Miss Paru Vekaria

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT57462

Hearing Type: Voluntary Removal Agreement

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 18/11/2019 End: 17:00 18/11/2019

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

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

Whilst registered as an Occupational Therapist, you:

1. prepared an Employment and Support Allowance Medical Report Form ("the report") following meeting Service User A on 24 October 2016, and:

a) did not conduct a physical examination of Service User A

b) the report was inaccurate and/or misleading in that it indicated a physical examination was conducted when this was not the case

c) the report was inaccurate and/or misleading in that it stated:

i) "[Service User A] walks to very local corner shop alone for 10
minutes at slow pace unaided. He walks back as well."

ii) "Can sit upright for over an hour to watch TV - soaps for an hour."

iii) "[Service User A] also writes screenplays on a PC computer for over an hour seated."

iv) "Hip Problem - Both"

2. Your actions described in paragraphs 1(b) and/or 1(c) were dishonest.

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

4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters
Service
1. The Panel found that there had been good service of the proceedings, in accordance with Rule 3 of the Procedure Rules 2003, by notice dated 7 October 2019 and the Registrant participated in the hearing today by telephone.

Background
2. The Registrant is registered in the Occupational Therapist (OT) part of the HCPC register. The Registrant was employed by Maximus Companies Limited to undertake Employment and Support Allowance (“ESA”) medical assessments of social security claimants. Service User A attended a medical assessment in relation to his claim for ESA on 24 October 2016. He was assessed by the Registrant and was accompanied by his daughter Person B. The Registrant then prepared an assessment report in respect of Service User A which was sent to a decision maker employed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The decision maker concluded that Service User A did not qualify for ESA based upon the Registrant’s report. Service User A applied for a reconsideration of the decision which was not successful and then successfully appealed against the DWP’s decision to a Social Security Tribunal in June 2017. As part of the appeal process Service User A was provided with a copy of the report prepared by the Registrant.

3. At a hearing on 12-15 June 2018, a panel determined that when registered as an Occupational Therapist, the Registrant: prepared an Employment and Support Allowance Medical Report Form ("the report") following an assessment of Service User A on 24 October 2016, and:
a) did not conduct a physical examination of Service User A
b) the report was inaccurate and/or misleading in that it indicated a physical examination was conducted when this was not the case.

4. That panel found the matters set out above constituted misconduct and the Registrant’s fitness to practice was impaired and imposed a 12 month Suspension Order which was subsequently confirmed by a reviewing panel on 21 June 2019.

5. Although the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001 does not explicitly provide for consent arrangements, the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Disposal of Cases by Consent’ advises that:
…neither the HCPC nor a Panel should agree to resolve a case by consent unless they are satisfied that:
• the appropriate level of public protection is being secured; and
• doing so would not be detrimental to the wider public interest.
… In cases where the HCPC is satisfied that it would be adequately protecting the public if the registrant was permitted to resign from the Register, it may enter into a Voluntary Removal Agreement allowing the registrant to do so, but on similar terms to those which would apply if the registrant had been struck off.
…In cases where an allegation is already before a Panel or a conditions of practice or suspension order is in place, such an agreement cannot take effect unless those proceedings are withdrawn or a Panel revokes the order. In such cases the HCPC will give formal notice of withdrawal to the Panel and, if necessary, ask it to revoke any existing order.
As with consensual disposal, a Panel should only agree to revoke an existing order where it is satisfied that voluntary removal would secure an appropriate level of public protection and would not be detrimental to the wider public interest.

6. Therefore an HCPC Registrant, who wishes to cease practice but is the subject of outstanding proceedings in relation to fitness to practise, may enter into a Voluntary Removal Agreement (VRA) with the HCPC. In this case the VRA agreement was signed by both parties on 6 November 2019.

Submissions
7. The HCPC submits that a revocation of the existing order and voluntary removal is a proportionate and pragmatic way to dispose of this case in the public interest. The Registrant does not wish to continue to practise as an OT. The Registrant has indicated that she is not in a position to engage with the review cycle or to further her CPD activities and has indicated she would require more time than a review cycle would permit and in light of this has concluded that she would like to remove herself from the register. She has reflected on the findings of the original panel, has expressed remorse and developed insight. The public will be protected as the agreement is equivalent, in effect, to a Striking Off Order.

8. The public interest has been met in that the Allegation was considered at a full substantive hearing and a sanction was imposed. The HCPC submits that the public would not be concerned, nor would public confidence, in the profession, be put at risk, should the Panel grant this Consent Order.

9. A record of a telephone conversation with the Presenting Officer Ms Ktisti dated 12 November 2019, confirms the Registrant is not currently seeking to return to practice and understands the VRA is equivalent to a Striking Off Order. She provided a reflective piece in October 2019.

10. The Registrant participated in this hearing by telephone. She stated that her maternity leave period had impacted on her ability to undertake CPD activities but this is not the sole reason she has applied for voluntary removal. She said this VRA was the best thing for her and the public. She stated that she is not ready to return to practice and is “de-skilled” at the moment. She would not rule out a return to practice in the future and wishes to keep her options open. She accepted she would need to undertake more courses, does not feel “up to standard” at present and is generally lacking in confidence as regards her professional practice. She has engaged with the HCPC process and continued to reflect on the allegations and to discuss and consider her future.

Decision
11. The Panel finds the public interest would be served by the Panel today revoking the existing Suspension Order and approving the VRA. The Panel has considered the HCTS Practice Note and the clear HCPC skeleton argument. The Panel also heard oral submissions from both parties today and read the documents including a reflective piece from the Registrant.

12. Removing the Registrant from the Register will prevent her from practising and in the Panel’s judgement this action will secure public protection. The concerns raised in this case solely relate to a single health report and the proved Particulars were 1(a) and 1(b) only which do not include dishonesty. The Panel is satisfied that a revocation of the existing order and voluntary removal is consistent with the protection of the public; taking into account that the Registrant will be removed from the HCPC Register as if a Striking Off Order had been made against her under Article 29 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

13. The Registrant has signed the VRA and the Panel is satisfied this approach is the most expeditious way of dealing with the matter. The Panel is satisfied that the Registrant has given a fully informed consent to the VRA and understands that this is the equivalent of a Striking Off Order, involving a 5 year period out of practice before she can apply to return. The Panel therefore revokes the existing Suspension Order with immediate effect and consents to the HCPC discontinuing the substantive proceedings by means of a VRA.

Order

The Registrar is directed to revoke the existing Suspension Order and remove the name of Paru Vekaria from the HCPC Register by consent from 18 November 2019.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Paru Vekaria

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/11/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Voluntary Removal Agreement Voluntary Removal agreed
21/06/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
12/06/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended