Paul Willshire

Profession: Occupational therapist

Registration Number: OT67955

Hearing Type: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing: 10:00 13/06/2022 End: 17:00 21/06/2022

Location: Park House, 184 186 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU

Panel: Conduct and Competence Committee
Outcome: Caution

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Allegation

While registered as an Occupational Therapist with the Health and Care Professions
Council and working at St Helena’s Hospice, Colchester:

1. Between 9 July 2018 and 13 September 2018 you communicated inappropriately with:

a) Student A, when you:

i. Discussed Child A's sex life;
ii. Asked if Student A's peanut allergy caused issues with physical contact and kissing or words to that effect;
iii. Discussed your personal life;
iv. Stated 'wait till [Person B] gets a saggy dick and then you'll know about it' or words to that effect.

b) Group A, when you:

i. Stated in a Fatigue and Breathlessness group that '15 minutes of un-protected sex was advisable' and/or 'don't worry about wearing a condom I meant unprotected sun' or words to that effect;
ii. Asked why women's bras have bows on them or words to that effect.

2. You acted inappropriately when you:

a) did not seek permission from staff and/or patients before you pulled open the curtains of the bay of:

i. Patient A
ii. Patient B

b) hugged Colleague B on:

i. 17 August 2018
ii. 21 August 2018

3. The matters set out in paragraphs 1-2 constitute misconduct.

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

Finding

Preliminary Matters

Amendment and Discontinuance

1. Mr Bridges advised the Panel that amendment to the allegation was sought to amend allegation 1 b (i) as well as discontinuance of allegation 1 c). He submitted that this latter amendment was sought to properly reflect the evidence of Colleague A and submitted that even if the fact was proved it could not amount to misconduct. The amendment to 1 b (i) was simply to replace the acronym “FAB” with “Fatigue and Breathlessness.” These amendments were not opposed by Mr Short for the Registrant.

2. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor who reminded the Panel to have regard to the public interest and the need to assess whether this proposed amendment and discontinuance altered the overall nature and gravity of the allegation. The Panel decided to allow the amendment and the discontinuance sought. Allegation 1 b) (i) is understandably sought for clarity. Allegation 1 c) is minor in nature and the Panel concluded that neither the amendment nor the discontinuance sought altered the overall nature and gravity of the allegation. Further, it was not in the public interest to seek to prove facts that would not likely amount to misconduct. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that it was fair and appropriate and in the interests of justice, to allow the amendment and the discontinuance sought.

Hearing in Private

3. The Panel heard that health and personal matters may arise in the course of the hearing of evidence. The Panel decided, having taken legal advice in the interests of justice, and having considered the HCPTS Practice Note on Conducting Hearings in Private, that, if and when any such matters arise it will hold that part of the hearing in private to protect the private life of the Registrant and any third party. There was agreement between parties that this was appropriate.

Hearing Witness PT remotely

4. Mr Bridges referred the panel to the skeleton argument to seek that witness PT give evidence remotely. PT has advised that he is not able to attend for personal and health reasons. He is the investigating officer for the former employer and does not speak to the facts directly. Mr Bridges submitted there was no prejudice to the Registrant in taking PT’s evidence remotely.

5. Mr Short advised that he opposed the application. He submitted that this matter is four years old and a case to answer was found in 2019. He stated that it was only on 9 June 2022 that PT stated he could not attend. He stated that the witness had been put on notice some time ago about attending this hearing. He said that the Registrant had made every effort to engage and meet every deadline in this case. He said that it was for the HCPC to produce the evidence and the witnesses.

6. The Panel weighed the interests of the Registrant with the public interest and expedition. The Panel considered that it was unsatisfactory that the witness had notified his position so late in the day. However, the Panel did not find that it would be prejudicial to the Registrant to have this witness attend remotely, he can be fully examined and cross examined and questioned by the panel. He is not a direct witness speaking to the facts. The Panel decided that to refuse the application would likely risk prejudice to the Registrant by creating further delay and uncertainty in the conduct of the hearing. The panel concluded that in all the circumstances it was fair, appropriate and proportionate to allow PT to attend and give his evidence remotely.

7. The Registrant responded to the allegation and admitted 1 b (i) and 1 b (ii) and 2 a (ii) in part and one of the hugs 2 b).

8. The Panel heard from seven witnesses for the HCPC and from the Registrant and three character witnesses :-

  • Student A - On placement with Registrant in the period alleged;
  • Colleagues A, B, and C, CS and EM – All colleagues of the Registrant at the time of the allegation;
  • PT – The Human Resources manager who conducted the investigation of the concerns;
  • AS, JH and ES – Current colleagues of the Registrant and character witnesses for him.

Background

9. Paul Willshire (‘the Registrant’) is a registered Occupational Therapist who was employed at St Helena Hospice (‘the Hospice’) as an Occupational Therapist in the Inpatient Team. As part of his role, the Registrant supervised occupational therapy students on placement at the Hospice. On 22 October 2018 the Registrant made a self-referral to the HCPC relating to concerns raised by Student A, whom the Registrant started supervising on 9 July 2018 for 10 weeks.

10. The Registrant is alleged to have made a number of inappropriate comments in front of and to Student A, as well as to Group A and the FAB Group. On two occasions, the Registrant is also alleged to have opened a bay curtain on the inpatient ward while a patient was inside without seeking permission from the staff or the patient. He is also alleged to have hugged Colleague B on two occasions.

Witness - Student A

11. Student A referred to her witness statement and having taken the affirmation confirmed it was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. The Registrant was her supervisor at the Hospice. She raised concerns about a number of incidents concerning the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour.

12. Student A said that the transcript of the meeting notes of the meeting on 12 September 2018 which she attended with LR, the Clinical Rehabilitation Team Manager, and PT, the HR Business Partner, regarding her concerns about the Registrant were accurate and had been recorded at a time when the concerns were fresh in her mind. They were marked as approved by her on 21 September 2018. She said she had also made notes on her mobile phone about her concerns and those screenshots were supplied to LR at the meeting.

13. Student A raised concerns about the Registrant’s behaviour in relation to discussions he had about his personal life, Child A’s sex life, her peanut allergy and with a group of patients about bras. He had also made a comment to her about her partner, Person B. She said that she had felt that these had been unprofessional and inappropriate. She said she had felt shocked by the comments and vulnerable about reporting them formally because of the impact on her placement, but she did report her concerns as they continued to her senior colleague BR (her joint supervisor) in week five of her placement. She had then reported these at the end of her placement.

14. Student A stated in her witness statement that the Registrant made some comments relating to his personal life when they were in the car on the way back from a home visit to a patient. The Registrant had started talking and complaining about Child A, who lives at home with him. He spoke about Child A having lots of sex and that he would leave his used condoms in the bin in his room and the dog had pulled them all over the house. She said she did not wish to know.

15. Student A further stated in her witness statement and in her live evidence that the Registrant and she were in the big team office where there were other members of staff. She has a nut allergy and the Registrant knew that and offered her nuts. She said that she had walked by him to get a snack and he said to her words to the effect of "So how does [Person B] kiss you?". She said she was shocked and tried to ignore him but he walked back to her desk and again he asked "if [Person B] has been eating nuts how does he then kiss you?". She said she had no idea why he was asking about her partner kissing her or what Person B had to do with this so she did not respond and he started laughing.

16. Student A stated that the Registrant had discussed his personal life every day and she remembered him discussing that he was having a marriage breakdown and that when she was in the car with him he would cry about how his relationship had ended and he and his wife were sleeping in separate rooms. She said that she remembered that the first time this happened was on the way back from a patient visit. She said that he was only human but it was not the time or the place.

17. Student A stated that the Registrant would talk about his personal life including his sex life while in the car or during their shift, and that he once said that he really needed to get a partner. She said she had told him about how she met her partner, Person B, and how good things were and the Registrant’s response was "wait till [Person B] gets a saggy dick and then you'll know about it." She said she had kept walking and did not respond while he continued to laugh about the comment he had made. She said she was shocked by his remark and felt freaked out and did not know how to respond to this.

Cross examination

18. In respect of 2 a) (i) Student A accepted that she had made a complaint about the Registrant, and that Relative A had not themselves complained. She said that she had likely seen the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour differently from the relative. Student A said she had not reported matters to the university or the Registrant’s line manager at the time but had raised them informally with BR, her joint supervisor.

19. Student A said in respect of the Registrant talking about Child A having lots of sex that she had not over- elaborated the position. She said the Registrant had also cried in the car and that she had not disclosed anything to the Registrant other than general discussions about her family and her partner.

20. Student A said she that recalled the nut allergy discussion and that the Registrant has asked her about how her partner kissed her and colleagues had turned around when they heard these comments. Student A said she recalled the discussions with the Registrant about a dating agency, a trip to London to meet someone and discussions about the Registrant’s sex life. She said she clearly recalled the discussions with the Registrant when he referred to a “saggy dick”. She said it took a while for the comment to sink in as it was so unexpected. She said the Registrant was supportive as an OT supervisor and she was learning on the placement, so she did not feel that she needed to raise it at that stage. Student A said that she was very focussed on the placement and she remained focussed on that, and she had been open with her joint supervisor BR about her concerns.

21. Student A said that the comments the Registrant had made about bras was something that bothered her, but she accepted others may have seen it differently. She said that she considered the comments about the bras had not been professional or appropriate.

22. Student A agreed that she had reported that her placement had been good and that the Registrant was a “brilliant OT”. She said she had not felt threatened by him. She accepted that she had not challenged him about his conduct. She said the Registrant was very different in different settings. Student A said that if she had challenged the Registrant that might have caused conflict, so she did not do so. She pointed out that the Registrant behaved very differently in front of BR or LR.

Colleague A

23. The witness affirmed and confirmed her witness statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. In her witness statement she stated that she worked in the Hospice with the Registrant and she said that he was fine although at times he could be abrupt. She understood other colleagues had issues with him, but she did not. She said the team at the Hospice were a tight knit group.

24. The witness explained to the Panel in her live evidence that she personally had no concerns about the Registrant and they had worked well together. She said she had always worked in the Hospice with the Registrant and had not been out on visits with him. She said that at times the Registrant would have some “banter” with her and that at times it was a bit too friendly and flirtatious. They did sometimes have a bit of a laugh and a joke. She said that other colleagues had commented on what he said to her and that made her think that perhaps it was not okay. Occasionally she said she felt the Registrant asked a few too many personal questions and it could feel a little uncomfortable at times. She said that the Registrant sometimes asked a bit too much about her home life but the staff sometimes did discuss those issues.

Witness CS

25. As there were very few questions for witness CS, the parties agreed that she could be contacted to seek her evidence remotely. The Panel was content to allow CS to give evidence remotely given the agreement of the parties and the fact that CS was not a contentious or significant witness. It was appropriate and in the interests of justice to do so.

26. On day two CS attended remotely. She affirmed and was referred to her witness statement which she stated was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She has been a Rehabilitation Assistant with the Hospice for 11 years and had worked with the Registrant since he joined the Hospice in September 2017.

27. CS said in her witness statement that she had attended a meeting on 18 September 2018 with PT, the HR Business Partner, and LS, the Head of Clinical Services regarding the Registrant. She stated that the meeting notes were accurate. She stated that her working relationship with the Registrant was sometimes challenging, but she was aware that we are all different and have different personalities. At the time the Registrant was going through some difficult problems with his marriage and she thought that sometimes that may have “overtaken things”. She said he appeared to be very focused on this and that he tended to discuss it quite a lot, which was understandable. She said that he discussed the issues about his difficulties with his marriage “with everyone”. When asked by the Panel she said that the kind of things that he shared were of a more personal nature than those which others in the team shared and he did this openly and to a greater extent than other colleagues.

Witness PT (gave evidence remotely)

28. PT affirmed and was referred to his witness statement which he stated was true to the best of his knowledge and belief. PT was the Human Resources (‘HR’) Business Partner at the Hospice at the time of the allegations. As part of that role he managed complex and general HR matters including disciplinary issues, investigations and Employee Relation matters. He advised that he no longer worked at the Hospice, having left in December 2021. PT said he had held the role for 11 years and had completed 10-20 investigations in his time at the Hospice.

29. In his witness statement PT stated that he was alerted to the concerns raised by Student A about the Registrant and was appointed to conduct a formal investigation. He followed the procedures and conducted interviews, including with the Registrant, and each interview was noted and transcribed and sent to the interviewees. He interviewed Student A on 12 September 2018 and the Registrant on 13 September 2018.

30. PT said that the “hugging” issues with Colleague B had arisen during his investigation and there had not been an existing complaint, but he had considered it was relevant to explore that.

31. In cross examination, PT confirmed that Student A had raised the issues about the Registrant with HR late in her placement but had raised them earlier with her joint supervisor, BR. PT agreed that it had been confirmed that there had been no issues raised by any other students about the Registrant.

32. PT was referred to the meeting notes of the interview with Student A on 12 September 2018 which he said reflected his own notes of the meeting. Student A had stated that the placement had been a “wonderful experience” and he said that she was believable in that regard. PT was asked about his questioning of Student A and he said he had been trying to understand how the Registrant’s behaviour had made her feel. He accepted that he had asked if “the conduct she was experiencing had the effect of violating her dignity, and whether it created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, offensive environment” to which Student A had replied “Yes, that's it, 100%”. He had also asked “Has there been any other innuendo/ comments made in front of patients?” Student A had then told him about the Registrant discussing bras with patients. It was suggested to him by Mr Short that those questions were leading and PT said that those were the questions he had needed to ask and had been appropriate and reflected the wording as set out in the policy.

33. On 19 September 2018, PT had questioned the patients who were at the session where the bra comments were made and he accepted that they had reported that they had found the sessions with the Registrant useful. PT said the interviews had been short as the patients were frail.

34. PT did not recall stating to the Registrant that “he was guilty until proved innocent” and he was sure that he had not said so. He said he had not had a “run in” with the Registrant about sick leave. PT recalled the Registrant having some leave and that there had been an issue about sick pay as the Registrant had not completed 12 months service at that time and so would not have been entitled to sick pay. He did not accept that his approach had been a “vendetta” against the Registrant. PT said that it was his job to be impartial and, for example, he acknowledged that Student A had made a number of positive comments about the Registrant and her placement. PT was clear that it had been reported to him that patients had been very happy with the sessions conducted by the Registrant and he had recorded that in the notes of discussions on 19 September 2018.

35. In response to Panel questions, PT explained that he had noted from Student A’s interview a list of people whom he would need to interview. He said he did not speak to the whole team and had spoken to a few to see what the position was. He said he had to balance the Registrant’s welfare with the need to investigate. He said he had placed the Registrant on special leave rather than suspend him to avoid stigma and they took advice from ACAS about how to deal with that issue.

36. PT said that he had no reason to doubt Student A, particularly when it emerged she had raised her concerns about the Registrant five weeks earlier with BR. He said Student A had been balanced and she had acknowledged that aspects of the placement had been good. PT said that the Registrant had felt shocked and surprised by the allegations but it had not been a “vendetta” by Student A against the Registrant. He did not consider that there was any malice by Student A toward the Registrant.

37. PT confirmed that he had recorded in his interview with the Registrant, PT’s concerns about “banter” and had expressed to the Registrant the need to be careful, especially with new people, such as Student A. He said one must be professional at all times so that students get the best experience possible.

Witness Colleague C (gave evidence in person)

38. Colleague C affirmed and confirmed that her witness statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She is a Physiotherapist and was employed as a Senior Physiotherapist at the Hospice from 31 July 2018 until April 2019.

39. In her witness statement she stated that she had worked with the Registrant on an almost daily basis since joining the Hospice at the end of July 2018. She stated that on one occasion the Registrant had made her feel uncomfortable when he had discussed personal matters whilst they were travelling in a car. She said she had only been working at the Hospice for 2 weeks at that point. She said in live evidence it was a very personal topic and they did not have an established relationship at that stage and it was not professional.

40. In cross examination, Colleague C said she had been struck at the time by the comment by the Registrant regarding his sex life and she was clear about that in her recollection. She said she recalled the detail of the comment and that it had felt very inappropriate given their very brief working relationship and the work context. She said she had been new and so had not been aware of what the norm was for that particular workplace. She said it would not have been appropriate in any work context. She said she was uncomfortable about that conversation then and now.

41.In her witness statement, Colleague C stated that she and Student A had been completing a transfer of Patient B from his bed into his chair. She stated that the Registrant then arrived and shouted ‘knock knock’ but came in almost at the same time from behind the curtain. She said that had felt unprofessional given that they could have been in a situation where Patient B was undressed at the time. Patient B was in fact not undressed and there had been no obvious impact on Patient B.

42. In cross examination, Colleague C said she had not made a complaint at the time about the incident about Patient B. She explained her concerns that the Registrant had taken over the session and took the lead which was unusual and can place a patient at risk as he had not been present for the whole session. She had been new in the role and had not reported any concern until the interview with PT.

Witness EM (gave evidence remotely)

43.The witness affirmed and confirmed that her witness statement with true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She worked at the Hospice as a rehabilitation assistant. In her witness statement she stated that she was interviewed by PT as part of the investigation about the Registrant. She said the notes were accurate and that she had no concerns with the Registrant but she had noticed that he could get in people’s personal space and stand a little close sometimes. She said in her live evidence that she was told by Student A that she was “a bit uncomfortable” going out on visits with the Registrant and EM said she had reported that to the supervisor, BR as she felt she should say something. She had not raised it with the Registrant.

44. In relation to the allegation concerning Patient A, EM set out in detail in her meeting with PT what she said had happened. Patient A was incontinent and Student A and EM were attending to them and as a result Patient A was in a state of undress. She described how the Registrant appeared “from nowhere, having come through the curtains without warning/request.” The Registrant had acknowledged them and then turned around and walked out. Although she stated that the students present had raised concerns about this, Patient A was unaware of what had just happened.

Witness Colleague B (gave evidence remotely)

45. Colleague B affirmed and confirmed that her witness statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief and that the note of her meeting with PT on 18 September 2018 was correct and approved by her on 3 October 2018. She works within the Rehabilitation Team at the Hospice and is responsible for the provision of physiotherapy for patients with specialist palliative care needs.

46. In her witness statement Colleague B stated that she remembered that she was working at the computer at her desk in the open plan office and was chatting with other members of staff. The Registrant then hugged her from behind, which made her feel uncomfortable. She stated that her behaviour and body language suggested that she felt uncomfortable and that she was a bit shocked because she turned around in surprise and did not return the attempt of the hug. She remembers saying ‘what was that in aid of?’ or words to that effect, in a joking manner. She stated that she believed the Registrant’s response was something along the lines of ‘oh I thought you needed a hug’ or words to that effect and she said ‘I would let you know if I needed a hug’ or words to that effect.

47. Colleague B said she could not remember how the Registrant had responded to this and she did not now recall the date of when this happened but she had stated in her interview that the dates on which the hugs happened were 17 August 2018 and 21 August 2018. She stated that this had made her feel uncomfortable in terms of her personal space but it only had a brief impact on her and she did not feel it was of any real concern.

48. Colleague B also stated in her witness statement that the Registrant had hugged her from behind on a second occasion. She stated that it was a hug from behind, again in a similar setting. She did not know if she said anything to the Registrant when he hugged her, but she thought that someone else commented on the hug. She stated that this incident did not really have any impact on her other than having that feeling of being uncomfortable again.

49. Colleague B said in live evidence that she had received an apology about the hug from the Registrant. She said she was satisfied with that apology and she considered that was an end of matters. She was interviewed by PT in September 2018 shortly after the hugs had occurred. She recalled that the Registrant did not warn or advise her about the fact that he was about to give her a hug. She was sure there had been two hugs from the Registrant. Colleague B said that the Registrant’s behaviour and moods could be unpredictable but she could not recall specific incidents.

50. Colleague B said that they were all aware in the team about the Registrant’s marriage problems as he had been open about disclosing these details to her and the whole team. She considered that had impacted on his behaviour. She said she had not discussed the issues with colleagues and she had not really been concerned about the hugs until raised by PT at the interview in September 2018. She said the team did not tend to discuss the detail of such personal matters openly with everyone.

Colleague B was the final witness for the HCPC.

Character Witnesses and testimonial evidence for the Registrant

Witness JH (gave evidence remotely)

51. JH attended as a character witness for the Registrant. She affirmed and confirmed that her witness statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She referred to her testimonial in support of the Registrant made in the full knowledge of the allegations. She currently works with the Registrant as a physiotherapist. JH said that the Registrant could be direct, but she had never felt uncomfortable with him. She stated in her testimonial that the Registrant was friendly, very respectful, honest and trustworthy.

52. JH recalled one appointment she attended with the Registrant and said that he had been direct and explained matters to the patient about following the recommended programme, but she said he was not rude and was within professional boundaries. She said she was surprised by the content of the allegations as she had never experienced such behaviour by the Registrant. She had known him for some years and as far as she was aware, no one in the team had ever complained about any inappropriate behaviour or comments by him.

Witness AS (gave evidence remotely)

53. AS took the oath and confirmed that her witness statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She referred to her testimonial in support of the Registrant made in the full knowledge of the allegations. She has known the Registrant since 2014. She is an OT and worked with the Registrant in 2019 to 2020 in a Children’s OT team.

54. AS stated that the Registrant had a “lovely” approach with children and she found he was always careful to ensure the child and parent is included in a treatment session. She stated in her testimonial that the Registrant acts within appropriate boundaries. She stated that she had always found that he seeks permission and she could not envision happening what has been alleged. She said that the Registrant was a valued member of the team and is friendly, approachable and very generous. AS said the team would discuss their home life and some personal issues, but they all did so and there was nothing unusual about that.

Witness ES (gave evidence remotely)

55. ES affirmed and confirmed that her witness statement was true to the best of her knowledge and belief. She referred to her testimonial in support of the Registrant made in the full knowledge of the allegations. She is a specialist senior OT and works with the Registrant at the HCRG care group and is the Registrant’s supervisor. She explained that the team meet remotely as they no longer have an office space. She said they occasionally meet in person in the clinic room.

56. ES stated that she supervised the Registrant both formally and informally. She said that he continued to receive regular positive feedback from clients. She said that she had worked with the Registrant since 23 April 2019. She stated in her testimonial that she found the Registrant to be professional, appropriate and a valued team member.

57. ES said she does, as with other colleagues, discuss some personal matters with the Registrant. She said she had never felt the Registrant had been inappropriate and did not talk overly about personal issues. She said that certainly that there had never been anything sexual. She said she had never felt uncomfortable about any discussions with him.

The Registrant’s Evidence

58. The Registrant said that he had been an OT for about 9 years and before that had taken a career break to care for his children. Before that he had been a registered adult nurse for 19 years in acute and surgical care. He said that he ceased working as a nurse after a traumatic incident at work, and he had required to stop work for a period. The Registrant said he had then changed career and qualified as an OT.

59. The Registrant referred to his written response to the allegations. As regards allegation 1 a) (i) he said he had not discussed Child A’s sex life directly, but on refection it could have been seen that way. He had called the Hospice to say he would be late and then Student A wanted to know why and he had said to Student A that his dog had made a mess and taken condoms out of Child A’s bin. He said in hindsight that he probably should not have mentioned the condoms. He said he did not discuss Child A’s sex life with Student A. He said there was no shock from Student A at the time. He said that Student A had pressed him for an explanation of why he had been late. He said that Student A never mentioned at any time to him that she had been shocked by what he had said.

60. As regards to allegation 1 a) (ii) the Registrant said that the discussion was about Student A’s peanut allergy and about her partner, Person B, who had a child who visited and had wanted to eat peanut butter. There had been discussions about family interactions and what may trigger the allergic reaction. Student A had raised the issue and he had asked how the reaction might be triggered and he had asked whether it may be triggered by cuddling or kissing. He did not think he had asked if Person B could kiss her. He said Student A had never raised any issue about the conversation. He said he had asked an inquisitive question and he had not meant to be inappropriate. He said he had not laughed at Student A as that was not in his character, and he had not intended to cause any offence to Student A.

61. As regards to 1 a) (iii) regarding discussions about his personal life, the Registrant said he had not discussed anything inappropriate. He said he never recalled any conversation with Student A about sex. He had only discussed personal matters with the Chaplain at the Hospice. He said he did not talk to any member of the team about his personal life. He said he did not refer to a “saggy dick” in discussions with Student A and it was her that raised Person B with him. He said that she had also raised issues about Person B’s ex-partner and their child. The Registrant said he had never been on a dating website and denied saying this to Student A. He stated that he did not remember discussing any dating websites at any time with Student A.

62. As regards to 1 b) (i), the comments made by the Registrant at the Fatigue and Breathlessness (FAB) session, he said that he had made a "really bad mistake” in mentioning unprotected sex at the session. The 12 people at the session had laughed and he then compounded the problem by referring to condoms and he had apologised to the group. He said none of the group complained or raised it again. He admitted it to his supervisor and was candid about it. He said Student A said he should not have said that, and he agreed with her, but she never raised it again.

63. As regards to 1 b) (ii), the Registrant admitted that he had made the comments about the bra and bow at a session with an all-female group. The Registrant explained that one of the patients had raised the issue of bras as she had a mobility issue with her shoulder. He said that the issue was discussed at the session where bows were being made and there was a discussion about bras and bows in that context. He said he did not say “here is a bow for your bra”. He said it was a client led goal to discuss bras, and the Registrant said the discussions about bras and bows was completely appropriate and had been tailored to the patients’ needs. He said that all therapy input he provided was client led and done with consent.

64. With regard to allegation 2 a) (i), the Registrant said that he did not recall the incident with Patient A and the curtains at the bay. He said he liked to think he would remember such an incident. He said he would not do what was alleged as that was all part of his training, including as a nurse. He said if the curtain was shut he would not go in. He said he was conscious that his role at the Hospice was to provide patients with dignity and said that he had never had an issue before about failing to seek permission.

65. With regard to allegation 2 a) (ii), the incident with Patient B, the Registrant said that Student A and Colleague C’s accounts were not true. He said he had sought consent as he knocked on the door and he wanted to ask Colleague C to help him with another patient who required hoisting. The hoisting intervention was time critical as pain relief had been taken by the patient. He went to find Colleague C to assist him, he said he knocked on the door of the bay where Patient B was and a member of nursing staff asked him why he was knocking. When he explained the nursing staff told him that he had washed and undressed the patient so he had told him it was okay to go in. He knocked on the door and said hello and got no response. He then asked to speak to Colleague C, and when he did not get a response he said hello and he heard someone say “Paul’s here” and he popped his head through the curtain. Colleague C asked him to wait outside. The patient had been dressed and had said hello to the Registrant. The Registrant said that he did not take over the session with Patient B.

66. The Registrant said that in response to allegation 2 b), he admitted that he had once hugged Colleague B. He said that several people were present and he had hugged her. He was told the next day by the senior physiotherapist that Colleague B was not a “hugger”. He said he had felt awful, and he had apologised to her and she had accepted his apology. It was not mentioned again until he met with PT for the second interview.

67. The Registrant told the Panel about the Advanced Communications Course for End of Life Care that he attended whilst at the Hospice. He said the role at the Hospice was complex and communication with clients could be difficult. He said that he was not sent on the course because of concerns about his communication skills but rather he and a colleague had asked to go on the course, which he then found and made a case for attending. The Registrant said that he could not recall his sense of humour being raised as an issue.

68. The Registrant referred to his reflective statements, including the detailed reflection dated 9 May 2022. He said that he would not now would offer a hug to anyone unless they initiated it. He would also now conduct and complete a formal supervision document with every student every week. He said that after Student A’s placement he had taken no students at all for about 3 years as he felt vulnerable as a result of the allegations.

69. The Registrant said there had been no notification of the allegation and no support from HR at the Hospice. He said he now considered there must have been signals from Student A. He said he was going through a separation at the time and he had taken Student A on at very short notice and he would not do that again. There had been too much compromise about the supervision and limited time to prepare for the placement. He said he would also want to provide a better standard of placement.

70. The Registrant said that PT would not alter the interview notes and that the Registrant had not been able to respond to some allegations before. He said he had never intended to offend anyone and now filters what he says to a high degree. He said that during his professional training he had scored highly in communication but he now saw that people can take offence and misunderstand.

71. The Registrant said that all his students had given him really positive feedback and he got a lot from that as he loved being an OT and enjoyed helping others.

Cross examination of the Registrant

72. The Registrant stated that he was older than Student A by about 20 years. He did not accept that there was a power imbalance between them but stated there was a level of accountability “going both ways”. He said that Student A should have raised her concerns with him and escalate matters and said that the HCPC recommendations stated that. He said that Student A had fabricated evidence against him previously and at this hearing.

73. In respect of the peanut allergy, the Registrant said that he had said to Student A how did she respond if someone who had been eating peanut butter kissed her. He said that he asked it in relation to the family unit and he referred to the note he had added to the interview notes where he explained the family context. He said he had just been curious. He said the conversation was not of a sexual nature and he considered that Student A had chosen to make an issue out of this conversation.

74.The Registrant said at the time he had been experiencing difficult personal circumstances, his marriage had broken down, and his team knew about that. He said Student A was lying about him crying and the dating site and he did not know why she had done so. He said he could not remember the conversation that Colleague C talked about in evidence about his personal life and he thought she was lying about that conversation.

75. The Registrant denied that he had said to Student A about Person B getting a “saggy dick”. He also said in respect of the conversation about un-protected sex that he had meant to say sun cream. He reiterated that he had been really embarrassed and he had apologised to the group for that. He said Student A had fabricated the reactions of the group. As regards to EM’s evidence about the session with Patient A, he said that he could not remember the incident but that it would have been very out of character for him to have behaved as alleged.

76. The Registrant said he did not recall the alleged second hug of Colleague B. He said that at a charity event Colleague B had hugged him and so he had thought it was OK to hug her, but he was embarrassed that he had made Colleague B feel uncomfortable.

77. The Registrant said that he felt PT and HR had conducted a “witch-hunt” in respect of him and that the investigation had not been fair. The Registrant said that when interviewed he told the Hospice that he needed surgery and it was agreed with him that he would take time off for that. He said that PT then disagreed with him about that absence and did not let him take sick leave. He said the Hospice very shortly thereafter changed its sickness policy. There had then been a dispute about the proposed sickness policy, about which he had been asked for feedback for which he was criticised by HR. He said he then had to ask for his health records to be removed from a public file. He said he therefore had a poor relationship with PT and the HR department and that he had left the Hospice as he had lost faith in HR.

78. On re-examination, the Registrant stated that both he and Student A had responsibilities and he was responsible to provide the training required and to keep her safe. He also agreed that he would be responsible and be mindful if a student was anxious. He said he would not say Student A was malicious just that she was unprofessional and “random” as her concerns appeared to come “out of nowhere.” At the send-off party he had presented Student A with a gift from the team and he could not understand why she had not raised these issues with him. He said that there had simply been no warning signs that Student A had any concerns.

79. In response to Panel questions, the Registrant explained his practice in relation to client’s privacy and his attitude to students. He said he thought that he had read the situation wrong with Student A, but he had done so for 10 weeks. He said the experience had heightened his awareness of how he communicates with everyone. He stated that he now makes sure to give people a warning if he is going to disclose something of a sensitive nature.

80. The Registrant said that he has a really good team now and he worked well in that team and if there were any difficulties they would be discussed immediately. He said he had also sought support. He was now more mindful when taking on students to ensure that he was prepared and that proper arrangements were in place.

Closing Submissions

81. Mr Bridges submitted that each of the HCPC witnesses was credible and reliable. He submitted that on Allegation 1 a) (i), there was Student A’s evidence and the partial admission of the Registrant where he accepts that he mentioned Child A’s condoms which was a reference to Child A’s sex life.

82. In respect of allegation 1 a) (ii) Mr Bridges submitted that the Panel have the evidence of Student A and the admissions of the Registrant. As regards 1 a) (iii) the Panel should have regard to Student A’s evidence and Colleague C who were both new to the team and much younger than the Registrant.

83. Allegation 1 a) (iv) - Mr Bridges submitted that it may ask itself why would Student A make up this comment about the Registrant when she otherwise expressed positive views about him? He submitted that some aspects of Student A’s comments were admitted by the Registrant and it was not logical for her to lie about parts of the conduct, but not others.

84. Allegation 1 b) (i) & (ii) - Mr Bridges submitted that both are partially admitted by the Registrant and Student A confirms those admissions and states the alleged comments were made by the Registrant. This allegation involved another reference to condoms and an oblique reference to sex and the use of these words were admitted by the Registrant.

85. Allegation 2 a) (i) & (ii) - Mr Bridges submitted that EM, Student A and Colleague C’s evidence was credible and ought to be accepted. Equally, Colleague B’s evidence about the hugs was clear and ought to be accepted.

86. Mr Bridges said that the evidence from PT did not support the Registrant’s claim that there was a vendetta and he submitted there was no bias by PT. Mr Bridges referred to the relevant case law on misconduct and on impairment of fitness to practice. He clarified that lack of competence was not made out or insisted upon in this case. He invited the Panel to find the allegations proved.

Submissions for the Registrant

87. Mr Short submitted that much of the evidence was hearsay and was largely uncorroborated and there was evidence of patients and their family which contradicted the evidence of Student A. He submitted there was an accumulation of small points and many allegations had been dropped. In 2019 there was a case to answer found and this hearing now takes place 4 years after the events in question which calls into question the reliability of the evidence. He submitted that the complained matters were never put to the Registrant in any proper way by Student A at the time. Many allegations were simply untrue or have been elaborated. He submitted that the events alleged did not happen.

88. Mr Short submitted that allegation 1a) (i) was denied and that the Registrant denied any discussion was about Child A’s sex life. The Registrant was clear about what he said about condoms, and Student A has elaborated on that to make up quotes that were simply not true. Mr Short submitted that unguarded words have been turned into something tawdry and unrepresentative of what took place.

89. Mr Short submitted that the concerns about consent and the bras and bows had been mis-categorised by Student A and had been refuted by the relatives and service users who all spoke in the warmest terms about the treatment provided by the Registrant.

90. Mr Short submitted that Allegation 1 a) (ii) was denied and that what Student A stated was not true. He submitted that the Registrant was clear he initiated the conversation but he did not say the words alleged. On Allegation 1 a) (iii) Mr Short submitted that there was evidence of the Registrant “over sharing” at a time of personal difficulties but he submitted that allegation 1 a) (iv) was not corroborated.

91. Mr Short submitted that allegations 1 b) (i) & (ii) were admitted and had been a slip of the tongue by the Registrant and that Student A demonstrated a stubbornness to accept the judgment of patients and impose her view. Allegation 2 a) was not something that the Registrant recalled but the testimonials indicated this conduct was not likely.

92. Mr Short asked the panel to take account of the testimonial evidence about the Registrant’s practice. Mr Short submitted that the Registrant was a man of good character who had an exemplary career. Further, there had been no complaints from clients and the complaints alleged were not reported contemporaneously. Mr Short submitted that the Panel ought not to speculate about why Student A would have lied.

93. Mr Short submitted that taken separately none of the matters amount to misconduct. They were momentary misjudgements at a time of personal difficulties. He submitted that the effect of the Registrant’s actions should be considered, and submitted that the Panel should ask itself “were they deplorable to colleagues?” He submitted that if they were deplorable they must generate an immediate response, but Student A did nothing at the time. The two client groups and patients did not complain.

94. Mr Short submitted there was no risk to the public, or the profession and there was no risk of repetition. The last four years of service by the Registrant showed that he was an exceptional professional and there was no risk to his clients or to colleagues.

Decision on Facts, Misconduct and Impairment

95. The Legal Assessor reminded the Panel that the burden of proof rested on the HCPC who must proof the allegation on the balance of probabilities. The Registrant need prove nothing. On misconduct, he advised the Panel that there was no burden of proof and that this, and impairment, were a matter for its own professional judgement. He referred to the guidance on misconduct in Roylance v GMC (No 2) [2001] 1 AC 311, and also referred to Schodlock v GMC [2015] EWCA Civ 769 advising that it should not accumulate non-serious conduct to find misconduct.

96. On impairment of fitness to practise, the Legal Assessor referred the Panel to the HCPTS Practice Note Finding that Fitness to Practise is ‘Impaired’ dated February 2022, and to the guidance on the assessment of impairment and consideration of the public interest in CHRE v NMC & Grant [2011] EWHC 927 (Admin). He reminded the Panel of the central importance of considering the Registrant’s insight, remediation and the risk of repetition of the conduct. He reminded the Panel that it should at all times keep in the forefront of its mind the central importance of the need to protect the public and the wider public interest. The Legal Assessor gave the Panel a good character direction regarding the Registrant.

Findings on Facts

97. The Panel accepted the legal advice and considered all of the evidence with care, mindful that the allegation is for the HCPC to prove on the balance of probabilities.

98. The Panel did not find any evidence that there was a vendetta or “witch hunt” against the Registrant. The Panel found PT was balanced and fair in his approach, and he considered both positive and negative issues about the Registrant. There was no evidence to suggest that his investigation had not been balanced and fair and the Panel found no evidence of bias, or the appearance of bias in PT’s approach to the investigation. PT said that he approached matters in a balanced and impartial manner and, for example, did not interview all of the Registrant’s colleagues as part of the investigation with the Registrant’s welfare in mind.

99. The Panel considered the evidence about the reporting of the incidents by Student A. The Registrant asserted at the outset of the investigation and up to including during the hearing, that Student A was responsible for reporting her concerns immediately, and his position was that her delay in reporting her concerns undermined her account of events.

100. The Panel found that Student A had told PT at the 12 September 2018 investigatory interview about her concerns, and that she had already reported her concerns in week five of her placement to a senior colleague, BR, her joint supervisor. Student A stated, as recorded in the interview notes, which she said were accurate, that:- “I said before, PW I think is a good OT, I wouldn't want him getting in to trouble. I am worried about other students though who may come here after me and PW told me there is a first placement student coming here in January 2019 - and I have concerns for them naturally as he will be their educator.”

101. The Panel accepted that evidence and it found that in the circumstances the fact that Student A had not raised the matter at the time with the Registrant personally was understandable given that he was marking her placement, and did not diminish the credibility of her evidence. She had raised the concerns in week five of her placement, before the interview with PT when she expressed a concern not to get the Registrant “in to trouble” and concerns for other students.

102. The Panel having found that Student A reported her concerns about the Registrant to a senior colleague BR around week five of her placement, did not accept the Registrant’s position that not reporting her concerns immediately to him undermined her account, nor that it was her responsibility to report it immediately. She reported it to BR and then to PT. Further, the Panel found that this evidence does not suggest any animosity toward the Registrant and the Panel found that this supports the credibility of Student A's evidence.

The Allegation

1. Between 9 July 2018 and 13 September 2018 you communicated inappropriately with:
a) Student A, when you:
i. Discussed Child A's sex life;
ii. Asked if Student A's peanut allergy caused issues with physical contact and kissing or words to that effect;
iii. Discussed your personal life;
iv. Stated 'wait till [Person B] gets a saggy dick and then you'll know about it' or words to that effect.

Allegation 1 a) (i) - Proved

103. The Registrant admitted that in the conversation with Student A he had referred to Child A and to used condoms. The Panel found that Student A was clear and consistent in her live evidence which accorded with the meeting notes of the interview with PT which occurred shortly after the events in question. She did not appear to the panel to bear any ill will to the Registrant and she was fair and balanced in her evidence. She described the Registrant as a “good OT” and she was, overall, positive about her placement. She was visibly upset when giving live evidence relating to allegations 1 a (i) – (iv).

104. Student A stated that whilst in the car together the Registrant gave her details of Child A having “lots of sex” and leaving used condoms in his bin which the dog had “pulled them all over the house”. The Panel accepted that evidence. It found no reason for Student A to fabricate or lie about the content of this conversation and her evidence was credible and plausible.

105. The Registrant accepts he mentioned used condoms but he denied that he mentioned Child A’s sex life and claimed in his evidence that Student A had pushed him to explain his lateness at work that day, which Student A disputed. The Panel did not find that plausible and, even if that were the case, that was no reason for the Registrant to mention Child A, the bin and used condoms to Student A in order to explain why he had been late. The Registrant accepted that he ought not to have mentioned condoms at all.

106. On a fair and reasonable view of the words admittedly used by the Registrant these refer to Child A’s sex life and to sexual activity, and the Panel found that the discussion was therefore a discussion of Child A’s “sex life” as alleged. The Panel preferred the evidence of Student A to the Registrant’s evidence. It found this particular proved.

Allegation 1 a) (ii) – Proved

107. The Panel considered the evidence of Student A and the Registrant. Student A was clear and credible and her live evidence, her witness statement and what was noted in her near contemporaneous meeting with PT were consistent. Her evidence was plausible. The Panel has found that she had no reason to lie and showed no ill will towards the Registrant.

108. Student A’s evidence was that the Registrant had asked her, in the context of an admitted discussion about her peanut allergy, “So how does [Person B] kiss you?”, or words to that effect. She said at the investigatory interview with PT and in her witness statement, that she had felt shocked and that the Registrant had nonetheless pursued the matter and asked her again and then laughed when she turned away from him. She reported to PT that she felt awkward and uncomfortable and that it was unprofessional and not an appropriate manner in which to speak to a student.

109. The Registrant’s evidence was that the conversation was about her allergy and that he had asked about kissing only generally as he was “curious” as a health professional. He said he had not asked specifically about Student A’s partner kissing her. He was asking in the context of family members eating peanut butter and kissing or hugging her. The Panel found that his evidence about this conversation was not as clear, coherent or credible as Student A’s recollection. The Panel did not accept the Registrant’s version of events and preferred the evidence of Student A. It found this particular proved.

Allegation 1 a) (iii) - Proved

110. The Panel considered the evidence in the witness statement and live evidence of Student A. She was clear in her live evidence that the Registrant raised his personal life all the time and this is consistent with her witness statement where she states that the Registrant “discussed his personal life every day.” She provides details in her witness statement of the discussions about his marital problems and she states, fairly, that he was “trying to get it off his chest” but that he disclosed to her “a lot of very personal details” and that he made her feel really awkward. The Registrant denies he spoke about his sex life other than to the Chaplain.

111. This general conduct and behaviour and the nature of discussions by the Registrant is supported by the evidence from Colleague C and by CS who, in her interview with PT on 18 September 2018, states:- “ she felt PW was in a difficult place right now. That he has shared with pretty much all the team what is going on in his personal life and his marriage breakdown. It seems to have consumed him over the last few weeks, and perhaps he needs help with this. At one point whilst waiting to use the office phone, I cut short a conversation he was having about his personal situation with another colleague on the phone, so I could use the phone”

112. The Panel further noted that witnesses ES, EM, Colleague A and Colleague B all stated in their evidence that the Registrant regularly raised personal issues with them. The Panel accepted that evidence and that of Student A and it found this particular proved.

Allegation 1 a) (iv) - Proved

113. The Panel considered the evidence of Student A and the Registrant. Student A explained in her witness statement that the Registrant said the words as alleged about Person B, her partner. She said she was shocked and felt “freaked out” by this comment. The Registrant denied this took place.

114. The Panel has found no reason for Student A to fabricate, exaggerate or lie and she was consistent and credible about this allegation. The Panel found that this comment took place within a context where it has found that the Registrant repeatedly raised personal issues with his colleagues, as well as with Student A, and that he had also raised issues about Person B before with her (regarding the peanut allergy). The Panel preferred the evidence of Student A and it found on the balance of probabilities this particular is proved.

Allegation 1 b) Group A, when you:

i. Stated in a Fatigue and Breathlessness group that '15 minutes of un-protected sex was advisable' and/or 'don't worry about wearing a condom I meant unprotected sun' or words to that effect;
ii. Asked why women's bras have bows on them or words to that effect.

Allegation 1 b) (i) & (ii) – Proved

115. The Panel noted that the Registrant admits these particulars and this is supported by the evidence of Student A and in the interview records with PT which are consistent. The Registrant explained the context of both incidents in detail and the Panel accepted that evidence. It found this particular proved.

Allegation 2. You acted inappropriately when you:

a) did not seek permission from staff and/or patients before you pulled open the curtains of the bay of:

i. Patient A
ii. Patient B

b) hugged Colleague B on:

i. 17 August 2018
ii. 21 August 2018

Allegation 2 a) (i) & (ii) - Proved

116. 2 a) (i) - This is supported by the evidence of EM and Student A. Student A in her witness statement states that “all of a sudden the curtains were flung open by Paul Willshire without any warning or request” when Patient A was partially undressed. The Registrant had no recollection of this and stated in his evidence that he would not have done so. The Panel preferred the credible evidence of both EM and Student A which was consistent and it found particular (i) proved.

117. 2 a) (ii) – The Registrant stated in his evidence that Student A and Colleague C had both fabricated the details of the incident. Colleague C was clear that the Registrant had not sought permission in respect of Patient B and her evidence is consistent with the evidence of Student A who said he had “burst through the curtains again without any warning”. The Panel accepted and preferred that evidence and it found particular (ii) proved.

Allegation 2 b) (i) & (ii) - Proved

118. Colleague B’s evidence was clear and credible. She told the Panel in her live evidence about the two uninvited hugs from the Registrant, and this was consistent with her witness statement. She said she was taken by surprise and she was clear that there had been two uninvited hugs.

119. The Registrant admits to one of the hugs and he told the Panel that another colleague had seen the hug and consequently spoke with him to explain that it was not acceptable and as a result he felt embarrassed and he had apologised to Colleague B which she had accepted. The Panel found particular (i) proved.

120. The Registrant had no recollection of the other hug. The Panel accepted the reliable and credible evidence of Colleague B that this second hug took place four days after the first hug and it found particular (ii) proved.

Decision on Misconduct

121. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in Roylance which stated that:- “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.” It must exercise its own professional judgement in considering misconduct. It was also mindful of the guidance in Schodlock.

Allegation 1 a) (i) – (iv) - Misconduct

122. The Panel considered 1 a) (i). It found that it was not, in any circumstances, appropriate to discuss used condoms in Child A’s bin, which the Panel has found contained details about Child A’s sex life. Whether this discussion took place in a car or in an office it was entirely inappropriate to make those comments to her. Further, the comments were made by a senior member of staff, the Registrant, to a much younger, female student, Student A. The Registrant was Student A’s supervisor and mentor. The Panel found that this conduct fell well below what would have been proper in the circumstances and that it amounts to misconduct.

123. The Panel considered 1 a) (ii). The Panel found that these questions were personal and intrusive into Student A’s private life and were highly inappropriate and caused Student A to feel uncomfortable. The Panel concluded that the conduct fell below what was proper in the circumstances and that it amounts to misconduct.

124. The Panel considered 1 a) (iii). It has accepted the evidence of Student A. She states that the Registrant discussed his personal life and marital difficulties numerous times, daily. She was his student, he was a senior, male colleague over 20 years older than her. That repeated behaviour failed to respect professional boundaries and the Panel found that it amounted to misconduct.

125. Allegation 1 a) (iv) is a crude and lewd comment that the Registrant made to Student A, who was shocked and “freaked out”. For the reasons stated above, that comment was inappropriate and unprofessional in any circumstances and it breached professional boundaries and the Panel found that it amounted to misconduct.

126. The Panel found that there was an inherent power imbalance between the Registrant and Student A. The Registrant did not appreciate this fact and despite being in a position of power over Student A, he repeatedly raised personal issues and made inappropriate comments that shocked Student A and made her uncomfortable. The Panel concluded that this conduct fell well below what was proper in the circumstances and that (i), (ii) (iii) and (iv) each amount to misconduct.

Allegation 1 b) (i) & (ii) - Not misconduct

127. The Panel decided that allegation 1 b) (i) & (ii) did not amount to misconduct. The Panel accepted the evidence from the Registrant about the context of the discussions with the FAB group. He had immediately recognised his error, sought supervision and had then apologised to the group.

128. As regards 1 b) (ii), the Panel heard from the Registrant about the context of the discussions about bras and bows in a client led session. The Panel took account of the context and the letter from the relative which expressed no concerns. It concluded that neither (i) and (ii) were conduct that was serious enough as to amount to misconduct. Whilst these incidents may have been inappropriate and a misjudgement or error, the Panel concluded that these findings did not amount to misconduct. In addition, there was no evidence that any harm had been caused.

Allegation 2 a) (i) & (ii). – Not misconduct

129. The Panel considered the findings in respect of allegation 2 a) (i) & (ii). The Panel considered the context of the conduct and it concluded that these two incidents were ill-judged and inappropriate. However, they were relatively minor in nature and the Panel decided that they were not, of themselves, sufficiently serious as to amount to misconduct. There was no evidence that any harm had been caused.

Allegation 2 b) (i) & (ii) - Misconduct

130. Colleague B said that the Registrant had apologised after the second hug and she had accepted that apology. The Registrant has no recollection of the first hug. Colleague B was clear in her recollection and set out in her near contemporaneous meeting note that the Registrant hugged her twice from behind without warning and that she had told the Registrant that if she wanted a hug she would let him know. He had therefore been told by Colleague B that his behaviour was not invited and was not wanted.

131. The Panel found that this behaviour in the workplace context was inappropriate and unprofessional. A hug is not minor, nor is it an inadvertent or fleeting physical contact. It was deliberate, significant physical contact that was uninvited by a female colleague. The Panel found that it was conduct that failed to respect Colleague B and breached professional and personal boundaries. The Panel found that it fell short of what would have been proper in the circumstances and concluded that this allegation was serious and that it amounted to misconduct.

132. When considering the allegations the Panel considered the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics and found that the Registrant had breached standard 9.1:-

Personal and professional behaviour

9.1 You must make sure that your conduct justifies the public’s trust and confidence in you and your profession.

133. The Panel also considered the HCPC Standards of Proficiency for Occupational Therapists and found that the Registrant had breached the following standards:- 8.1, 8.5, 9.1, 9.2, 13.6, 13.8 and 13.12.

Decision on Impairment

134. The Panel was mindful of the guidance in Grant and of the important wider public interest considerations and took into account the Registrant’s reflective pieces, good character, testimonials and the submissions as well as the relevant HCPTS Practise Note.

135. 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 practise as an Occupational Therapist, including any evidence of insight, remorse and efforts towards remediation. The public component includes the needs to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour on the part of registrants and maintain public confidence in the profession and Regulator.

136. With regard to the personal component, the Panel heard from three current colleagues who gave positive testimonials about the Registrant’s current work as an OT working with children. They all gave positive evidence about his current practice. JH said she was shocked about the nature of the allegations. All three stated that the Registrant was a valued team member who showed respect for professional boundaries and they had no concerns about his conduct and behaviour. None had experienced behaviour or conduct such as that found. The Panel noted however that there had not been an office space for the team to meet up in and that face to face working has been limited from approximately March 2020. The Panel was mindful that the Registrant’s clinical abilities are not to any extent in question and that he appears to be a good OT, as described by Student A, several other colleagues and his manager.

137. The Panel considered that the conduct and behaviour found proved was remediable. The Registrant has reflected on his conduct and he said that he must have “missed the signs.” He said in his evidence that he had not realised colleagues had issues with aspects of his conduct. He provided two reflective pieces and stated that he now filters what he says. He explained in his evidence about taking on students and that he would now make sure that he was better prepared and in the right frame of mind. The Registrant told the Panel that he had been experiencing difficulties at the time due to the breakdown in his marriage.

138. In respect of the hugs in allegation 2 b), the Registrant said that he now did not hug anyone unless invited to do so. He said that he was now more conscious about what he said and his behaviour with colleagues.

139. The Panel found that the Registrant has insight and has taken steps to remedy his practice in respect of allegation 2 b). He apologised to Colleague B, he was remorseful and said that he would not now initiate a hug. He explained he had a better awareness of his physical size and said he would not now hug anyone in the workplace. The Panel was satisfied that he now understood the concerns expressed by Colleague B, and it found that he had good insight into this aspect of his misconduct and that there was a low risk of repetition of this conduct. The Panel concluded that the Registrant had remedied his practice in respect of this finding.

140. The Panel considered the Registrant’s insight and remediation into the misconduct found in respect of allegation 1 a) (i) –(iv). The Panel took into account that the Registrant had self-referred to the HCPC. The Panel heard in his evidence that he did not recognise a power imbalance between him and Student A, whom he said had responsibility to report her concerns. He said he needed to “take back” more power. He did not recognise or acknowledge what the Panel found was a clear and inherent power imbalance in that professional relationship given the difference in age, gender and seniority. He was her practise educator, as well as a senior, male colleague more than 20 years older than her.

141. The Panel found that the Registrant did not fully acknowledge Student A’s feelings, nor did he try to see his conduct and behaviour from her perspective, as a female, student colleague more than 20 years his junior. He did not appear to recognise and acknowledge that her feelings were also valid, meaningful and important, and in respect of which he ought to have had proper regard, particularly as he was a senior colleague, her practise educator and role model in the workplace.

142. The Registrant said that Student A was unprofessional and had lied and fabricated evidence. The Panel found that the Registrant continues to blame Student A for not reporting matters immediately. He said that he did not know why she had “over exaggerated” and lied.

143. The Registrant was insistent that it was Student A’s responsibility to report matters immediately. In his most recent reflection in May 2022, he continues to deflect blame and responsibility and to assert that Student A was at fault and that he said in live evidence that she “chose” to take offence. He stated that Student A had disengaged and had double standards as she had shared personal details with him. He stated in his 2022 reflective piece:- “I do feel that Student A used my gender to add weight to her allegations and I find this offensive.”

144. In that reflective piece he also continues to state that false allegations were made and that Student A had animosity toward him. The Panel has found no evidence of animosity, Student A made a point of praising the Registrant’s clinical practice. Both this and the earlier reflective piece dated 19 March 2020 showed limited insight by the Registrant.

145. The Registrant when asked by the Panel about what he might do differently about disclosures about his personal life gave, what the Panel found was, an unhelpful example with explicit details about a child patient he had treated.

146. The Panel found that allegation 1 a) is essentially about attitudinal, behavioural issues and professional boundaries and that these issues are remediable. It found that the Registrant has not taken any meaningful steps to understand why he behaved as he did toward Student A. He has not, for example, provided any evidence of training or any courses he has attended in relation to professional boundaries.

147. The Panel found that in respect of its findings on allegation 1 a) (i) – (iv), that the Registrant had demonstrated limited insight and no remediation. The Panel remained concerned about the Registrant’s continuing lack of insight in respect of the power relationship between him and Student A who he was supervising and his conduct and behaviour toward her.

148. The Panel was mindful of paragraph 70 in Grant which states:- “An assessment of current fitness to practise will nevertheless involve consideration of past misconduct and of any steps taken subsequently by the practitioner to remedy it….. the necessity to determine whether the misconduct is easily remediable, whether it has in fact been remedied and whether it is highly unlikely to be repeated.”

149. With that guidance in mind, the Panel concluded, given the lack of insight and remediation, that the Registrant is not “highly unlikely” to repeat the misconduct found and it found that there is a real risk of repetition. In all the circumstances the Panel concluded that, in respect of the misconduct found in allegation 1 a) (i) – (iv), that the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired.

150. With regard to the public component of impairment, the Panel considered what a reasonable and informed member of the public would make of the Registrant’s misconduct. The findings of fact are of a repeated conduct and behaviour by a senior, male colleague, in a practise educator’s role, toward a younger, junior, female, student colleague which, in part, referred to her personal life and her partner, and which left that junior colleague feeling shocked, awkward and “freaked out”. The Panel decided that a reasonable member of the public would be concerned were the Panel not to find the Registrant’s current fitness to practise impaired. The Panel concluded that its findings of misconduct in this regard are such that a finding of current impairment is required in the public interest in order to uphold proper standards of professional conduct and to maintain public confidence in the profession and in the regulator. The Panel therefore decided that on public interest grounds, the Registrant’s fitness to practise was also currently impaired.

Submissions on Sanction

151. Mr Bridges for the HCPC submitted that the HCPC was neutral as to sanction and he referred the Panel to the HCPC Sanctions Policy.

152. Mr Short for the Registrant submitted that sanction was not designed to punish a Registrant, but to protect the public. He submitted that there was no concern in this case about either the public or service users. He submitted that this case represented a tiny part of the Registrant’s career and his blameless record with clients. He referred to the testimonials and reminded the Panel that 4 years have passed since the allegation and there has been no repetition of the behaviours found, and that this was supported by testimonials, including from his students.

153. Mr Short submitted the Registrant will continue to reflect on and improve his practice and this case did not involve any real or imagined risk to patients or colleagues. He submitted that any sanction must be proportionate and the Panel must be mindful of the need, in the public interest, to keep a capable OT such as the Registrant in practice. He submitted that any sanction should be at the lower end of the range, if at all.

Decision on Sanction

154. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. He advised it to consider the HCPC Sanctions Policy and reminded it to consider sanction in ascending order and to apply the least restrictive sanction necessary to protect the public and the wider public interest. It must act proportionately and should consider any aggravating and mitigating factors. It should be mindful of the public interest and that the primary purpose of sanction is to protect the public. It must balance the Registrant’s interests with the need to protect the public.

155. The Panel identified the following mitigating factors:-

  • No evidence of any further concerns in 4 years of unrestricted professional practice since the events in question;
  • Positive testimonials, including from current colleagues and students who were aware of the allegations; 
  • No evidence of any harm to service users;
  • Some insight;
  • Remorse and apology;
  • Good character;
  • Difficult personal circumstances at the time of the events in question;
  • The Registrant self-referred to the HCPC.

156. The Panel identified the following aggravating factors:-

  • Repeated unacceptable behaviour;
  • Breach of professional boundaries.

157. The Panel found that this was not a case where no action was an appropriate response given its findings on misconduct and impairment. It was a case where taking no action would undermine public confidence in the professional and would fail to appropriately mark the conduct as unacceptable and would not have a suitable deterrent effect.

158. The Panel next considered the sanction of Caution. The Panel was mindful of the HCPC Sanctions Policy and in particular paragraphs 10, 11 and 102. It was mindful that the primary purpose of a sanction is to protect the public. Paragraphs 10 and 11 state:-

“10. The primary function of any sanction is to protect the public. The considerations in this regard include:

  • any risks the registrant might pose to those who use or need their services;
  • the deterrent effect on other registrants;
  • public confidence in the profession concerned; and
  • public confidence in the regulatory process.

11. Sanctions are not intended to punish registrants, but instead ensure the
public is protected. Inevitably, a sanction may be punitive in effect, but should not be imposed simply for that purpose.”

159. Paragraph 102 states:- “ A caution order should be considered in cases where the nature of the allegations mean that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed, but a suspension of practice order would be disproportionate. In these cases, panels should provide a clear explanation of why it has chosen a non-restrictive sanction, even though the panel may have found there to be a risk of repetition (albeit low).”

160. The Panel has found that there is a lack of full insight and a risk of repetition in respect of that part of the allegation where the Registrant’s practice remained impaired - Allegation 1a) (i) – (iv). However, the Registrant’s clinical practice is not a concern and he does not pose a risk to the public. There is no evidence that these allegations resulted in any harm to service users. The evidence is that the Registrant is a good OT and a valued member of his current team. His current supervisor gave live evidence in support of him.

161. The Panel found there was consistent, cogent and credible evidence from live witnesses stating that the Registrant has practised for some 4 years as an OT with the same employer (with whom he previously worked with) without further incident and without restriction. He has not, in fact, repeated the behaviour giving rise to these allegations. A number of his current professional colleagues attended the hearing and gave live evidence supporting the Registrant in full knowledge of the allegation, and they told the Panel he was a valued member of the team. They did not express any concern about his conduct or behaviour towards them, and all were positive about his clinical practice. The Panel found this evidence was a powerful and significant mitigating factor in this case.

162. Given the nature of the misconduct and impairment found, and the lack of any clinical concerns, the Panel did not consider that workable, realistic and meaningful conditions of practice could be devised. The Panel considered that in light of all the evidence, in particular the evidence positively supporting his current practice that, for example, to impose conditions to require the Registrant to practise supervised or to complete training courses were not realistic or meaningful. The Panel concluded that such conditions would not merely be unrealistic, but that it would be disproportionate to impose such conditions.

163. The Panel found that paragraph 102 was engaged in the sense that a suspension order would, in light of all the circumstances in this case, be disproportionate and would go far further than was necessary. Further, the Panel considered that there was a strong public interest in keeping a good OT in practice.

164. The Panel considered the fact that a Caution Order can be imposed for a period of one to five years. It will appear on the Register but will not restrict the Registrant’s ability to practise but it may be taken into account if a further allegation is made against the Registrant. The Panel recognise that it should only consider imposing a Caution Order for longer than one year if one year is insufficient. In this case the Panel were satisfied that two years is appropriate in these circumstances so as to send a message to the profession that such conduct is not appropriate, to mark the seriousness of the misconduct and to serve as a reminder to the Registrant that any repeat of this conduct may lead to a more severe sanction.

165. Accordingly, the Panel concluded that a two-year Caution Order was the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose and that such a sanction would be sufficient to protect the public, and to maintain public confidence in both the profession and the regulator.

 

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to annotate the Register entry of Mr Paul Willshire 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 Paul Willshire

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
13/06/2022 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution