Mrs Kelly Weir

Profession: Operating department practitioner

Registration Number: ODP35448

Hearing Type: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 14/07/2020 End: 17:00 14/07/2020

Location: Hearing taking place virtually

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Allegations as found proven at the Final Hearing;
 
Whilst registered as an Operating Department Practitioner and employed by Nuffield Health, you:

1. Removed an ampoule of Tramadol from hospital premises without justification.
 
2. On 29th and 30th April 2017 were unfit for duty, in that you had consumed alcohol and/or Tramadol whilst on call.
 
3. Your action described at paragraph 1 was dishonest.
 
4. Your actions described in paragraphs 1-3 constitute misconduct.
 
5. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise as an Operating Department Practitioner is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. Ms Simpson applied for an order that parts of the Hearing be conducted in private in order to protect the private life of the Registrant with respect to health matters. The Legal Assessor advised that this would be an appropriate course and the Panel directed that parts of the hearing be conducted in private that related to private health matters concerning the Registrant.  

Background

2. The Registrant was employed by Nuffield Health Exeter Hospital (the Hospital) as an Operating Department Practitioner (ODP) between March 2016 and July 2017. Her main role was to work with the Consultant Anaesthetist. In this capacity, she held a key to the Scheduled Drug cupboard and to the Controlled Drug cupboard.
 
3. At the relevant time, Tramadol was stored in the Scheduled Drug cupboard in each anaesthetic room. When required, Tramadol would be taken from the cupboard by an ODP or registered Nurse and an appropriate entry would be made in the relevant drug record book. This served as a ‘stock and safety check’. The entries would be signed by the Anaesthetist and the ODP or Nurse.
 
4. On the weekend of 29-30 April 2017, the Registrant was on call. This would require her to attend at the Hospital within 30 minutes.
 
5. On 30 April 2017, at 11.40am, the Devon & Cornwall Police (‘the Police’) call centre received a 101 call from a person who identified himself as the Registrant’s boyfriend. The information he gave was that he had received a message from the Registrant at 1.30am on that day, stating that she was going to take her own life by taking pills. Further, he said that the Registrant had sent him a photograph of medication.
 
6. When the Police attended the Registrant’s address, there was no response and they therefore effected forcible entry. The Registrant was found to be in bed and appeared to be drowsy, emotional, and visibly upset. It was recorded by the Police that the Registrant said she had taken Tramadol some hours before.

7. The photograph of the medication, produced by the Registrant’s boyfriend to the Police, was of an opened ampoule of Tramadol bearing a batch number and date of manufacture.
 
8. The Police called for an ambulance and the Registrant was taken to hospital. On examination at hospital, the clinical notes recorded that she was intoxicated with ethanol and, five hours later, the notes stated that the Registrant was “still experiencing room spinning + can’t sit up.”
 
9. Investigation procedures and a disciplinary procedure in relation to the alleged removal of Tramadol were conducted at the Hospital, following which the Registrant was dismissed.
 
10. The Registrant did not attend the original hearing, nor was she represented at it. She had not engaged with the HCPC’s regulatory process since August 2018. She denied having removed the ampoule of Tramadol from the Hospital, stating that the ampoule of Tramadol had fallen into her open handbag, which was sitting under the sharps bin. She also denied that she was unfit for duty as a result of consuming alcohol and/or Tramadol.
 
11. Despite those denials, the original panel found all the facts alleged proved.
 
12. In considering the issue of impaired fitness to practice, the original panel stated in its written determination as follows, -
 
This was a serious act of dishonesty by the Registrant, who was in a position of trust, having access to the Scheduled Drug cupboard. Further, she was unfit for duty as a consequence of her consumption of Tramadol and/or alcohol.

The Registrant continues to demonstrate a total lack of insight, in that she has not recognised the effect dishonesty of this nature could have on public confidence in the profession. Further, that to be unfit for duty whilst on call could give rise to risk to patient safety. She further has not demonstrated remorse or any remediation.

As a consequence, the Panel cannot be satisfied that misconduct of this nature would not be repeated.

In these circumstances, in regard to the personal component, the Panel has determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. Furthermore, that a finding of current impairment is also required in the wider public interest. This is necessary to declare and uphold proper professional standards. The public would expect an ODP to act in accordance with these standards. Public confidence in the profession and in the HCPC as regulator would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.’

13. Having found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was impaired, the original panel went on to consider the question of sanction, stating in its determination that neither a Caution nor a Conditions of Practice Order would be a sufficient sanction in view of the misconduct.  The determination proceeded as follows, -

‘The Panel then considered a Suspension Order. The matters found proved are serious breaches of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics. Furthermore, the Registrant lacks insight and has taken no remedial steps. However, the misconduct occurred on a single occasion at a time when the Registrant had serious difficulties in her private life. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months would be an appropriate and proportionate sanction, sufficient to protect the public and to mark the serious nature of the Registrant’s misconduct. Furthermore, it would send a message to the profession that misconduct of this nature is wholly inappropriate. The period of 12 months would give the Registrant the opportunity to reflect upon her misconduct.
The Panel did consider a Striking Off Order, but it had in mind that this is a sanction of last resort and would be disproportionate in all the circumstances, given the mitigating factors found and her personal circumstances at the time.
 
A reviewing panel would doubtless be assisted by the Registrant’s attendance at the review hearing. A reflective piece from her in regard to the Panel’s findings and testimonials from previous employers in her work as an ODP, and testimonials from any current employer, would also assist. The reviewing panel would also be assisted by confirmation from the Registrant that she is interested in returning to the profession and is maintaining her professional knowledge.’

The present hearing

14. The Registrant addressed the Panel at this Hearing.
 
15. She told the Panel that she did wish to return to her profession and expressed ‘a great deal of remorse’ with respect to her actions. She said that she would not act again in the way she had done and would not place members of the public in jeopardy. She said that members of the public must be able to have confidence in members of the profession.

16. The Registrant told the Panel that she was in a very different place to that which had led to the hearing before the original panel. She referred to the stability of her personal life, in contrast to the position at the time of the events in question. She was a different person now.

17. She said that she had had two years in which to reflect on those events. Covid-19 had made her realise that there was an important contribution that she could make as a registered practitioner. She told the Panel that the period of reflection had also made her realise that she has a passion for work as an Operating Department Practitioner. If necessary, she wanted to be able to come back and address in detail the matters relevant to her case at a future hearing.
   
18. Ms Simpson submitted that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. Ms Simpson acknowledged that the Registrant’s insight had developed and improved but pointed out that her re-engagement with the regulatory process had been only very recent and the difficulty for any registrant in showing remediation with respect to dishonesty. Ms Simpson also highlighted the absence of any written reflective piece as had been suggested by the original panel. She submitted that a further period of suspension was the appropriate sanction, for a period of 12 months.

19. In response to those submissions, the Registrant indicated that she had nothing to add to her previous statements to the Panel.

20. The Panel received advice from the Legal Assessor and has directed itself in accordance with it.

Decision

21. The first issue for the Panel to determine is whether or not the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.

22.The Panel welcomed the Registrant’s decision to engage with the regulatory process. It considered her address to the Panel to be articulate and thoughtful. It was impressed by her appreciation as a result of Covid-19 as to the professional contribution she could make in registered practice. Her insight is clearly developing, her life has moved forward in a positive manner, she has engaged in serious reflection on the consequences of her actions and as a result has taken very substantial steps towards resuming unrestricted practice.

23. The position today is that the Registrant’s fitness to practise does remain impaired. Her re-engagement is very recent. The reflective piece suggested by the original panel is very important but there was none before this Panel. Those reflections would have allowed the Panel to gauge more accurately the precise extent of the Registrant’s insight and remediation. No employers’ references were placed before the Panel.

24. In the light of all the circumstances, therefore, the Panel is not satisfied that the Registrant is yet in the right frame of mind to resume unrestricted practice.

25. Having concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired, the Panel went on to consider the issue of sanction.

26. The Panel decided that a sanction is necessary and that neither a Caution nor a Conditions of Practice Order would be appropriate. The Panel has concluded that the Registrant is not yet fit to practise and in the circumstances of this case a Caution Order would not be appropriate. A Conditions of Practice Order would be unworkable and inappropriate in view of the nature of the misconduct in particular.

27. In those circumstances, a further Suspension Order is necessary to address the remaining risks in this case. In view of the personal circumstances identified to the Panel by the Registrant and the fact that the Registrant is not yet fit to practise, a period of not less than 12 months will be necessary to enable her to be in a position to demonstrate fitness to practise at a further review hearing. The Panel notes that in future the Registrant could be a useful member of the profession.
 
28. A future panel would be assisted by Ms Weir producing:

• A reflective piece from her in regard to the findings of the original panel;
• References and testimonials from past employers and any work undertaken recently;
• Evidence that she is maintaining her professional knowledge.

Order

ORDER: The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Kelly Weir for a further period of 12 months.

Notes

A virtual hearing was held via video-link on 14 July 2020. The Registrant's name was suspended from the Register for a further 12 months.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Kelly Weir

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
14/07/2020 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
24/07/2019 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended