Paula Thompson

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT43321

Hearing Type: Voluntary Removal Agreement

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 21/06/2021 End: 17:00 21/06/2021

Location: Virtually via videoconference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

As a registered Occupational Therapist (OT43321) your fitness to practice is impaired by reason of misconduct and/or lack of competence. In that:

1. Between January 2013 and September 2016, you did not keep
adequate or accurate notes for the children listed in Schedule A.


2. Between January 2013 and September 2016, you did not keep the records of the children listed in Schedule B securely and/or in the correct place and therefore have potentially breached their confidentiality.


3. The matters described in particulars 1 –2 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.


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

Schedule A

Here follow a number of children identified only by initials

Schedule B

Here follow a number of children identified only by initials

Finding

The Allegation

1. On 17 July 2020, a Panel of the Investigating Committee determined that there was a case to answer in respect of the following allegation against the Registrant. The Registrant was informed of that decision by a notice dated 23 July 2020.

As a registered Occupational Therapist (OT43321) your fitness to practice is impaired by reason of misconduct and/or lack of competence. In that:

1. Between January 2013 and September 2016, you did not keep
adequate or accurate notes for the children listed in Schedule A.


2. Between January 2013 and September 2016, you did not keep the records of the children listed in Schedule B securely and/or in the correct place and therefore have potentially breached their confidentiality.


3. The matters described in particulars 1 –2 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.


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

Schedule A

Here follow a number of children identified only by initials

Schedule B

Here follow a number of children identified only by initials

The Skeleton Argument.

2. For the purposes of this Hearing, the HCPC has submitted, and the Panel has read, a Skeleton Argument, signed by Hayley-Jane Knight and dated 15 June 2021 [the Skeleton Argument].

Service and Proceeding in Absence

3. The Panel has seen the Notice of today’s Hearing dated 17 May 2021 which the HCPC sent by email to the Registrant at her registered email address. The Notice of Hearing made clear that this Hearing would take place today as a virtual Hearing. The Notice informed the Registrant of the time and date of this Hearing.

4. Having heard Ms Bwoma on behalf of the HCPC and having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel was satisfied that good service of the Notice of Hearing has taken place.

Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant.

5. The Panel has seen an email dated 17 June 2021 from the Registrant in which she says that she is not attending this Hearing. This email was in reply to an email from the Hearings Officer dated 16 June 2021, confirming that the Registrant was not going to attend the Hearing. The Panel has read both documents.

6. Ms Bwoma on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that the Panel should consider the case in the absence of the Registrant.

7. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

8. The Panel was aware that a decision to proceed in the absence of the Registrant was one to be taken with great care and caution. However, the Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. The reasons are as follows:

• Service of the appropriate notice of this Hearing has been properly effected.

• The Registrant has not applied for an adjournment.

• The Registrant has informed the HCPC by email that she does not wish to attend this Hearing and is content for it to proceed in her absence.

• The Panel has kept in mind the guidance contained in the Practice Note issued by the HCPTS.

• There is no reason to suppose that an adjournment would result
in the future attendance of the Registrant.

• There is a public interest in proceeding in order to bring these proceedings to a conclusion, which is the wish of both the Registrant and the HCPC.

• In these circumstances it is right to conclude that the Registrant has voluntarily absented herself.

 

Proceeding in private

9. Ms Bwoma on behalf of the HCPC, submitted that those parts of the Hearing that relate to the health of the Registrant should be received in private. Having heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor the Panel made a direction in those terms.

Background

10. The Registrant is a registered Occupational Therapist. She was employed as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist by The Western Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Ireland.

11. The HCPC received a referral from the Registrant’s employer on 30 May 2019 after they discovered multiple issues with the Registrant’s work which raised doubts about her competency in the role.

12. The issues raised related to the Registrant’s poor record keeping for over 100 children, and non-confidential storage of those records.

13. On 17 July 2020 a panel of the Investigating Committee determined that there was a case to answer in respect of the allegation that is set out above.

14. The Panel referred the above allegation to the Conduct and Competence Committee.

15. Following the Case to Answer Decision of 17 July 2020, the Registrant sent an email dated 30 July 2020 to the HCPC.

16. Following the Registrant’s request for voluntary removal, the HCPC reviewed the matter and considered the circumstances suitable for disposal by way of a Voluntary Removal Agreement.

17. The HCPC agreed that this case was suitable for disposal by way of Voluntary Removal from the Register, and the Registrant was advised that this hearing would be listed in order to determine the application.

18. The Registrant was sent the Voluntary Removal Agreement to sign on 10 June 2021.The HCPC has now received the VRA signed by both the Registrant and by an official of the HCPC and dated 21 June 2021.

The Submissions of the HCPC.

19. The submissions of the HCPC as set out in the Skeleton Argument, which have been adopted and amplified by Ms Bwoma are in the following terms.

‘The HCPC submits that, in all the circumstances, voluntary removal from the Register would be an appropriate means of resolving the current matter.

Given voluntary removal is equivalent in effect to a strike-off, the HCPC submits that the necessary public protection would be ensured by this course of action, also bearing in mind that it does not seem likely that the allegation in this case is so serious as to justify a striking-off Order if the matter were to proceed to a final hearing. In any case, the Registrant has indicated that she does not wish to return to practice as an Occupational Therapist.

The HCPC also submits that it would not be detrimental to the wider public interest to dispose of this matter by way of voluntary removal. It is submitted that on balance there are no matters detailed in the allegation which concern the wider public interest and would consequently justify being determined at a final hearing, especially in light of the Registrant’s wish not to practice as an Occupational Therapist in the future. The HCPC reiterates that the Registrant has admitted the substance of the allegations and that voluntary removal from the register will have the same effect as a strike-off.

It is therefore submitted that the Voluntary Removal Agreement is an appropriate and expeditious way of dealing with this matter and the HCPC respectfully invites the Panel to approve the proposed agreement.

A reflective statement from the Registrant

20. The Panel has seen a reflective statement from the Registrant which was submitted with a communication dated 17 July 2020. In that statement the Registrant described the difficulties which she faced.

The decision of the Panel

21. The Panel has considered the submissions of the HCPC as set out in the Skeleton Argument and adopted by Ms Bwoma. The Panel has further considered all the documents that have been identified.

22. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

23. In deciding whether or not to approve the VRA the Panel has had regard to the Practice Note published by the HCPTS in March 2018 and entitled Disposal of Cases by Consent. The Panel has concluded that the VRA should be approved and that an order should be made in the terms set out below. Its reasons are as follows.

• The Registrant has admitted the substance of the Allegation. She has also admitted that her fitness to practise is thereby impaired. In this context the Panel has taken account of the reflective statement from the Registrant and the emails from her, all of which are referred to above.

• The public will be adequately protected by the voluntary removal of the Registrant’s name from the register. Such an outcome is also in the interests of the Registrant and addresses and safeguards the public interest.

• There are no reasons of a public interest kind to require a substantive fitness to practise hearing of the Allegation.

24. For all the reasons that are set out above, the Panel has determined to approve the outcome sought in the VRA with immediate effect: In particular, the Panel agrees that the HCPC should be permitted to withdraw the Allegation and the Registrant shall voluntarily remove her name from the Register with effect from today’s date.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to remove the name of Mrs Paula Thompson from the Register with immediate effect.

Notes

On 21 June 2021 a hearing was held via video-link and the Voluntary Removal agreed.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Paula Thompson

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
21/06/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Voluntary Removal Agreement Voluntary Removal agreed