Sally Caroline Parker

: Social worker

: SW84865

Interim Order: Imposed on 21 Jun 2013

Finding:

Interim Order:


The Panel makes an Interim Conditions of Practice Order under Article 31(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, the same being necessary to protect members of the public, being otherwise in the public interest and in Ms Parker’s own interests.

The Conditions of this Interim Conditions of Practice Order are:

1. In respect of any work you intend to undertake (whether paid or unpaid) for which your registration with the HCPC is required, you must inform any employer, agency or other body to which you make application to undertake such work of the terms of this Order and of the Panel’s decision on the allegation.


2. You must not undertake any work for which your status as an Approved Mental Health Professional is required.


3. You must not accept any supervisory responsibility for social work students.


4. Upon commencement of any work as a Social Worker you must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a supervisor who is a Social Worker registered by the HCPC.

This order will expire: (if no appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) upon the expiry of the period during which such an appeal could be made; (if an appeal is made against the Panel’s decision and Order) the final determination of that appeal, subject to a maximum period of 18 months.

 


: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 20/06/2013 End: 17:00 21/06/2013

: Health and Care Professions Council, Park House, 184 Kennington Park Road, London, SE11 4BU

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Conditions of Practice

Allegation

During the course of your employment with Hampshire County Council as a Mental Health Social Worker, between October 2009 and May 2012 you:

 

1 .Did not consistently keep accurate or timely:

 

a) care plans;

b) crisis plans;

c) reports; and/or

d) risk assessments.

 

2. Did not maintain regular contact with service users.

 

3. Did not discharge service users in a timely manner.

 

4. The matters described in paragraphs 1-3 constitute a lack of competence.

 

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

 

Finding

Preliminary Matters


1. The Registrant has attended this hearing at which she has been represented by Mr Simon O’Dwyer.  The HCPC has been represented by Ms Elena Elia.


2. A single allegation is made by the HCPC against the Registrant.  It is that her fitness to practise is impaired by reason of lack of competence.  This is not a case in which misconduct is also alleged.


3. At the commencement of the hearing Mr O’Dwyer indicated that Registrant admitted the facts alleged against her, that those facts amounted to a lack of competence and that her fitness to practise is currently impaired.  As will be seen, the Panel has accepted the admissions of the facts in finding them proved.  In relation to the issues of lack of competence and impairment of fitness to practise, the Panel has proceeded on the basis that it is necessary for it to make its own finding on those issues.  This it has done, albeit in the knowledge that Registrant has not urged a contrary view.


Background


4. Registrant qualified as a social worker in 1998 and later that year commenced work with Hampshire County Council (“HCC”) as a mental health social worker, initially on a locum basis, but with the post becoming permanent in late 1999.  In early 2003 she obtained her Post Qualification Stage 1, then becoming eligible to progress to undertake her training as an Approved Social Worker (“ASW”).  The ASW training was completed in April 2004, with the final Post Qualification stage being completed in 2005.  It follows that in current terminology Registrant is an Approved Mental Health Professional (“AMHP”).  The significance of this status is that she was authorised to carry out assessments for detention under the Mental Health Act.  At the time to which this allegation relates she was a social work member of a Community Mental Health Team.


Decision on Facts


5. Although the facts were admitted by the Registrant, the Panel nevertheless heard evidence from Ms BS (at the time the Team Manager under whom Registrant worked) and from Registrant herself.  It is appropriate for the Panel to record its impression of these witnesses.  The Panel found Ms BS to be entirely professional in her approach.  She gave Registrant appropriate credit and acknowledgement for improvement made in her performance and showed no antipathy towards, or desire to single out, the Registrant.  Nevertheless, she identified clearly the areas of practice in which Registrant was deficient and supported her assertions by appropriate documents.


6. The Registrant was open and honest in giving her evidence.  She accepted that her recording, contact with clients and discharging of clients did not meet the appropriate professional standard.  The Panel concluded that her face to face contact with clients and the handling of their problems was, in general, satisfactory.


7. The environment in which the Registrant operated was a challenging one.  In 2009 the team had experienced weak management for some time and Ms BS had been appointed to address some of the systemic difficulties which had resulted from management problems.  In May 2009 a new computer system (RIO) was introduced for recording casework, including care plans, risk assessments and contacts with clients.  The implementation of this system was acknowledged to be a challenging experience for the whole team and it took several months for problems to be ironed out and for team members to become proficient in using the system.  At times during the period relevant to the criticisms of her performance, the Registrant suffered a number of episodes of significant ill health.  There was a need to take sickness leave and there were some conditions of a continuing nature.  At one stage she was referred to Occupational Health. 


8. From October 2009 Ms BS took over supervision of the Registrant.  By the end of 2010 this supervision had identified a number of serious deficits in the Registrant’s record keeping, especially relating to care plans, risk assessments and lack of contact with service users.  Many of these records were not undertaken, were incomplete or were not up to date.  At this time the Registrant was requested to refrain from undertaking AMHP work until further notice.  In March 2011 Ms BS instituted a formal Managing Unacceptable Performance Procedure.  There were three review meetings in May, June and July 2011.  Within the first stage of the formal process there were significant improvements, resulting in Ms BS congratulating the Registrant in correspondence.  However, the progress made was not consistently maintained with the result that the formal process continued to stage 2 and subsequently to stage 3.  During the latter stages the Registrant was again referred to Occupational Health and her case load was reduced.  At the conclusion of this final stage the Registrant was dismissed from her employment in May 2012 on the grounds of capability.


9. The Panel finds particulars 1, 2 and 3 of the allegation to be established, being satisfied that the evidence it has seen and heard supports the Registrant’s admission.


Decision on Grounds:


10. As the matters found proved occurred before 1 August 2012 the Panel has not applied the HCPC’s Standards of Proficiency relating to Social Workers.  They have, however, had regard to the Codes of Practice for Social Care Workers previously issued by the General Social Care Council.


11. The factual findings demonstrate that the Registrant did not consistently maintain clear and accurate records, she did not follow fully established practices and procedures, and in particular, did not follow risk assessment policies.  The result was that relevant colleagues and agencies were not informed of, and did not have access to complete and current service user records.


12. The Panel unhesitatingly accepts that the proper making and recording of risk assessments, care plans and crisis plans is not simply administratively desirable, but is required as an integral element of effective social work practice.  In failing consistently to undertake these tasks over a period of time the Panel finds that there was a lack of competence demonstrated by the Registrant.


Decision on Impairment:


13. For the reasons just given in relation to the finding of lack of competence, the Panel finds that the shortcomings proved were serious.  They were particularly serious as the Registrant was an experienced practitioner who, until she was requested to refrain from exercising it, had the additional status of being an AMPH.  The evidence presented to the Panel has led it to conclude that the Registrant has the ability to perform to an acceptable standard in all those areas in which she has been found to have defaulted.  The Registrant has not practised as a Social Worker since her dismissal over a year ago.  Unless and until there is a demonstration by her that she not only can perform, but is performing, appropriately the Panel is of the view that her fitness to practise will remain impaired.  As there been no such demonstration by her to date the Panel finds that her fitness to practise is currently impaired.


14. The consequence of these findings is that the allegation is well founded.  The Panel must therefore proceed to consider the issue of sanction.


Decision on Sanction:


15. Since announcing the decision that the allegation is well founded the Panel has heard submissions on sanction.  On behalf of the HCPC, Ms Elia has reminded the Panel of the available sanctions, of the proper approach to the imposition of a sanction and of the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy Document.  She drew the Panel’s attention to what she submitted were the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case, but did not urge the Panel to apply any particular sanction.  Mr O’Dwyer made submissions on behalf of the Registrant, concluding by urging the Panel to make a Conditions of Practice Order, some of those conditions being consistent with those the Panel has now decided should be made.


16. The Panel approaches the issue of sanction on the basis that a sanction is not to be imposed to punish a Registrant against whom a finding has been made.  Rather, a sanction should only be imposed to the extent that it is required to protect the public or to maintain a proper degree of confidence in the regulated profession and in this regulatory process.  To ensure that these principles are applied, a Panel is required first to consider whether the finding requires any sanction at all.  If a sanction is required, then the available sanctions have to be considered in an ascending order of seriousness until a sanction that satisfies the proper sanction goals is reached.  It is also of central importance that a sanction should be proportionate.  In this case the sanction range extends to, but not beyond, the making of a suspension order.


17. The Panel does not propose to repeat all of what has already been said, but it is necessary to repeat that the shortcomings were serious.  However, there are cogent grounds for thinking that the Registrant both can and will perform to an acceptable standard.  In the judgment of the Panel the Registrant is very much more likely to perform to an acceptable standard if she is not subject to excessive workplace stress.  Striking a proper balance between ensuring safe social work practice and allowing the Registrant the opportunity that she can consistently perform to an acceptable standard, the Panel has decided that a Conditions of Practice Order should be made.  The conditions of this Order are designed to remove undue stress from the Registrant’s practice and to enable a reviewing Panel to consider how she is performing with regard her record keeping.  It should be stated that the Panel discounted making a caution order because the lapses were of a serious nature and occurred over a period of time, and did not consider that a suspension order was appropriate because the Registrant is a committed social worker with a previous unblemished record who wishes to return to practice and who safely can be allowed to do so subject to the conditions.

Order


Order: 


The Registrar is directed to annotate the register to show that for a period of 18 months from the date this Order comes into effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Sally Caroline Parker, must comply with the following conditions of practice:


1. In respect of any work you intend to undertake (whether paid or unpaid) for which your registration with the HCPC is required, you must inform any employer, agency or other body to which you make application to undertake such work of the terms of this Order and of the Panel’s decision on the allegation.


2. You must not undertake any work for which your status as an Approved Mental Health Professional is required.


3. You must not accept any supervisory responsibility for social work students.


4. Upon commencement of any work as a Social Worker you must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a supervisor who is a Social Worker registered by the HCPC.


5. No later than 1 November 2014 you must submit to the HCPC an anonymised audited account of the records of your service users (those records to include care plans, risk assessments, crisis plans and service user contact).  The audit should be countersigned as correct by your supervisor(s).

Right of Appeal:


You may appeal to the appropriate court against the decision of the Panel and the order it has made against you.  In this case the appropriate court is the High Court in England and Wales.


Under Articles 29 and 38 of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, an appeal must be made to the court not more than 28 days after the date when this notice is served on you.  The order made against you will not take effect until that appeal period has expired or, if you appeal during that period, until that appeal is disposed of or withdrawn.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Sally Caroline Parker

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
27/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Voluntary Removal agreed
16/05/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Hearing has not yet been held
31/05/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
19/11/2014 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
20/06/2013 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Conditions of Practice