 2019 displays a total lack of insight. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired for all the reasons identified by the substantive Panel and reinforced by the Registrant’s continuing and total lack of insight.

Decision on Sanction:

20. In considering the appropriate sanction the Panel had regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy and the advice of the Legal Assessor.

21. The Panel has applied the principle of proportionality. The Panel is aware that the purpose of sanction is not to be punitive and that it must consider the risk the Registrant may pose to service users in the future and determine what degree of public protection is required. The Panel has considered the sanctions available in ascending order of severity. The Panel considered that to take no action or to impose a Caution Order would not be appropriate and this would not afford the necessary public protection.

22. The Panel next considered whether a Conditions of Practice Order would adequately address the concerns identified. For all the reasons identified by the substantive Panel, the Panel has determined that a Conditions of Practice Order would not be appropriate. The Registrant lacks insight, the risk of repetition is considerable and the Panel doubts that the Registrant would comply with Conditions. Furthermore the Panel has no information as to the Registrant’s present occupation or plans for the future.

23. The Panel next considered a continuation of the Suspension Order. It has concluded that no purpose would be served by such an Order. The Registrant has had 9 months in which to address the concerns expressed by the substantive Panel and to comply with its suggestions as to what would assist a reviewing Panel.  He has not done so. Moreover the email from the Registrant dated 16 January 2019 displays a complete lack of insight. There is no evidence of any remorse or contrition on the part of the Registrant.  In all of the circumstances the Panel has decided that a Striking Off Order is the only appropriate sanction to impose.

Order

Order: That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Mr Stuart Martyn Hill from the Register on the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

The order imposed today will apply from 23 February 2019.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Stuart Martyn Hill

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
17/01/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Struck off
23/04/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended