Miss Valerie Burt

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT24855

Hearing Type: Voluntary Removal Agreement

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 24/05/2021 End: 17:00 24/05/2021

Location: Virtual Hearing Via Video Conference

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Voluntary Removal agreed

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Allegation

As a registered Occupational Therapist (OT24855) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of lack of competence. In that:

1. Between January 2017 and June 2018, whilst employed by Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, you did not meet the required standards expected as a band 6 Occupational Therapist, namely by:

a) You did not maintain adequate case records, namely;

i. You did not complete risk assessments
ii. You did not ensure care plans were updated
iii. You did not ensure patient records were kept updated on the Trust’s electronic recording system.

b) You did not provide adequate treatment to service users, namely; you did not ensure they were seen on a regular basis.

2. Between January 2019 and May 2019, whilst employed by Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, you did not meet the required standards expected as a band 5 Occupational Therapist, namely;

a) You did not maintain adequate case records, namely;

i. You did not ensure patient records were kept update on the Trust’s electronic recording system.
ii. You did not complete care plans to an appropriate standard

b) You made poor clinical judgements, namely you did not ensure plans were put into place to address concerns with service users.

3. Your actions at paragraphs 1 - 2 amount to lack of competence.

4. By reason of your lack of competence your fitness to practise is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Service

1. A Notice of Hearing was sent by email to the Registrant on 25 March 2021 at 12.22.07 hours. The Notice was sent to the Registrant’s email address held by the HCPC on the Register. The Panel had sight of a ‘confirmation of delivery’ email timed at 12.22.41 hours on 25 March 2021.

2. The Panel was satisfied that there had been good service of the Notice of Hearing in accordance with Rule 6 of the HCPC (Conduct and Competence) (Procedure) Rules 2003 (“the Rules”).

Proceeding in absence

3. Ms Bwoma, on behalf of the HCPC, referred the Panel to a telephone attendance note dated 22 March 2021 confirming a conversation between a Scheduling Officer of the HCPTS and the Registrant, in which the Registrant confirmed that she did not wish to attend the voluntary removal hearing. Ms Bwoma submitted that since that conversation, the Registrant had been kept advised of developments by the HCPC and she had completed all the required documentation in connection with the voluntary removal and consent order process.

4. Ms Bwoma submitted that the Panel could conclude that the Registrant had voluntarily absented herself from the hearing today and an adjournment would serve no useful purpose.

5. The Panel considered the submissions on behalf of the HCPC and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was referred to the HCPTS Practice Note of September 2018, “Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant”, which sets out guidance from the cases of R v Jones (Anthony) [2004] 1 AC 1HL and GMC v Adeogba and GMC v Visvardis [2016] EWCA Civ 162. Applying that guidance, the Panel was careful to remember that its discretion to proceed in absence is not unfettered, and must be exercised with the utmost caution and with the fairness of the hearing at the forefront of its mind.

6. The Panel noted from the HCPC bundle that the Registrant has been in communication with the HCPC over recent months concerning the proposal that her case should be resolved by her voluntary removal from the HCPC Register and a consent order. It was evident from this correspondence that the Registrant wishes her case to be dealt with in this way. She confirmed in the telephone conversation on 22 March 2021 that she did not wish to attend this hearing. She was informed that the matter would be put before a panel at this hearing today.

7. The Panel concluded that there would be no unfairness or prejudice to the Registrant by proceeding in her absence. She had had the opportunity to consider the information about the process and had duly completed all the HCPC documents as required. The Panel accepted that she had voluntarily waived her right to attend this virtual hearing. An adjournment would serve no useful purpose. The Panel considered that in these circumstances, it was in the public interest, and in the interest of the Registrant, that the application should proceed and be dealt with today.

Documents

8. The Panel received from the HCPC a bundle (numbered pages 1-495). The Panel also received a telephone attendance note dated 22 March 2021 confirming a conversation between a Scheduling Officer of the HCPTS and the Registrant.

Background

9. The Registrant is an Occupational Therapist. The Registrant was employed by Somerset Partnership Foundation NHS Trust (“the Trust”) as a Band 6 Care Co-Ordinator in the Older Person and Community Mental Health Team.

10. On 13 December 2018, the Registrant referred herself to the HCPC informing it of concerns which had arisen during her employment at the Trust. The concerns related to:

• Keeping accurate records in line with Trust policy;
• Ability to complete matters within a reasonable timescale;
• Poor clinical judgment and problem-solving abilities.

11. Over a period commencing in September 2017, the Registrant had been through the Trust’s capability process, in the course of which three final-stage meetings took place. During the capability process, with effect from 23 June 2018, the Registrant was moved from her Band 6 role to a Band 5 role as a Day Hospital Memory Clinician. The final capability meeting took place on 15 May 2019, following which the Registrant was dismissed from her employment.

12. The Registrant subsequently informed the HCPC that since 16 July 2019 she has worked at a care home as a full-time activity assistant, which does not involve work as an Occupational Therapist.

13. The HCPC conducted an investigation into the concerns and obtained further information from the Trust. This information now appears in the
HCPC bundle.

14. On 22 October 2019, a panel of the HCPC’s Investigating Committee found a case to answer in respect of an allegation against the Registrant arising from the findings of the Trust. A Notice of Allegation was sent to the Registrant. The HCPC alleges that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired on the ground of lack of competence. The allegation was referred for consideration at a Conduct and Competence Committee hearing.

15. Following the Investigating Committee referral, discussions took place between the HCPC and the Registrant as to whether the Registrant wished to apply for voluntary removal from the HCPC Register. The Registrant confirmed that she did wish to take this option.

