Deborah J Robinson
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As a registered Radiographer (RA32021) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct, in that you:
- Between 20 April 2018 and 7 March 2019, accessed Service User 1’s confidential patient records without clinical reason and/or permission to do so on 22 occasions.
- On 3 August 2018, accessed Service User 2’s confidential patient records without clinical reason and/or permission to do so.
- Between 2 February 2018 and 15 November 2018, accessed Service User 3’s confidential patient records without clinical reason and/or permission to do so on 20 occasions.
- Between 27 February 2018 and 15 November 2018, accessed Service User 4’s confidential patient records without clinical reason and/or permission to do so on 5 occasions.
- On 15 November 2018, accessed Service User 5’s confidential patient records without clinical reason and/or permission to do so.
- Between 2 January 2018 and 7 March 2019, accessed your own confidential patient records without clinical reason and/or permission to do so on 11 occasions.
- The matters described in particulars 1 – 6 amount to misconduct.
- By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired.
1. Ms Constantine made an application to amend particular 1. The nature of the amendment was to alter the date range from 20 April 2018 and 7 March 2019 to 5 June 2018 and 29 January 2019. She submitted that the amendment did not materially affect the substance of the particular, more accurately reflected the evidence, brought clarity to the particular and was in the Registrant’s interests.
2. The amendment was not opposed by Mr Pembridge who appeared on behalf of the Registrant.
3. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who advised that any amendment should be fair to both parties and should not cause injustice to the party it may affect.
4. In view of the agreement, and exercising its own judgment, the Panel considered that amendment was fair and could be made without injustice to the Registrant.
5. The new particular 1 will now read as follows:
“Between 5 June 2018 and 29 January 2019, accessed Service User 1’s confidential patient records without clinical reason and/or permission to do so on 22 occasions”.
6. The Registrant was employed as a Senior Radiographer at the East Cheshire NHS Trust (‘the Trust’) between 8 January 2007 and 25 April 2019. She held two roles, a Band 7 post in the Breast Unit and a Band 6 post as a Diagnostic Radiographer in the Department of Radiology. From 2016 the Registrant also took up employment at a private HCA hospital, the Wilmslow Hospital, where she continues to be employed.
7. On 30 January 2019 an anonymous member of staff raised a concern under the Trust’s ‘freedom to speak up’ policy regarding an alleged breach of confidentiality by the Registrant.
8. The allegation stated that the Registrant accessed her father’s medical record and viewed correspondence letters relating to his care and medical investigations. It further stated that she had also previously accessed the results of her father’s blood tests.
9. This referral prompted the Trust to undertake a formal internal investigation that led to a disciplinary process. This included carrying out an inspection of four of the computer software systems to ascertain whether the Registrant had accessed patient records which she had no clinical or professional reason to access.
10. On 29 March 2019 the Registrant was interviewed by the Trust by Witness 1, when she admitted that she had accessed the records of her father (Service User 1) and Service Users 2-5, as well as her own records.
11. Under the Trust’s policy on Data Protection and Confidentiality, the Registrant was not permitted to access patient records or her own records unless there was a working requirement to do so.
12. The Trust told the HCPC that, the Registrant was not suspended during the investigation by the Trust because “It was decided by the commissioning manager that whilst the allegations were of a serious nature there was no risk to patients, other employees, trust properties or the investigation itself. A monitoring process was put in place to ensure that ongoing access to clinical information systems during the investigation remained appropriate.”
13. Although the Registrant was dismissed from the Macclesfield District Hospital in April 2019, she remained employed by the Wilmslow Hospital, which increased her hours and made her a permanent employee.
Decision on Facts
14. The Panel considered the following information:
(a) Notice of Allegation;
(b) Proof of Registration;
(c) Witness Statement of Witness 1 and exhibits;
(d) Registrant’s bundle.
15. The Registrant made full admissions to the Allegation at the outset.
16. Notwithstanding this the Panel exercised its own independent judgment as to whether, on the balance of probabilities, the particulars are found proved.
17. The Panel heard oral evidence from Witness 1, who confirmed his written witness statement dated 12 March 2020 detailing his involvement in this case. Witness 1 was appointed by the Trust as the Investigating Officer, who carried out his own investigations and later conducted an investigatory interview with the Registrant on 29 March 2019.
18. His written evidence outlined the Trust’s data protection and confidentiality policy which he confirmed in oral evidence. That policy made clear that patient records should only be accessed on a “strictly need-to-know basis.” In other words, patient records should only be accessed if it was part of their job role to do so, and access to that information should be limited to that which was necessary.
19. The Panel found Witness 1 to be a straightforward and credible witness. He took the Panel through the various computerised logs demonstrating the Registrant’s access to patient records. Having identified potential unauthorised accesses from the computerised logs, he said that he put these to the Registrant during the investigatory interview on 29 March 2019. He said that he went into the interview with an open mind as to whether the Registrant’s access to patient records was legitimate or not. In the event, the Registrant admitted, in respect of the specific computerised logs put to her, that she had accessed these patient records without a legitimate reason.
20. In view of her admissions at the outset, the Registrant chose not to give oral evidence in relation to the facts stage.
21. Ms Constantine started her submissions by reminding the Panel as to the burden and standard of proof and that misconduct and impairment was a matter for the Panel’s own professional judgment.
22. She indicated that the Registrant had made admissions, and alongside the corroborative evidence from Witness 1, it provided persuasive evidence to assist the Panel in finding the facts proved. In brief, she said that the Registrant had accessed five different service users’ medical records and her own medical records using improper channels when she had no clinical need or authorisation to do so. She said this breached Trust policy, HCPC guidance and the law relating to data protection.
23. With reference to the investigatory interview conducted on 29 March 2019 and the evidence of Witness 1, Ms Constantine briefly summarised each allegation and the Registrant’s responses at the interview.
24. Ms Constantine also referred to Witness 1’s oral evidence and submitted that it was consistent with his written evidence and there was nothing to question his reliability as a witness.
25. On the basis of this information, Ms Constantine invited the Panel to find the particulars proved.
26. Mr Pembridge on behalf of the Registrant did not make any closing submissions at this stage in view of the Registrant’s full admissions.
27. The Panel independently considered the transcript of the investigatory interview dated 29 March 2019 and noted that the Registrant had made admissions to the Allegation. It also separately considered the computerised logs which appeared to confirm the Registrant’s unauthorised access to patient records. As stated, the Panel also found Witness 1’s evidence to be credible and reliable.
28. In view of all this evidence, the Panel concluded, on the balance of probabilities that particulars 1-6 of the Allegation are found proved.
Decision on Grounds
29. The Panel next considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct, and if so, whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise was currently impaired.
30. The Panel heard an opening statement from Mr Pembridge on behalf of the Registrant. He set out the following, which was included in the Registrant’s bundle:
“Deborah Robinson qualified in 1991 from what is now The University of Salford with a Diploma from the College of Radiographers DCR (R).
Since qualification has worked at:
Stockport Infirmary 1991 – 1994, Stepping Hill Hospital (Stockport NHS Foundation Trust) 1994 -2011 Macclesfield District General Hospital (East Cheshire NHS Trust) 2011 – 2019 The Wilmslow Hospital (HCA Healthcare) from 2016 until present.
Deborah commenced work at The Wilmslow Hospital in 2016 as a bank radiographer/mammographer and is now employed on a full time permanent contract as lead mammographer. Their work involves performing general radiography, theatre radiography, fluoroscopy, ultrasound imaging, including interventional procedures, mammography for both screening and symptomatic women and breast interventional procedures.
Deborah Robinson has attained the following post-graduate qualifications:
Post Graduate Diploma in Nuclear Medicine Techniques and Technology (1998) Post Graduate Certificate in Mammography Practice and Principles (2012) Advanced Practice in Breast Interventional Techniques (2015).
Deborah Robinson asks the panel to acknowledge that she accepts the facts of the case and the allegation of misconduct. She sincerely regrets the events that have led us here today.
She recognises that it was inappropriate behaviour and that her actions had serious consequences for herself and the people whose records she accessed.
She recognises that this is not the standard of behaviour expected of a professional person. She fully accepts that this cannot and will not happen again at any time for the remainder of her career.
Deborah hopes that this statement, testimonials, CPD and reflection that she has provided will demonstrate how sorry she is and how she has reflected upon and learnt from her actions that have led to this case.”
31. As part of the Registrant’s opening statement she read out her written response to the Allegation. The statement provided an explanation of why she behaved as she did in relation to each patient. She indicated that the statement was not an excuse for accessing the service users’ records but provided some explanation for her actions. She said she had accessed the records out of concern for the service users and/or those close to them rather than out of any malice or ill-intention and she had not told anyone what she had discovered. In respect of Service User 5, the Registrant was unable to recall the occasion or the reason why she accessed the records. In her own case she accepted that she attempted to circumvent the correct procedure to obtain her own records as she was concerned for her health and waiting for test results.
32. The Panel noted what the Registrant said in her written reflection:
“I am conscious that my actions fell well below the standards expected of me as a Radiographer and Advanced Practitioner, both by the HCPC and the Society of Radiographers”.
33. Ms Constantine submitted that there was no legitimate reason for the Registrant looking at the records and her access of the records had occurred outside her duties. She said that the Registrant was GDPR trained and that staff members were regularly reminded as to patient confidentiality. She submitted that the Registrant was aware of the duty on her and her actions amounted to a scandalous disregard for the policy of the Trust.
34. She further submitted that the conduct alleged established that the Registrant inappropriately accessed service users’ records for which there was no clinical need. She said this compromised patient confidentiality and abused the trust placed in her by her employer and the Regulator.
35. Ms Constantine submitted that the issue of misconduct was a matter for the Panel but referred the Panel to the Trust’s policy and relevant parts of the HCPC standards. Although she acknowledged that not every breach of HCPC standards would establish the statutory ground of misconduct, she submitted that on the facts of this case the Registrant’s behaviour did amount to misconduct.
36. The Panel considered the statement of the Registrant and HCPC submissions. It accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note, Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired.
37. In respect of misconduct, the Panel reminded itself that this was a matter for its own judgement. The Panel had in mind the definition of misconduct in Roylance v General Medical Council  1 AC 311 in that misconduct is:
“some act or omission which falls short of what is proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a medical practitioner in the particular circumstances.”
38. The Panel also noted the case of Nandi v GMC  EWHC 317 (Admin), namely that in order to find misconduct, the Panel must be satisfied that the falling short must be serious. It noted that the necessary degree of seriousness has been described as “conduct which would be regarded as deplorable by fellow practitioners”
39. In considering whether the ground of misconduct was made out, the Panel reviewed each of its individual findings of fact against the Registrant. The Panel was aware that not every instance of falling short of what would be proper in the circumstances, and not every breach of the HCPC standards would be sufficiently serious to amount to misconduct. Therefore, the Panel had careful regard to the context and circumstances of the matters found proved.
40. In reaching its decision on misconduct, the Panel had in mind the Trust’s policy on Data Protection and Confidentiality, the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016) and the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Radiographers.
41. The Panel considered the relevant excerpts from the Trust’s policy as follows:
“Inappropriate Access to Records
All staff to be made aware, via the Staff Handbook and any local induction training, together with the mandatory annual IG training, that under the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018, it is not permissible to view records pertaining to themselves or to friends, relatives or colleagues unless as part of their job role. To do so would breach the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018 and constitute a criminal offence. As such, this would incur disciplinary action according to the Trust's Disciplinary Policy and possibly, in severe cases, prosecution by the Information Commissioner.
Principle 4: Access to patient-identifiable information should be on a strict need to know basis
Only those individuals who need access to patient-identifiable information should have access to it and they should only have access to the information items that they need to see.”
42. The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016) and concluded that the following standards were breached:
“1. Promote and protect the interests of service users and carers
1.1 You must treat service users and carers as individuals, respecting their privacy and dignity.
5. Respect confidentiality
5.1 You must treat information about service users as confidential
10. Keep records of your work
10.3 You must keep records secure by protecting them from loss, damage or inappropriate access”
43. The Panel also considered the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Radiographers and found the Registrant was in breach of these expectations:
“Registrant radiographers must:
2. be able to practise within the legal and ethical boundaries of their profession
2.2 understand what is required of them by the Health and Care Professions Council
2.4 recognise that relationships with service users should be based on mutual respect and trust, and be able to maintain high standards of care even in situations of personal incompatibility
2.5 know about current legislation applicable to the work of their profession
4. be able to practise as an autonomous professional, exercising their own professional judgement
4.4 recognise that they are personally responsible for and must be able to justify their decisions
7. understand the importance of and be able to maintain confidentiality
7.2 understand the principles of information governance and be aware of the safe and effective use of health and social care information
10. be able to maintain records appropriately
10.2 recognise the need to manage records and all other information in accordance with applicable legislation, protocols and guidelines.”
44. The Panel, exercising its own professional judgement, concluded that the conduct found proved fell seriously short of what would be proper in the circumstances and amounted to misconduct. Further, the Panel considered the repeated nature of the conduct related to accessing multiple patient records which was unauthorised, improper and contrary to the Trust’s policy, HCPC Standards and the law. The Panel viewed this as serious. It was also clear that the Registrant accepted that her actions fell well below the standards expected of a Radiographer.
45. Accordingly, taking all these factors into account, the Panel concluded that the statutory ground of misconduct had been established.
Decision on Impairment
46. The Panel next considered the issue of current impairment.
47. The Panel recognised that there is no burden or standard of proof and that this is a matter for the Panel’s own independent judgment. Whether fitness to practise is impaired has to be assessed at today’s date. The Panel’s task is not to “punish for past misdoings” but to determine whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired.
48. The Registrant provided the following reflection, which she read from her statement contained in the Registrant’s bundle:
“I have recognised, deeply regret and am truly sorry for the mistakes that I have made in accessing clinical records and any distress this has caused. During the period of time that it happened, I believe that I was suffering from the effects of the life events detailed above and behaved in such a way that I made decisions that were irrational, misguided and wrong.
Whilst at no point do I feel that this was an excuse for my behaviour, I offer this information as an explanation for it.
After being dismissed from East Cheshire NHS Trust, I accepted accountability for my actions and made a self-referral to the HCPC on May 10th 2019. In being honest, and facing up to my responsibilities, I also spoke to the service users that I could, to explain to them what I had done. I did this prior to them receiving the Duty of Candour letters from East Cheshire. These were difficult but necessary conversations that I needed to have.
By doing this, it has made me seriously explore and reflect upon my actions and the reasons behind me doing what I did.
I have accessed support and help through Staff Services and professional help from my GP.
I have not had any previous warnings or causes for concern during the 30 years that I have been a radiographer and Advanced Practitioner, and I have been a mentor for several students over this time. I was not suspended from duty during the course of the East Cheshire investigation, since it was decided that whilst the allegations were serious, there was no risk to patients, other employees or the investigation itself.
I have been transparent with my current Imaging Manager at The Wilmslow Hospital who is aware of the events that led to my dismissal from East Cheshire NHS Trust and this Fitness to Practice investigation. Both she and the General Manager have shown trust and confidence in me, not only in offering me increased hours, but changing my bank hours into a permanent contract. I am now working as Lead Mammographer and have recently been asked to be the Imaging Representative on The HCA Professional Practice Counsel (sic).
I can wholeheartedly confirm that I have kept the knowledge that I gained from the records confidential. At no point have I ever disclosed, shared or discussed any of the information that I obtained with anyone else.
I never wanted to be dishonest. I am extremely ashamed and remorseful of my behaviour and for the hurt and upset that I have caused to people affected. I can assure you that I will never repeat these misguided actions again.
I have subsequently taken steps to further consolidate my understanding of data protection, Information Governance, GDPR, safeguarding and handling information by accessing several independent online courses (certificates included).
Having completed this further learning, it has reiterated just how wrong my actions were. If the opportunity arises, I would like to act as an advocate to help my peers understand the serious consequences of breaching confidentiality by sharing my experiences.
I have taken on board the comments made during the investigatory interview and disciplinary hearing at East Cheshire about data protection and logging off/locking any workstation that I walk away from and I am pro-active in encouraging other members of staff to do the same.
I am lucky to have been employed in a job that I love and am passionate about for the last 30 years. I am absolutely mortified by my behaviour and the fact that I have jeopardised my registration as a Radiographer, and a much loved career.
I am conscious that my actions fell well below the standards expected of me as a Radiographer and Advanced Practitioner, both by the HCPC and the Society of Radiographers. I can assure you, however, that my conduct will not be called into question again should you deem me fit to practice.”
49. The Registrant in cross examination by Ms Constantine stated that when the incidents occurred, she was in an ‘emotionally different place’ and since then she had addressed her feelings of not being in control. She said she would categorically never repeat the behaviour again.
50. The Registrant said that if she needed to access records again, she would do it through the correct channels. For other people, she would obtain written permission from them, recording that they were happy for their records to be obtained by her.
51. The Registrant said that she was aware of the impact of her actions on her Regulator. She accepted that she had let the Regulator and herself down and broken the bond of trust between her and her employer.
52. In Panel questions the Registrant clarified that she had worked at Macclesfield District General Hospital since 2011 until 2019. In 2016 she started working bank hours at Wilmslow Hospital which is a private hospital. She now works full-time at Wilmslow Hospital where she indicated that the training was equivalent to that within the NHS, namely in relation to information governance and GDPR.
53. The Registrant also confirmed that she was on her own when she accessed the patient records and/or that she was in an area that was not too busy with other medical staff in the vicinity.
54. The Registrant was asked how she would feel if she knew one of her colleagues had been accessing her private notes. She said that she would be upset and that it could lead to a breakdown in trust and honesty. She indicated that she engaged in this conduct ‘a long time ago’ and that she was ‘emotionally not in great place’. She said she assured the Panel that she would ‘never do anything like this again’. She said she would ‘hate to make anyone feel how they may have felt in the past’.
55. The Registrant also confirmed that she had obtained 89% in her e-learning Information Governance test result in March 2019, and said she knew that accessing the records was wrong and that it was not a training issue. However, she said that she had learned from her wrongdoing and would deal with matters differently now.
56. The Registrant was asked as to whether she could now remember why she had accessed Service User 5’s records. She said she could not.
57. Ms Constantine for the HCPC referred the Panel to the Practice Note on Impairment and emphasised the two elements, namely the personal and public component. She submitted that the Registrant’s level of insight was key and it was for Panel to evaluate whether the Registrant had demonstrated an appropriate level of insight and truly understood the deficiencies identified.
58. Mr Pembridge on behalf of the Registrant did not make any closing submissions on impairment.
59. The Panel considered the matter on both the personal and public components.
60. In considering the personal component in relation to the current competence and conduct of the Registrant. The Panel asked itself whether the acts which led to the allegation were remediable, whether remedial action had been taken by the Registrant and whether those acts were likely to be repeated, thereby causing a risk to others. In doing so, the Panel considered the areas of insight and remorse.
61. The Panel considered that the Registrant had good insight and undertaken significant remediation to address the concerns:
• She admitted the allegations during the interview on 29 March 2019;
• She admitted the allegations at the outset of this hearing;
• She has undertaken CPD courses: Data Security Awareness Training in March 2019; Handling Information Training in November 2019; Information Governance and NHS Data Security Awareness in March 2019
• More recently, she undertook CPD training in relation to privacy and security on 18 July 2020 and Data Security Awareness training on 17 August 2020
62. The Panel was also impressed by the Registrant’s evidence and accepted that the Registrant was operating under particular emotional strains at the time of the misconduct. Although this did not condone her behaviour, it provided some explanation as to the context. The Panel noted the Registrant emphatically stated in oral evidence that she would never repeat her misconduct again.
63. Further the Panel reminded itself that the Registrant continued working for the Wilmslow Hospital after the allegations arose as they did not consider her to be a risk to patients. The Registrant remains employed there. The Registrant has produced numerous testimonials including from Radiographers, Radiologists, and from her current employers, attesting to her skill as a radiographer, her honesty and integrity, and her trustworthiness relating to patient confidentiality and work ethics.
64. In view of all these factors, the Panel was persuaded that the risk of repetition was low.
65. Accordingly, the Panel did not find that the Registrant was currently impaired on the personal component.
66. In respect of the public component, the Panel reminded itself of the need to protect and maintain confidence in the profession, as well as declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour which the public expect.
67. The Panel considered that the Registrant’s conduct undermined the trust that individuals place in healthcare providers and the HCPC as regulator as her misconduct was in direct breach of the Trust’s policy, HCPC standards and the law relating to data protection, of which the Registrant was well aware.
68. The Panel however noted that the Registrant only accessed information relating to a small group of people which she did not disseminate. Whilst that would be a greater invasion of privacy for the service users involved, the risk was to a defined group of people known to the Registrant. To that extent the Panel considered that the risk to a wider range of service users was mitigated, and coupled with the Panel’s findings in relation to the personal component, would go some way to ameliorate the public’s concerns as to future risks.
69. Notwithstanding this, the Registrant’s misconduct was serious, since it occurred over a prolonged period, it was repeated and concerned a number of service users. The Registrant knew that her actions were wrong and persisted in her misconduct. The Registrant did not inform the Trust of her actions and the service users whose records she was accessing were unaware. The Panel considered that all of these factors significantly damage the public’s trust in the profession and its confidence in the Regulator.
70. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that the Registrant was currently impaired on the public component.
Decision on Sanction:
71. Having concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel proceeded to consider what, if any sanction, is appropriate and proportionate, having regard to its findings as set out above, and in particular, to address the public interest that is engaged in this case.
72. Ms Constantine made submissions on behalf of the HCPC. She emphasised that the decision as to the appropriate sanction to be imposed was a matter for the judgement of the Panel and the HCPC did not intend to make any specific submissions as to the appropriate sanction. She referred the Panel to the Sanctions Policy. She reminded the Panel of the general principle of proportionality and that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish but to protect the public, although a sanction may have a punitive effect. She submitted that the only aggravating feature the Council could identify in this case was a breach of trust.
73. Mr Pembridge on behalf of the Registrant started by offering an apology from the Registrant to all parties affected. He said that the Registrant had performed to a high standard over the last 30 years and there were specific circumstances as well as emotional stress which led to the Allegation. He said the conduct was highly unlikely to occur again and the Registrant was confident that she would handle the matter differently in the future.
74. Mr Pembridge also drew the Panel’s attention to the testimonial provided by the Registrant’s manager in relation to the Registrant’s current role at the Wilmslow Hospital, which stated that:
“I have no concerns at all about her trustworthiness, issues with patient confidentiality or any of her work ethics. She is always very professional with both her peers and patients and works to a high standard at all times. She has excellent communication skills and leadership abilities and is always positive.”
75. Mr Pembridge submitted that the Registrant did not seek to guide the Panel as to sanction but stated that the Registrant wished to continue to practise in a profession she was passionate about.
76. The Panel has considered all the submissions and evidence that it has heard and read. It has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It has taken account of the Sanctions Policy. It kept in mind that the purpose of a sanction was not to be punitive but to protect the public and to uphold the public interest. The Panel was very conscious of the deterrent effect that an appropriate order could have on other registrants, the need to safeguard the reputation of the profession concerned and also the need to sustain public confidence in the regulatory process itself.
77. The Panel took into account the principles of proportionality, balancing the interests of the Registrant with the public interest.
78. The Panel also took into account the relevant aggravating and mitigating factors.
79. As regards the aggravating factors, the Panel noted:
• The Registrant’s conduct was a breach of trust and an abuse of her professional position;
• The misconduct was committed over a pronged period of time with multiple accesses to patient records.
80. As regards mitigating factors; the Panel noted:
• A long and previously unblemished career of 30 years;
• The misconduct appeared to be a response to a culmination of a number of personal stressful and emotional events;
• The Registrant looked at the patient records with no intent to disseminate this information was not at any stage disseminated;
• Numerous extremely positive references from senior colleagues, including radiographers and radiologists;
• The Registrant expressed genuine remorse and made full and frank admissions from the moment she was challenged by her employer. She self-referred to the HCPC and made full admissions at the outset of this hearing;
• The Registrant apologised to those affected;
• The Registrant has demonstrated significant reflection and remediation. In particular, she has accessed support, to help improve her coping strategies and has undertaken numerous CPD courses in relation to data protection;
81. The Panel bore in mind the principle of proportionality and considered the least restrictive sanction necessary to satisfy the public interest.
82. The Panel has concluded that taking no action would be inappropriate having regard to the findings made by this Panel. It would not maintain public confidence in the profession or in the HCPC as its regulator. It would not send the appropriate message to the public or to fellow practitioners.
83. The Panel next considered whether a Caution Order would be the appropriate order. The Panel noted that the Sanctions Policy states:
“A caution order is likely to be an appropriate sanction for cases in which:
• the issue is isolated, limited, or relatively minor in nature;
• there is a low risk of repetition;
• the registrant has shown good insight; and
• the registrant has undertaken appropriate remediation.
A caution order should be considered in cases where the nature of the allegations mean that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed, but a suspension of practice order would be disproportionate. In these cases, panels should provide a clear explanation of why it has chosen a non-restrictive sanction, even though the panel may have found there to be a risk of repetition (albeit low).”
84. The Panel considered that a Caution Order was the most appropriate Order. In reaching this conclusion, although the Panel noted that the misconduct was not isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, the Panel was satisfied that:
• The Registrant was very remorseful for her behaviour;
• The Registrant had good insight;
• The Registrant had undertaken significant remediation. In particular the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had addressed her personal issues;
• The risk of repetition was low;
• She has continued to work with patients. The Trust and her current employers told the HCPC that they did not consider her to be a risk to patients. In addition to their testimonials, her current employer showed their confidence in her by increasing her hours and offering her a permanent full-time contract, in the full knowledge of the existing fitness to practise concerns.
85. Further, the Panel’s decision to impose a Caution Order was supported by its finding that the Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired on the basis of the wider public interest concerns rather than on the need to protect the public.
86. The Panel considered the length of the Caution Order and reminded itself of the Sanctions Policy which states that:
“The panel can impose a caution order for any period between one and five years. As discussed earlier, the panel should take the minimum action required to protect the public and public confidence in the profession, so should begin by considering whether or not a caution order of one year would be sufficient to achieve this. It should only consider imposing the caution order for a longer period where one year is insufficient.
Each case should be considered on an individual basis, and the panel’s decision should clearly state the length of sanction it considers to be appropriate and proportionate, and the reasons for that decision.”
87. The Panel considered that a period of 2.5 years (30 months) was the appropriate period for the following reasons:
• It reflected the seriousness of the conduct which took place over a prolonged period of time;
• The deterrent effect on other practitioners and to underline the importance of this Registrant and all registrants adhering to the fundamental professional requirements for patient confidentiality and data protection.
88. The Panel considered that a Conditions of Practice Order was neither appropriate or workable. The Registrant has already undertaken the required mandatory training in relation to data protection and has sourced additional independent training, and provided evidence of this. The Panel did not consider that further training would be of any benefit to the public. The Panel did not consider that conditions, such as limiting the Registrant’s access to patient records would be practicable.
89. The Panel considered that a Suspension Order was both unnecessary and disproportionate to achieve the primary aims set out in the Sanctions policy, namely:
• any risks the registrant might pose to those who use or need their services;
• the deterrent effect on other registrants;
• public confidence in the profession concerned; and
• public confidence in the regulatory process.
90. The Panel further considered that such an order was disproportionate given the Registrant’s insight, remediation and her otherwise unblemished career.
91. Accordingly, the Panel imposed a Caution Order for a period of 2 ½ years (30 months).
ORDER: The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register entry of Mrs Deborah J Robinson with a caution which is to remain on the Register for a period of 30 months from the date this Order comes into effect.
No notes available
History of Hearings for Deborah J Robinson
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|05/10/2020||Conduct and Competence Committee||Final Hearing||Caution|