Mrs Sarah J Colley

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: DT05957

Hearing Type: Voluntary Removal Agreement

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 18/06/2021 End: 17:00 18/05/2021

Location: Virtual Hearing via Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

The allegation against you is as follows:
Whilst registered as a Dietitian with the Health and Care Professions Council, and
whilst working at Glan Clwyd Hospital, you:
1. Did not conduct clinics in a timely manner in that clinics ran late.
2. Did not submit timesheets and/or expenses.
3. Did not complete mandatory training.
4. Did not complete accurate records in that you:
a) Completed a number of clinical assessments to a poor standard;
b) Failed to complete patient notes in a timely manner.
5. Demonstrated poor clinical judgement in that you:
a) Selected inappropriate treatments for patients;
b) Did not follow best practice guidelines;
c) Prescribed nutrition supplements without justification;
d) Carried out reviews unnecessarily.
6. The matters described in paragraphs 1-5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of
competence.
7. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise
is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters

Proof of Service
1. The Panel was informed that Notice of this hearing was sent to the Registrant’s email address on 12 May 2021, advising the Registrant of the date and time of the hearing, and informing her that due to the impact of COVID 19, the hearing would take place remotely.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It had regard to the HCPTS Practice Note in relation to Service of Documents, which included the ability to serve documentation by electronic means. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant had been served with Notice of this hearing in accordance with all relevant legal and procedural requirements.
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant

3. Ms Sampson applied to the Panel to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. She explained that the Registrant had exercised her right not to attend. Ms Sampson referred to an email sent by the Registrant on 12 May 2021 saying: “Many thanks for the update on my hearing. Neither myself nor my solicitor will be attending”.

4. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. It was mindful that the discretion to proceed in the absence of a Registrant must be exercised with the utmost care and caution.

5. The Panel took account of the email from the Registrant, dated 12 May 2021. The Panel concluded that the Registrant has absented herself from this hearing voluntarily. The Panel took account of the nature of this hearing, which is to consider the suitability of an agreement reached by both parties. The Registrant had not requested an adjournment and the Panel had no reason to believe that an adjournment would result in her attendance at a later date. The Panel considered the public interest that lies in the expeditious disposal of this hearing and determined to proceed in the Registrant’s absence.

Application for the hearing to be heard in private
6. Ms Sampson applied for part, or all, of the hearing to be heard in private because there would be reference to the Registrant’s health. Ms Sampson confirmed that matters to do with the Registrant’s health could be dealt with separately during the course of her submissions.

7. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took account of the HCPTS Practice Note entitled: “Conducting Proceedings in Private”. The Panel concluded that it was appropriate to hold such parts of the hearing as relate to the Registrant’s health in private, pursuant to Rule 10(1)(a) of the (Conduct and Competence Committee) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”). The Panel concluded that protection of the Registrant’s private life outweighed the public interest in conducting the entirety of hearing in public in this instance.

Background
8. The Registrant commenced employment as a registered Dietician with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, in the Dietetics Department at Glan Clwyd Hospital, on 31 October 1995.

9. In 2016, concerns came to light regarding the Registrant’s record keeping and the high number of patients on her “inactive” list. Further concerns were identified during a period of management supervision, relating to the completion of mandatory training and the submission of timesheets/expenses.

10. A capability review process was instigated, and in 2017 the Registrant’s role was changed from that of a Senior Public Health Dietician to a Specialist Dietician (Lifestyle), to assist with the management of her workload.

11. In 2018, a further period of capability review was instigated, as the concerns continued, despite the change in the Registrant’s role.

12. In January 2019, the Registrant’s employer made a referral to the HCPC following an audit of the Registrant’s work.

13. On 19 November 2019, a Panel of the Investigation Committee Panel of the HCPC considered the following allegation and concluded that there was a case to answer:

Whilst registered as a Dietitian with the Health and Care Professions Council, and whilst working at Glan Clwyd Hospital, you:
1. Did not conduct clinics in a timely manner in that clinics ran late.
2. Did not submit timesheets and/or expenses.
3. Did not complete mandatory training.
4. Did not complete accurate records in that you:
a. Completed a number of clinical assessments to a poor standard;
b. Failed to complete patient notes in a timely manner.
5. Demonstrated poor clinical judgement in that you:
a. Selected inappropriate treatments for patients;
b. Did not follow best practice guidelines;
c. Prescribed nutrition supplements without justification;
d. Carried out reviews unnecessarily.
6. The matters described in paragraphs 1-5 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.
7. By reason of your misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to Practice is impaired.

14. The HCPC instructed Kingsley Napley LLP solicitors to finalise the investigation and prepare the matter for a final hearing. Three witness statements were taken.

15. On 24 February 2021, the Registrant informed the HCPC that she was no longer working in dietetics and wished to change career.

16. On 24 February 2021, the HCPC discussed with the Registrant the possibility of disposing of the case by consent. The relevant HCPTS Practice Note, dealing with disposal of cases by consent, was sent to her. The Registrant indicated that she had the benefit of legal representation at the time.

17. On 10 March 2021, the Registrant confirmed with the HCPC that she wished to enter a Voluntary Removal Agreement. She sent the required consent pro forma in which she confirmed that she had read the relevant HCPTS Practice Note. She admitted the allegation and admitted that her fitness to practise was impaired.

18. The Registrant admitted that she had not kept up to date with her practice, and that she had demonstrated poor clinical judgement, produced poor assessments, and had not followed best practice guidelines.

19. The Registrant provided the HCPC with a reflective statement stating that she had not worked in dietetics as a Dietitian since 23 October 2020. She said she had now changed careers to work in a pathology department, in a role which does not involve working directly with the public. She confirmed she has no desire to return to the dietetic profession and would like to be removed from the Register.

20. The HCPC acknowledged the Registrant’s response and progressed the matter to be considered for voluntary removal.

21. Following HCPC approval to dispose of this case by consent, a Voluntary Removal Agreement was sent to the Registrant by email on 26 May 2021. The Registrant subsequently returned the Voluntary Removal Agreement on 29 May 2021. The Voluntary Removal Agreement was accepted on 18 June 2021.

Submissions
22. Ms Sampson submitted that voluntary removal from the Register was the appropriate means of resolving the matter. She submitted that it is clear that the Registrant has no desire to continue in practice as a Dietician. She submitted that the Registrant had been provided with detailed information about the process of Voluntary Removal and had given her informed consent.

23. Ms Sampson submitted that public protection would be ensured by Voluntary Removal as the agreement has the same effect as a striking off order. Furthermore, she submitted that the voluntary removal would not be detrimental to the wider public interest.

Decision
24. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and took account of the guidance given in the HCPTS’s Practice Note entitled: “Disposal of Cases by Consent”. The Panel understood that it was required to decide whether to grant the application, or whether to direct that the Allegation be set down for a hearing. In reaching its decision it was required to consider whether the Voluntary Removal Agreement would secure the appropriate level of public protection and whether granting the application was in the public interest.

25. The Panel considered that the Registrant has given her informed consent to the Agreement. The Registrant has stated that she admits the Allegation. She has provided detailed reflection on how and why she failed to attain the standards expected of her at the time. She has explained that she is now working in a different role and has no desire to return to her profession. She has clearly stated that she wishes to have her name removed from the HCPC Register.

26. The Panel is satisfied that granting the application will adequately protect the public, given that the effect of voluntary removal is the same as a striking-off order.

27. The Panel is also satisfied that it is in the public interest to accede to the application. The Panel concluded that the public would support the decision to deal with this matter by means of Voluntary Removal. The Registrant had fully engaged with the process from the outset and had admitted the allegation. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant no longer wished to work as a Dietician and had provided her informed consent to the process of Voluntary Removal. The Panel is satisfied that it is not in the public interest to incur the inconvenience, distress and expense of a hearing in the circumstances of this case. The Panel is satisfied that both the maintenance of public confidence in the profession and its regulator, and the declaring and upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour within the profession, will be upheld by the Voluntary Agreement.

28. Accordingly, the Panel has decided to grant the application.

Order

The Registrar is directed to remove the name of Mrs Sara J Colley from the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Mrs Sarah J Colley

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
18/06/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Voluntary Removal Agreement Voluntary Removal agreed