Janet Rich

Profession: Practitioner psychologist

Registration Number: PYL21324

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 20/04/2022 End: 17:00 22/04/2022

Location: This hearing will take place virtually

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

As a registered Practitioner Psychologist (PYL21324) your fitness to practise is impaired by reason of misconduct. In that:

1. When completing your application form for Cygnet Healthcare, you did not inform them that you had been dismissed from Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in November 2017 for Gross Misconduct, stating that you had left for “personal reasons, and supporting my family”.

2. Your conduct in relation to allegation 1 above was dishonest.

3. The matters set out in allegations 1 and 2 above constitute misconduct.

4. By reason of your misconduct your fitness to practise is impaired

Finding

Preliminary Matters

1. The Panel decided that any matters relating to the Registrant’s health and private life should be heard in private.

Background

2. The Registrant is registered with the HCPC as a Practitioner Psychologist.

3. Between 2007 and 2017 the Registrant was employed as a Practitioner Psychologist by Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SPFT) until her dismissal for gross misconduct in November 2017.

4. SPFT referred the matter relating to her dismissal to the HCPC, which resulted in fitness to practise proceedings. These concluded in March 2021, when the Registrant’s fitness to practise was found to be impaired by reason of misconduct and she received a caution.

5. In July 2019 the Registrant applied for a job as a Family Therapist with Cygnet Healthcare (“Cygnet”). In completing her job application form the Registrant stated that she had left her employment as a Lead Psychologist with SPFT for “personal reasons and supporting my family”. At the end of the application form was a declaration that all the information given by her was accurate. In fact, as the Registrant well knew, she had been dismissed from her employment with SPFT for gross misconduct and therefore her application contained a material falsehood.

6. This resulted in a further referral to the HCPC resulting in the current proceedings.

The Hearing

7. At the outset of the hearing the Registrant admitted the facts in allegations 1 and 2 and misconduct as alleged in allegation 3. The Registrant denied that her fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct.

Facts

8. The Panel was provided by the HCPC with a bundle containing the witness statements of JS who provided evidence as to the Registrant’s dismissal from SPFT for gross misconduct and SG, who exhibited a copy of the Registrant’s completed application form for the job of Family Therapist with Cygnet.

9. JS and SG gave oral evidence in accordance with their witness statements, which was not challenged on behalf of the Registrant. The Registrant also gave oral evidence which reinforced points made in her written submissions.

10. The Panel was mindful that the burden of proof was on the HCPC and that the civil standard of proof applied, so the particulars of the allegation must be proved on the balance of probabilities.

11. The Panel took into account submissions of Ms Bernard-Stevenson on behalf of the HCPC and Mr Walker on behalf of the Registrant. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

12. The Panel found allegations 1 and 2 proved by the evidence contained in the witness statements, the exhibits and the Registrant’s admissions. With regard to the allegation of dishonesty, the Panel applied the objective test in determining that the Registrant’s state of mind was dishonest, as admitted by her, when completing the job application form.

Statutory Grounds

13. The Panel went on to consider whether the facts found proved, or any of them, amounted to misconduct, as alleged in particular 3 of the allegation. The Panel noted that the Registrant had admitted misconduct but it is a matter for the Panel to decide in its professional judgement whether the facts constitute misconduct.

14. The Panel carefully considered the submissions on behalf of the HCPC and the Registrant respectively. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

15. The Panel took into account that misconduct was defined in Roylance v General Medical Council (no 2) [2001] 1 AC 311 as:

“a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be 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”.

16. The Panel considered that the Registrant‘s dishonest conduct was in breach of Standards 9.1 and 9.2 of the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics (2016). Standard 9.1 states “You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession”. Standard 9.2 states that “You must be honest about your experience, qualifications and skills”. The Panel was in no doubt that the Registrant’s conduct fell seriously short of the standards to be expected of her in the circumstances and thereby constituted misconduct.

Decision on Impairment

17. The Panel was provided by the Registrant with her statement dated 1 April 2022. The Panel took this fully into account together with her oral evidence during the hearing.

18. The Panel gave careful consideration to the submissions on behalf of the HCPC and the Registrant respectively.

19. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note on Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

20. In determining whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired, the Panel took into account both the “personal” and “public” components of impairment. The “personal” component relates to the Registrant’s own practice as a Psychologist, including any evidence of insight and remorse and efforts towards remediation. The “public” component includes the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour on the part of registrants and maintain public confidence in the profession and the Regulator.

21. With regard to the “personal” component, the Panel took into account the Registrant’s detailed witness statement as supplemented by her oral evidence. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s evidence that at the time of making her job application to Cygnet, she was under extreme emotional and financial pressures. The Panel accepted that this was an isolated incident of dishonesty in reaction to these pressures, which no longer pertained. The Panel took into account the many supportive testimonials from professional colleagues who commended the Registrant’s professional integrity both before and since the relevant incident. The Panel accepted the Registrant’s expressions of remorse as being genuine and her determination never to put herself in a similar situation again. The Panel also took into account her assertions that she now paid extremely close attention to all the standards of practice and ensured that she was following them carefully.

22. During the Registrant’s evidence she conveyed the profound impact of these proceedings on her, and the Panel were in no doubt that this process had a salutary effect upon her. The Registrant was less convincing with regard to demonstrating a full understanding of the wider implications of her dishonest conduct, particularly in regard to its potential impact on the reputation of and confidence in the profession. Whilst the Panel was of the view that the Registrant’s insight was not yet complete, in all the circumstances, the Panel determined that the risk of repetition was extremely low. For these reasons, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is not currently impaired in relation to the “personal” component.

23. With regard to the “public” component the Panel was mindful of the need to maintain public confidence in the profession and to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour. In considering whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired having regard to the “public” component, the Panel applied the test formulated by Dame Janet Smith in her Fifth Shipman Report and referred to by the High Court in Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence v Nursing and Midwifery Council and Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin), 76):

“Do our findings of fact in respect of …. misconduct …… show that her fitness to practise is impaired in the sense that she:
a) has in the past acted and/or is liable to act in the future so as to put a patient or patients at unwarranted risk of harm; and/or
b) has in the past brought and/or is liable in the future to bring the medical profession into disrepute; and/or
c) has in the past breached and/or is liable in the future to breach one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession; and/or
d) has in the past acted dishonestly and/or is liable to act dishonestly in the future?”

24. There is no suggestion that the Registrant has ever put patients at risk of harm or that she is likely to do so. According to the testimonials of her professional colleagues, she is an excellent Psychologist. However, the Panel considered that paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of the above formulation are engaged in the sense that the Registrant’s misconduct involved dishonesty, which involved a breach of a fundamental tenet and thereby brought her profession into disrepute. Her dishonest conduct was premeditated and committed in the course of her professional life for the purpose of improving her prospect of obtaining an offer of employment in a related field of work as a Family Therapist. Although it was a single dishonest act, made during a difficult personal time, she failed to bring her dishonesty to her employer’s attention for over a year once she had been appointed. The Panel did not consider this case was marked by exceptional circumstances and in the Panel’s judgement, the public interest - the need to uphold proper professional standards and public confidence in the profession - would be undermined if a finding of impairment was not made. Accordingly, the Panel determined that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of her misconduct on public interest grounds.

Decision on Sanction

25. The Panel carefully considered the submissions on behalf of the HCPC and the Registrant respectively.

26. The Panel took into account the HCPC’s Sanctions Policy (2019) and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of a sanction is not to punish the Registrant but to protect the public and the wider public interest by declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct on the part of registrants and maintaining public confidence in the profession and the Regulator. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality, balancing the interests of the Registrant with those of the public, and considered the available sanctions in ascending order of seriousness.

27. In the Panel’s judgement, the aggravating factors in this case are that:

• there was premeditation by the Registrant in completing her job application form with false information as to the circumstances of leaving her employment with SPFT;

• her dishonesty was for personal gain with a view to obtaining employment, which might not be offered to her had she provided correct information in her job application form;

• her dishonesty was a proactive act of commission that she did not rectify for over a year;

• the Registrant has been subject to previous fitness to practise proceedings before the HCPC, which resulted in the imposition of a Caution Order in March 2021.

28. The mitigating factors are that:

• the misconduct was an isolated incident ;

• it occurred at a time when the Registrant was subject to extreme emotional and financial pressures, which prompted her to behave in a way which was out of character;

• she has made early and full admissions to the allegations;

• she has expressed remorse and apologies for her misconduct which the Panel considered to be genuine;

• she has shown, in the course of this hearing, a genuine recognition of the significance of the concerns raised;

• the Panel has found the risk of repetition of her misconduct to be extremely low;

• the Registrant has provided a large number of testimonials from professional colleagues as to her excellent work record and clinical competence both before and since the relevant incident.

29. The Registrant’s misconduct was too serious for the Panel to take no further action.

30. The Panel carefully considered the indicative features for imposing a caution order and decided that they apply to a large extent in this case. In particular, this was an isolated incident of misconduct which is very unlikely to be repeated. It did not involve the Registrant’s clinical practice which appears to be of a high standard. Whilst there has been a finding of dishonesty, the Panel considered it to be at the lower end and did not bring into question the Registrant’s clinical competence or have implications for public safety. There is a strong public interest in permitting a highly qualified, experienced and competent practitioner to continue in practice.

31. In deciding the length of a caution order, the Panel carefully considered the need to balance fairness to the Registrant with the need to send a sufficiently robust message by way of a deterrent against such misconduct to the profession, particularly given that the Registrant is already subject to a caution order for a separate fitness to practise matter.

32. In all the circumstances, the Panel considered that the appropriate and proportionate sanction was a Caution Order for a period of two years.

33. For the sake of completeness, the Panel did not consider that a Conditions of Practice Order would be relevant or appropriate as there were no concerns about the Registrant’s clinical competence. The Panel considered that a Suspension Order would be disproportionate given the extremely low risk of repetition and particular circumstances of this case.

Order

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the entry on the register of Dr Janet Rich with a caution which is to remain on the Register for a period of 2 years from the date this Order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing History

History of Hearings for Janet Rich

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
20/04/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution