Miss Samantha Parry

Profession: Dietitian

Registration Number: DT25052

Interim Order: Imposed on 04 Mar 2021

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 01/03/2021 End: 17:00 04/03/2021

Location: Virtual via video conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Suspended

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Allegation

Amended allegation


While registered as a Dietitian with the Health and Care Professions Council and during your employment with Your World Recruitment, you:


1. Completed and/or submitted a timesheet claiming you had worked 19.5 hours between 18 October & 20 October 2017 but you did not complete these hours.
2. Completed and/or submitted a timesheet for shifts you claimed to have completed between 18 December and 22 December 2017:
a. which claimed you had worked 30 hours, when you had only completed 12.5 hours;
b. in circumstances where you had cut out a supervisor’s signature from a previous timesheet and stuck it on this timesheet.
3. Your actions at paragraphs 1 – 2 were dishonest.
4. Your actions at paragraphs 1 – 3 amount to misconduct.
5. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Application for part of the hearing to be in private

1. At the outset of the hearing, Ms Molyneux made an application for part of the hearing to be in private. She indicated that there would be some references to the Registrant’s health, and she asked that those matters be in private.

2. Ms Lykourgou did not oppose the application.

3. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice that, although the general rule is that hearings are to be in public, it is open to a Panel to go into private session when dealing with matters relating to the health of a Registrant. Accordingly, the Panel decided that when, and if, such matters were raised they would be heard in private.

Application to amend

4. Ms Lykourgou made an application to amend the allegation. She indicated that the Registrant had been informed in advance that this application was to be made and had not made any objection. Ms Lykourgou said the reasons for the request were to better particularise the allegation and to more accurately reflect the evidence of the witnesses. She said the proposed amendments would not make the allegation more onerous.

5. Ms Molyneux, on behalf of the Registrant, did not oppose the application.

6. The Panel heard and accepted the advice from the Legal Assessor that it could amend the allegation provided it was satisfied that it was fair to do so and that the proposed amendments could be made without injustice. The Panel noted that the Registrant had been informed of the proposed changes and Ms Molyneux said she did not object to them. The Panel was satisfied that the amendments requested more accurately reflected the evidence, did not make the overall allegation more onerous and could be made without causing any injustice. The Panel therefore decided to allow the amendments requested and as reflected above.

Admissions

7. Following the amendments, the allegations were put and Ms Molyneux, on behalf of the Registrant, indicated that all the facts and misconduct were admitted, however the Registrant disputed that her current fitness to practise was impaired. The Panel acknowledged those admissions, however it remained for the Panel to determine the facts and misconduct, notwithstanding the admissions.

Witnesses

8. The Panel heard from one witness called on behalf of the HCPC, SMC, clinical Advisor at the Your World Recruitment Agency (“the Agency”). Two other witnesses, HO’B and NG, both Line Managers of the Registrant from the BUPA Cromwell Hospital, attended but, in the event, were not required to give evidence because all their evidence was agreed and all the facts admitted by the Registrant. The HCPC also relied on the hearsay evidence of two further witnesses, MO and LG, both Recruitment Consultants at the Agency. There was, however, no need for a hearsay application because their evidence was also agreed and not challenged by the Registrant.

9. Although, due to work commitments, the Registrant did not attend every day of the hearing, she did attend on the second day to give evidence in relation, predominantly, to current impairment.

Background

10. The Registrant is an HCPC registered dietician who, at the relevant time, was registered with the Agency. On 18 September 2017 she commenced a placement at BUPA Cromwell Hospital and worked intermittently at the hospital until December 2017. Her recruitment consultant at the Agency during this period was MO.

11. On 21 May 2018 the Registrant began a placement at Broomfield Hospital. During this placement she was line managed by PB and her recruitment consultant was LG.

12. On or around 12 June 2018, after Samantha Parry had concluded her placement at Broomfield hospital, PB called LG to inform her that she had found some old timesheets belonging to the Registrant, relating to BUPA Cromwell Hospital, on the Registrant’s former desk. These timesheets appeared to have the signature sections cut out. Concerned that the Registrant had been purposefully amending her timesheets to make it look like she had worked more hours, Ms PB sent the documents to the Agency.

13. GW, the Commercial Director at the Agency, subsequently liaised with HO’B revealing there were discrepancies between the hours the Registrant had worked at BUPA Cromwell Hospital and the hours on the timesheets she had submitted to the Agency.

14. The HCPC’s case in respect of Particular 1 was that the Registrant made a false representation regarding the number of hours she had worked, to claim money to which she was not entitled.

15. The Registrant submitted a timesheet claiming to have worked 19.5 hours at BUPA Cromwell Hospital between 18 and 20 October 2017 when the hospital had no record of her having worked those hours. There was also no record of her having accessed the building on these dates in her key card access history.

16. The HCPC’s case in respect of Particular 2 was that the Registrant doctored a time sheet to indicate she had worked more hours than she had between 18 and 22 December 2017, to claim money to which she was not entitled. This alleged doctoring involved cutting the signature section from a timesheet that had been filled out legitimately, placing it over the signature section on a timesheet where the hours claimed were fraudulent and then photocopying the collaged document to make it look like an authentic copy of an original.

17. The Registrant gave evidence and admitted all the facts and misconduct. She denied, however, that her current fitness to practice was impaired.

Decision on Facts

18. In reaching its decisions on the facts the Panel took into account the oral evidence provided by the witness called by the HCPC and all the documentary evidence. The Panel also took into account the submissions made by Ms Lykourgou on behalf of the HCPC. In addition, the Panel took into account the Registrant’s oral evidence and the submissions made by Ms Molyneux on her behalf. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor and bore in mind that, notwithstanding the Registrant’s admissions to all the facts, it was for the HCPC to prove its case on the balance of probabilities. It was not for the Registrant to disprove the allegations.

19. The Panel found Miss SMC to be a credible and reliable witness who gave balanced and consistent evidence and it noted that none of her evidence was challenged. Indeed, the Panel took into account the fact that none of the HCPC’s case was challenged by the Registrant.

20. The Registrant gave evidence and whilst she admitted all the facts and that her actions were dishonest, there were a number of aspects about her evidence which concerned the Panel. Her admissions to submitting timesheets for hours she had not worked and to doctoring the second timesheet, as alleged in paragraph 2(b), were straightforward. However, her evidence about acting dishonestly was less so. In brief she would categorically accept that she had been dishonest, but would then qualify her acceptance in a way which cast doubt upon her state of mind and intentions at the time. This impacted upon her credibility and the Panel thus treated her evidence with a certain amount of caution.

21. The Panel was left with the impression that the Registrant was being less than straightforward with her evidence and, notwithstanding her admissions, attempting to minimise her behaviour.

Particular 1

22. The Panel found this allegation proved on the basis of the Registrant’s admission, the documentary evidence that she had submitted the claim and the evidence that she had not in fact worked any hours between 18 October and 20 October 2017.
Particulars 2(a) and 2(b)

23. The Panel found the entirety of this allegation proved on the basis of: the Registrant’s admission; the documentary evidence that she had submitted the claim; the clear evidence that a supervisor’s signature had been cut out from a previous timesheet and stuck onto this timesheet; and the evidence that she had in fact only worked 12.5 hours between 18 December and 22 December 2017, rather than the 30 hours claimed.

Particular 3

24. On the face of it, making claims for hours not worked and, in the latter case, forging a document in support, would certainly appear to be dishonest behaviour and the Registrant admitted as much. However, the Panel noted the somewhat mixed messages provided by the Registrant in her reflective piece and her oral evidence. It is fair to say that when asked if she admitted her behaviour was dishonest, she always said yes. She said, “There is no excuse for what I did, I take full responsibility, it was not acceptable behaviour and I am prepared to take the consequences.” She added that she “felt really ashamed and I have never behaved like this before and I found it quite upsetting”. At one stage she accepted that her acts were intentional. In her reflective piece she said “… there really was no excuse for trying to mislead an employer.”

25. However, in contrast to those admissions, the Registrant also added a number of matters which suggested an alternative, less culpable, explanation for her behaviour.

26. When being cross-examined she said she accepted it was “my responsibility to check the hours I had worked and to make sure my timesheets were correct and I hadn’t done so on these two occasions and I should have gone back and checked those hours.” But she added, “I thought I had worked those hours.” She said she was not looking to make money but she did mislead people and gained financially from it. She was keen to emphasise, however, that she did “pay it back as soon as I realised I had not worked those hours.” In her reflective piece she referred to “the mistake I made.” All this suggested her actions had not been deliberate but rather mistaken or possibly reckless.

27. The Panel was left with the impression that she was not accepting that her actions had been deliberate and indeed in her reflective piece she said:
“After finishing the placement, I hadn’t submitted all of my timesheets. At the time, I was unable to work… and found it very difficult to leave the house at all. I completed a time sheet based on hours that were booked without checking if I had worked these hours … I also reused a signature from a previous time sheet rather than go into the workplace to get it signed myself. In 2018, I was in the process of going back through paperwork from the period when I was referred to the HCPC.”

28. In other words, it was a claim made in error and the cutting and pasting of the supervisor’s signature was done out of convenience rather than for any nefarious reason. None of this sat well with her repeated acceptances that she had acted dishonestly.

29. In her oral evidence she told the Case Presenter that she had made both claims after she had left her employment at the Cromwell Hospital, but in fact that was not the case. The first false claim was made in October 2017 and paid three weeks later in November 2017, whilst she was still working at the Cromwell Hospital as a locum. This was at a time when, from the timesheets provided in the HCPC papers, it was apparent the Registrant had been following an established process. She would complete a timesheet, have this signed off by a supervisor, thereby regularly claiming for work done within two weeks of doing it, and shortly thereafter she had been paid for it. So her account, given for the first time in her oral evidence, that it may have been as a result of the Cromwell hospital doing their year-end accounts and chasing up any unpaid timesheets in March 2018, could not apply to the October 2017 timesheet.

30. The Panel concluded that whilst the Registrant wished to admit her guilt and dishonest actions, at the same time she sought to minimise her behaviour and to deflect the Panel from her true intentions. When asked questions about irregularities with the timesheets exhibited, such as dates changed in different colour pens or dates overwritten, her answer was always that she was not sure and she would have to go back over the evidence and look at the timesheets. Whilst accepting that these allegations relate to matters from 2017, the Panel did not find this repeated answer credible. The Registrant had been provided with the witness statements, timesheets, pay slips and emails that the HCPC relied on in advance of this hearing and had ample opportunity to consider them before giving her evidence. Her vagueness came across as obfuscation and, in the Panel’s view, undermined further her credibility.

31. The evidence was clear. Shortly after not working at all between 18 October and 20 October 2018, the Registrant submitted a timesheet claiming for 19.5 hours work that she must have known she had not done. How she got the Supervisor’s signature on the timesheet is not clear. The Supervisor could not recall signing it and the Panel noted that both the date the Supervisor is said to have signed it and the date the Registrant is said to have signed it had been overwritten. It was not possible, however, to determine the significance of that. What was clear from the hospital records was that the Registrant had not worked those hours. She was paid three week later on 15 November 2017. On this evidence, the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the Registrant had deliberately made a claim for hours she knew she was not entitled to. She deceived her employer into believing she had worked hours that she had not. She accepted it was absolutely her responsibility to ensure her timesheets were accurate.

32. The Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, based on the evidence rather than her admission, that the Registrant had deliberately set out to make a false claim and she knew what she was doing was wrong. The Panel was in no doubt that applying the objective standards of ordinary decent people, they would find that behaviour to be dishonest. The Panel therefore found Particular 3 proved in relation to Particular 1.

33. The evidence in relation to Particular 2, and the claim for the hours in December 2017, was even more stark. This time the Registrant went a stage further. Not only did she claim for 30 hours work when she had only completed 12.5 in the period claimed, but she also went to some lengths to produce a false document in support. This involved cutting out a supervisor’s signature from a previous timesheet and then sticking this on to the timesheet for 18-22 December 2017, before photocopying the completed document to make it look authentic. So not only was she setting out to deceive the employer into thinking she had worked hours she had not in fact worked, but she also set out to deceive them into believing the supervisor had signed the timesheet when she had not done so. The Panel considered her explanation in her reflective piece that she had used a previous signature out of convenience, because she did not want to go into work, lacked credibility. There would have been many other ways she could have claimed for legitimate outstanding hours, without resorting to forgery. By contrast, however, since she was making a false claim, she might have struggled to get a supervisor to sign her timesheet.

34. The Panel was thus satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, based on the evidence rather than her admission, that the Registrant had deliberately set out to make a false claim and she knew what she was doing was wrong. As with Particular 1, the Panel was in no doubt that applying the objective standards of ordinary decent people, they would find that behaviour to be dishonest. The Panel therefore found Particular 3 proved in relation to Particular 2.

Decision on Grounds

35. The Panel next considered whether the facts found proved amounted to misconduct. In so doing it took into account all the evidence and the submissions made by both parties. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel noted that the Registrant herself admitted that her behaviour amounted to misconduct and it took this into account. However, the Panel reached its open independent decision on whether the facts found proved actually amounted to misconduct and in doing so used its own judgment.

36. The Panel found the Registrant to be in breach of Standard 9 of the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics applicable to all HCPC Registrants, namely, to be honest and trustworthy. This standard specifically requires Registrants to: “Make sure their conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in them and their profession (9.1).”

37. The Panel also found the Registrant to be in breach of Standard 3.1 of the Standards of Proficiency applicable to Dieticians, namely the “need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct.”

38. The Registrant made two false claims for hours she had not worked, with the latter being supported by a forged document in support. The Panel found this behaviour to have been deliberate and dishonest, resulting as it did in the Registrant being paid almost a thousand pounds for work, she had not done. The fact that she subsequently paid it back when she was discovered did not, in the Panel’s view, mitigate her behaviour when considering whether such actions amounted to misconduct.

39. Such serious behaviour falls far short of the standard expected of an HCPC registered professional and would be considered deplorable by other members of the profession and the public alike. In such circumstances the Panel was satisfied that the facts found proved amounted to misconduct and that the statutory ground was made out.

Decision on Impairment 

40. Having found the statutory ground of misconduct to be well founded, the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s current fitness to practise was impaired as a result of that misconduct. In doing so it took into account the submissions made by Ms Lykourgou and Ms Molyneux, together with all the evidence. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

41. The Panel was in no doubt that the Registrant had learnt a salutary lesson as a result of being caught and being subject to these proceedings and, on the whole, considered it unlikely she would behave in this way again. However, it was unable to rule it out completely in light of the way in which the Registrant had advanced her case. By admitting all the facts it might be thought that she had shown significant insight into her offending behaviour. However, by then seeking to minimise her actions, as referred to above, the Registrant had diminished her level of insight such that the Panel could not be satisfied she would not repeat her behaviour.

42. Accordingly, in applying the guidance provided in the case of the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Nursing and Midwifery Council and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin), when deciding the issue of current impairment, the Panel determined as follows:
• the Registrant had in the past brought the profession into disrepute and was liable to do so in the future;
• the Registrant had in the past breached a fundamental tenet of the profession (to act honestly) and was liable to do so in the future;
• the Registrant had in the past acted dishonestly and was liable to do so in the future.

43. The Panel makes it clear that there is no suggestion that the Registrant is not clinically competent and indeed she has produced references attesting to her skills as a clinician. There is no evidence that she has put patients at unwarranted risk of harm or would be likely to do so in the future.

44. However, in light of the three limbs of Grant which do apply, the Panel is satisfied that the Registrant’s current fitness to practice remains impaired.

45. The Panel went on to consider whether this was the type of case that also required a finding of impairment on public interest grounds in order to maintain public confidence in the profession and the Regulator. The Panel was satisfied that a fully informed member of the public, who was aware of all the background to this case, would have their confidence in the profession and the Regulator undermined if a finding of impairment were not made, given the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct in making false claims for hours not in fact worked. The Panel was, therefore, satisfied that a finding of impairment on this ground was necessary.

Decision on Sanction

46. In reaching its decision on sanction, the Panel took into account the submissions made by both parties, together with all the written evidence and all matters of personal mitigation. The Panel also referred to the guidance issued by the Council in its Sanctions Policy (“SP”). The Panel had in mind that the purpose of sanctions was not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public, maintain public confidence in the profession and maintain proper standards of conduct and performance. The Panel was also cognisant of the need to ensure that any sanction was proportionate. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

47. Before deciding on the appropriate sanction, the Panel first considered the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. The Panel found the following aggravating factors: breach of trust; false claim made on more than one occasion; a level of planning in producing the forged document in support of the second claim; attempts to minimise the behaviour and accordingly, notwithstanding her admissions, a lack of full insight.

48. The Panel found the following mitigating factors: no previous disciplinary record; full admissions to the facts (albeit qualified when related to the dishonesty - see above) and misconduct; some insight as shown by her admissions and comments about the impact of her behaviour on the profession, but limited by her approach to the question of dishonesty; positive testimonials; expressions of remorse and shame; the money dishonestly obtained was repaid.

49. In light of the serious nature of the misconduct, the Panel did not consider this was an appropriate case in which to take no further action or to make a Caution Order. Neither course would adequately mark the seriousness of the Registrant’s behaviour.

50. This was not a case where conditions of practice would be appropriate because of the nature of the Registrant’s offending behaviour. Conditions are very much aimed at clinical deficiencies rather than attitudinal behaviour and dishonesty is not something that can easily be addressed by conditions. The Panel also considered that conditions would not satisfy the public interest or adequately reflect the seriousness of the Registrant’s offending behaviour.

51. The Panel next considered whether to make a Suspension Order. The SP states that,
“A suspension order is likely to be appropriate where there are serious concerns which cannot be reasonably addressed by a conditions of practice order, but which do not require the registrant to be struck off the Register. These types of cases will typically exhibit the following factors:

• the concerns represent a serious breach of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics;

• the registrant has insight;

• the issues are unlikely to be repeated; and

• there is evidence to suggest the registrant is likely to be able to resolve or remedy their failings.”

52. The Panel reminded itself of the nature of the misconduct, namely dishonestly submitting claims for work not done. Dishonesty is always a particularly serious matter, whether or not it results in any harm to patients and whether or not it takes place within a Registrant's professional practice. Honesty, integrity and trustworthiness are integral to practice and a failure in these respects can undermine the trust the public place in the profession, as the Registrant rightly acknowledged.

53. When considering the guidance above the Panel was satisfied that all the factors listed are present in this case, however with some qualification. The Registrant’s behaviour does represent a serious breach of the Standards of conduct, performance and ethics; the Registrant has insight, albeit limited in the way referred to above; the Panel believed it unlikely the Registrant would repeat her dishonest behaviour, but is unable to rule it out completely in light of the limited insight; the Registrant’s active engagement with these proceedings and her admissions suggests there is evidence that she could remedy her failings, if prepared to develop her insight more fully.

54. This was a difficult case because the Registrant has demonstrated remorse and admitted her dishonesty. However, as referred to above, the way in which she admitted the allegation of dishonesty suggested she did not really accept her true actions and was not really taking full responsibility for them, despite her repeatedly saying that she was. In such circumstances the Panel has already concluded that a risk of repetition remains.

