Mr Michael O'Neill

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL17564

Hearing Type: Voluntary Removal Agreement

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 04/11/2019 End: 17:00 04/11/2019

Location: DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow Central, Cambridge Street, City Centre, Glasgow, Scotland, G2 3HN

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

Whilst registered as a Practitioner Psychologist and during the course of your employment at
NHS Lanarkshire between May 2009 and April 2016, you failed to:

1) Obtain and/or record consent for psychological testing for the patient identified in Schedule 1;

2) Conduct and/ or record an adequate assessment for the patients identified in Schedule 2;

3) Complete and/ or send the assessment report to the referrer and/ or GP on a timely manner for the patients identified in Schedule 3;

4) Send an initial assessment report to the referrer and/ or GP for the patients identified in Schedule 4;

5) Conduct and/ or record risk assessments for the patients identified in Schedule 5;

6) Offer and/ or record an adequate intervention and/ or treatment for the patients identified in Schedule 6;

7) Communicate and/ or send updates in a timely manner to the referrer and/ or GP for the patients identified in Schedule 7;

8) Conduct and/ or record an adequate discharge for the patients identified in Schedule 8;

9) Maintain adequate records for Patients 1 – 23.

10) The matters set out in paragraphs 1 – 9 constitute misconduct and/ or lack of competence.

11) By reason of your misconduct and/ or lack of competence your fitness to practice is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters
Service of Notice
1. The HCPC provided evidence that Notice of today’s hearing regarding the Voluntary Removal Agreement (VRA), had been sent by letter on 23 August 2019 to the Registrant’s registered address on the HCPC register and to his email address. The Notice contained details of the date, time and venue for today’s hearing and had been posted in sufficient time in advance of the hearing. The Panel was satisfied that the rules relating to service of Notice have been complied with.

Proceeding in the Registrant’s Absence
2. Ms Simpson made an application to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Registrant has acknowledged that this hearing is taking place and he has signed the VRA. He had emailed the HCPC on 31 October 2019 and stated that he was content that the hearing proceed in his absence. Ms Simpson submitted that there was a public interest in the hearing proceeding and that coincided with the interests of the Registrant who wished to be removed from the Register. She submitted that the Registrant had voluntarily absented himself from the hearing and it was in the public interest, and in the Registrant’s own interests, that the hearing proceed.   

3. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised that if the Panel is satisfied that all reasonable efforts have been made to notify the Registrant of the hearing then the Panel has the discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. He reminded the Panel that it should exercise its discretion with care. The Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant’ and to the guidance in GMC v Adeogba [2016] EWCA Civ 162.  This case makes clear that the first question the Panel should ask is whether all reasonable efforts have been made to serve the Registrant with notice. Thereafter, if the Panel is satisfied that proper notice has been given, the discretion whether or not to proceed must be exercised having regard to all the circumstances of which the Panel is aware with fairness to the Registrant being a prime consideration, but fairness to the HCPC and the interests of the public must also be taken into account.

4. The Panel agreed to proceed in the Registrant’s absence as it is satisfied that it is both in the public interest and in the Registrant’s interest to do so. In reaching this decision, the Panel has noted there has been an indication from the Registrant on 2 September 2019, and on 31 October 2019 that he would not be attending and was content that the hearing proceed in his absence. The Panel balanced fairness to the Registrant with fairness to the HCPC and the public interest. No useful purpose would be served by adjourning the hearing. The Panel is of the view that the Registrant has voluntarily absented himself and has clearly indicated that he would not be attending and wishes to be removed from the Register. In these circumstances the Panel is satisfied that it is fair and appropriate to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Background
5. Ms Simpson for the HCPC set out the background and referred to her Skeleton Argument. The Registrant is a Practitioner Psychologist and was employed by NHS Lanarkshire. He had 40 years experience in the service and had retired in 2016. The Registrant is no longer practising in the NHS or privately. 

6. Following the death of a patient there was a review of case records and concerns were raised regarding the standard of record keeping by the Registrant. There was no suggestion that the Registrant’s actions were implicated in the patient’s death. NHS Lanarkshire referred the Registrant to the HCPC and on 28 January 2019 a panel of the Investigating Committee determined there was a case to answer in respect of the Allegation. The Allegation is largely concerned with issues around record keeping and risk assessment. Ms Simpson submitted the Alegation, although pleaded as a lack of competence and/or misconduct case, was essentially concerned with a lack of competence regarding record keeping and conduct of assessments. 

7. Ms Simpson advised the Panel that VRA was explored by the HCPC after the Registrant asked to be voluntarily removed. After discussion, a VRA was sent to the Registrant in September 2019.  The Registrant fully accepted the Allegation as regards lack of competence and that was accepted by the HCPC. The Registrant and HCPC have signed the VRA which is now before the Panel. 

8. Ms Simpson referred to the HCPTS Practice Note ‘Disposal of Cases by Consent’ and submitted that the public interest was satisfied by the VRA given the Registrant’s admissions. The Registrant had received advice about voluntary removal, and she submitted that he had given informed consent.  He was aware that a VRA had the same effect as a Striking Off Order.

9. Ms Simpson submitted that this was a case suitable for voluntary removal. This was essentially a competency case and the public would be protected by the Registrant’s removal from the Register. The Registrant has now retired in any event. Ms Simpson submitted that the public interest in upholding public confidence in the profession would also be satisfied by the voluntary removal of the Registrant. 

Decision
10. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor as to importance of the public interest and public protection and it applied the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note on ‘Disposal of Cases by Consent’.  The Panel carefully considered the HCPC’s submissions and considered the HCPTS Practice Note. 

11. The Panel was satisfied that the proposed VRA provides the appropriate level of public protection. It protects the public as the Registrant will be removed from the Register and will be unable to practise. The Allegation relates to issues of lack of competency which the Registrant has fully accepted. He has, in any event, been retired from the profession since 2016.

12. As regards the public interest, the Panel was satisfied that the public interest has been satisfied. This was a lack of competency case and there was no element of deliberate wrong-doing. There was no public interest in requiring the Registrant to proceed through a fitness to practise hearing process, and to do so would serve no useful purpose.  The Panel does not consider that a well-informed member of the public would expect that in these circumstances the Registrant should be the subject of full fitness to practise proceedings.

13. In all the circumstances, the Panel determined that the proposed VRA protects the public and is not detrimental to the wider public interest.   A well informed member of the public would not consider that the VRA undermines public confidence in the profession or the Regulator.

14. The Panel concluded that the terms of the agreed VRA, agreed and signed by both the Registrant and the HCPC, sufficiently and appropriately maintains public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

Order

The Registrar is directed to remove the name of Mr Michael O'Neill from the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

Right of Appeal
You may appeal to the Court of Session against the Panel’s decision and the order it has made against you.

Under Articles 30(10) and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, any appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.

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 Sheriff 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.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mr Michael O'Neill

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
04/11/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Voluntary Removal Agreement Voluntary Removal agreed