16. The Registrant completed the HCPC’s Consensual Disposal Request Proforma on 3 November 2020, in which she confirmed that she admitted the allegation of impairment of fitness to practise by reason of lack of competence, and that she wished to apply for voluntary removal. In the accompanying reflective statement, the Registrant stated that she had found her work environment at the Trust stressful and she had had to take on more responsibilities and work more autonomously. She also referred to difficulties in her personal circumstances which impacted upon her ability to perform her role. The Registrant accepted that she had struggled to organise her time, to meet deadlines, and complete tasks within the time restraints. The Registrant stated that she expected she would continue to struggle if she were to return to practice as an Occupational Therapist. She stated that she would find it difficult to comply with the HCPC’s standards, which she accepted could put the public at risk of harm.

17. The Registrant has signed the Voluntary Removal Agreement, dated 24 May 2021. The Registrant has also declared as part of this process that she is not aware of any other matter which could give rise to an allegation under the Health Professions Order 2001.

Submissions

18. Ms Bwoma submitted that in the circumstances, voluntary removal of the Registrant from the HCPC Register would be an appropriate means of resolving her case. Ms Bwoma submitted that it is clear from the correspondence received that the Registrant has accepted the allegation and admits that her fitness to practise is impaired. The Registrant has stated that she has no desire to practise as an Occupational Therapist in the future.

19. Ms Bwoma submitted that public protection would be ensured by voluntary removal, as the agreement is equivalent, in effect, to a Striking Off Order; the Registrant would no longer be registered as an Occupational Therapist. The Registrant has confirmed that she does not intend to practise as such in the future, therefore the public would be adequately protected from any potential risk posed by the Registrant practising in the future.

20. Ms Bwoma submitted that the wider public interest would not be put at risk by this disposal of the case by this means and that the public would not be concerned, nor would public confidence in the profession be put at risk, given the Registrant’s acceptance of the allegations and that her fitness to practise is impaired by reason of lack of competence.

Legal Advice

21. The Legal Assessor advised the Panel that the Health Professions Order 2001 does not explicitly provide for a consent order process but the HCPC has approved a process to allow matters, where suitable, to be disposed of by consent. This is set out in the guidance in the HCPTS Practice Note “Disposal of Cases by Consent” (March 2018) (“the Practice Note”).

22. The Panel was advised to consider the terms of the proposed order in accordance with the guidance in the Practice Note. The Panel was reminded that it retained the option to reject the proposal and refer the matter for a full substantive hearing before a different panel. This Panel should only agree to the proposed disposal if it is satisfied that the appropriate level of public protection is being secured and that doing so will not be detrimental to the wider public interest.

Decision

23. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Bwoma. The Panel reviewed the HCPC bundle, which included the correspondence between the Registrant and the HCPC, the skeleton argument of the HCPC dated 7 April 2021, and the documentation provided by the Trust concerning its investigation and the capability process.

24. The Panel has had sight of the formal documents, the Consent Proforma and the Voluntary Removal Agreement duly signed by the Registrant, and the proposed Notice of Withdrawal.

25. The Panel applied the guidance in the Practice Note. It was aware that it was not obliged to accept that the Consent Order agreed between the Registrant and the HCPC is the appropriate disposal of the case; it could reject the Consent Order and direct that the matter proceeds to a full substantive hearing before a different panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee.

26. The Panel noted that neither the HCPC nor the Panel should agree to resolve a case by consent unless they are satisfied that: (a) the appropriate level of public protection is being secured, and; (b) doing so would not be detrimental to the wider public interest.

27. The Panel further noted that the HCPC will only consider resolving cases by consent where:

• the Investigating Committee had found that there is case to answer;
• the Registrant has admitted the allegation in full;
• any remedial action agreed between the Registrant and the HCPC is consistent with the expected outcome if the case were to proceed to a contested hearing.

28. The Panel observed that the proposed Voluntary Removal Agreement is an agreement to the effect that the HCPC will not take any further action against the Registrant in relation to this matter on the understanding that she will remove herself from the Register, cease practising as an Occupational Therapist, and not attempt to re-join the Register. If the Registrant were to apply to come back on to the Register, her application would be treated in the same way as that of someone who had been struck off.

29. The Registrant has accepted the Allegation and admits that her fitness to practise is impaired by reason of lack of competence. She has been provided by the HCPC with detailed information about the consent process and the effect of voluntary removal from the Register should the application be granted. The Registrant has had time to review this information and query its implications with the HCPC. She has confirmed that she has no desire to practise as an Occupational Therapist in the future. She has signed the relevant documents relating to voluntary removal and the proposed consent order.

30. Bearing in mind the terms of the Practice Note, the Panel concluded that its requirements have been met in this case. The Panel was satisfied that in all the circumstances, the appropriate level of public protection would be secured by the proposed consent order.

31. The Panel considered “critically important public policy issues”, as referred in the case of Cohen v GMC [2008] EWHC 581 (Admin), which must be taken into account by panels in fitness to practise proceedings, including the ‘public’ component of impairment. This ‘public’ component requires consideration of the need to protect service users, to declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour, and to maintain public confidence in the profession. The Panel was of the view that the public will not be concerned, nor will public confidence in the profession be put at risk, by the Voluntary Removal Agreement in circumstances where the Registrant has accepted the allegation that her fitness to practise is impaired and agrees not to practise again. The Panel was of the view that the Order will not be detrimental to the wider public interest.

32. The Panel was satisfied that it was appropriate to conclude the Registrant’s case in accordance with the terms of the Voluntary Removal Agreement and by consent on the proposed terms.

Order

The Panel granted the application for voluntary removal.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Miss Valerie Burt

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
24/05/2021 Conduct and Competence Committee Voluntary Removal Agreement Voluntary Removal agreed