55. In her oral evidence and reflective piece, the Registrant acknowledged that she had failed to adhere to the standards of proficiency for dietitians and that she understood the need to maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct. She added:
“I am aware how trust in a dietitian is pivotal to the success of dietary therapy and how this must be upheld in all areas of my life both personally and professionally. It is crucial to ensure we are trustworthy so that service users feel safe and trust our advice, particularly in an age of social media misinformation. In this instance, I fell far short of what was expected which could have had huge implications on the trust of not just myself, but of dieticians and the profession in general.
During the period following this, I was very ashamed of my behaviour and remain so to this day. It was extremely out of character and a very difficult process of reflection to understand why I had done it. I know that I fell well short of the standards expected of a practicing dietitian and I failed to consider the consequences of my actions and how they would impact the profession and myself as a professional until after the event. I am fully aware of the seriousness of what happened and take full responsibility for my poor judgement at the time.”
56. In the two references provided, colleagues speak highly of her ability as a dietitian, the care she shows for her patients, her breadth of knowledge and how out of character this behaviour was.

57. Before deciding whether a Suspension Order would be appropriate in this case, the Panel also considered whether a Striking Off Order might be the appropriate sanction. The guidance states that, “A striking off order is a sanction of last resort for serious, persistent, deliberate or reckless acts involving, inter alia, dishonesty.”

58. The guidance also states that, “
“A striking off order is likely to be appropriate where the nature and gravity of the concerns are such that any lesser sanction would be insufficient to protect the public, public confidence in the profession, and public confidence in the regulatory process. In particular where the registrant:

• lacks insight;

• continues to repeat the misconduct or, where a registrant has been suspended for two years continuously, fails to address a lack of competence; or

• is unwilling to resolve matters.”

59. The Panel considered that a Striking Off Order could be justified in this case and the Registrant should be in no doubt that she came very close to being struck off. However, the Panel considered that, in light of the mitigation referred to above, the Registrant should be given the opportunity to further reflect on her behaviour and the findings of this Panel. This is not a case where the Registrant has shown no insight, or has continued to repeat the misconduct, or has demonstrated an unwillingness to resolve matters. To her credit she had engaged fully with this process and made full, albeit qualified, admissions. The Panel therefore decided it would be disproportionate at this time to resort to the ultimate sanction of removal from the Register and instead determined to give the Registrant the opportunity to demonstrate to a future reviewing Panel that she had resolved matters by more fully developing her insight.

60. The Panel was, therefore, satisfied that a lengthy Suspension Order would be sufficient to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process and would send a clear message to the profession at large that such behaviour would not be tolerated.

61. The Panel took into account the impact such an Order would have upon the Registrant, but concluded that the need to protect the public interest outweighed her interests and that no lesser sanction would adequately reflect her misconduct.

62. Accordingly, the Panel makes a Suspension Order for a period of twelve months. The length of the suspension reflects the seriousness of the misconduct and how close the Registrant came to being struck off the Register.

63. This Order will be reviewed before its expiry. The reviewing panel will be assisted by the following:

• the Registrant’s continued engagement with this process and attendance at the review hearing;
• a further reflective piece demonstrating that the Registrant has acknowledged, accepted and understood the findings of this Panel, particularly regarding dishonesty, and thereby developed her insight sufficiently to enable the reviewing panel to consider her safe return to practice.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Miss Samantha Parry for a period of 12 months from the date this order comes into effect. 

Notes

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

Any appeal must be made within 28 days of the date when this notice is served on you. 

Interim Order

The Panel makes an Interim Suspension Order under Article 31(2) of the Health Professions Order 2001, the same being otherwise in the public interest.

The allegation is so serious that public confidence in the profession would be seriously harmed if the Registrant was allowed to remain in unrestricted practice.”
This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Samantha Parry

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
01/03/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended