Mr Vijayakumaran Kuttampoil

: Practitioner psychologist

: PYL23901

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 07/12/2016 End: 17:00 07/12/2016

: Health and Care Professions Council, 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation found proved at final hearing

During the course of your employment as a Clinical Psychologist employed by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust at HMP Whitemoor between March 2011 and March 2012, you:

1. Did not follow the security process (at HMP Whitemoor) in that you:

a) carried your prison keys in your hand on at least one occasion instead of attaching them to you as required;

b) took personal possessions in a session with a prisoner on at least one occasion;

c) fell asleep during a group session with prisoners on 24 May 2011;

d)  not proved

2. Behaved in an unprofessional manner towards colleagues in that you:

a) not proved

b)  not proved

c) invaded the personal space of Colleagues A; B; E and F in that you;

(i) not proved 

(ii) not proved 

(iii) not proved 

(iv) stood too close to colleague F when she was locking doors;

d) not proved
e) not proved
f) not proved
g) not proved
h) were unable to control your anger and/or frustration in the office on a number of occasions.

3.  not proved

4. not proved

5. The matters described in paragraphs 1-3 constitute misconduct and/or lack of competence.

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

 

Finding

Preliminaries

Part of the Hearing in Private

1. There was an application to hear those parts of the hearing in private, where they related to the Registrant’s health. Having heard the advice of the Legal Assessor, the Panel determined to hold those parts of the hearing which related to the Registrant’s health in private so as to protect his private life.

Background

2. The Registrant is a HCPC registered Practitioner Psychologist. He commenced employment at the Fens Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder Unit (the Unit), within Whitemoor Maximum Security Prison in March 2011, as a Specialist Clinical Psychologist at NHS Band 7.

3. The Registrant had never worked in a prison before. The Unit operated within the prison, delivering group and individual therapy for approximately 70 inmates. At the Final Hearing, the facts found proved related to the Registrant not following the appropriate security processes at the prison; behaving in an unprofessional manner in respect of a colleague by standing too close to her as she was locking doors and being unable to control his anger and/or frustration in respect of two meetings with a colleague.

4. The Final Hearing took place over two periods. The first period was from 7 to 11 December 2015. It then had to be adjourned part heard, due to lack of time and the resumed hearing was from 18 to 20 July 2016.

5. The substantive Panel concluded that the facts found proved at the Final Hearing amounted to misconduct and that the Registrant's fitness to practise was consequently impaired by reason of that misconduct. It found the Registrant ‘impaired on personal grounds due to lack of insight, personal reflection, remediation and the consequent risk of repetition’. It also found that a finding of impairment was required ‘in order to declare and uphold the HCPC standards of conduct and to maintain the reputation of the profession’. It imposed a Conditions of Practice Order for 3 years.

6. On 23 August 2016, the Registrant wrote to the HCPC to bring to its attention that, following disciplinary proceedings, he had been dismissed from his employment by his then employer, Nouvita Limited, with effect from 7 July 2016. He had appealed the decision, which was heard on 5 August 2016 and the appeal was dismissed. He explained that he was bringing the information to the attention of the HCPC, as required by his Conditions of Practice Order.

7. On 28 September 2016, the HCPC received a referral from Nouvita, dated 26 September 2016, regarding an alleged incident on 18 April 2016, of speaking in an unprofessional manner to a colleague during a ward round. This alleged incident was the subject matter of the disciplinary proceedings which had resulted in the Registrant’s dismissal from Nouvita.

Decision

8. This is the first review of a Conditions of Practice Order of 3 years, which was originally imposed at the Final Hearing on 20 July 2016, to come into effect 28 days later. It is an early review of that Order, sought by the HCPC. This Panel is reviewing the Order pursuant to Article 30(2) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001.

9. The Panel considered the submissions of Mr Thompson on behalf of the HCPC. He effectively submitted that the Order needs to be reviewed as there has been a further referral for similar behaviour, which amounts to a change of circumstances. He proposed amending the Conditions of Practice Order to 9 - 12 months which would enable a future panel to review the order earlier.

10. The Panel considered the submissions of Ms Hayden on behalf of the Registrant. She explained that the Registrant had not worked since his dismissal. Although he had been seeking employment, the restrictive nature of the first condition preventing him from working in high security settings had resulted in him not being successful in finding work. She submitted that the written reflective piece along with the references were supportive of the insight and understanding he was gaining. She invited the Panel to vary the Order to reduce its term.

11. The Panel also considered the written and oral evidence of the Registrant. He told the Panel that the references included two from his Clinical Supervisor the most recent dated 2 December 2016. He had engaged her privately and continued to see her fortnightly. He explained the health issues which he had been going through. He described the CBT workshop he had attended and the mindfulness practices he used.

12. The Panel asked the Registrant about his dismissal and why this information was not put before the substantive Panel. The Registrant explained that he had not been aware that he needed to report the dismissal at that stage as he was disputing it, and was of the view that his appeal would be successful. He said he had also not been in a good place at that time as a result of his health, but looking back he saw it as an omission. He said that after the hearing, when the Conditions of Practice had been imposed, he had contacted his Legal Representative to inform him. The Legal Representative had told him of the need to disclose it to the HCPC, which he had done, in the letter of 23 August 2016.
 
13. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, who advised that notwithstanding this is an early review under Article 30(2), the Panel should go through the process of considering firstly whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired, and if it is, then to consider the appropriate and proportionate sanction or other outcome.

14. The Panel exercised its own independent judgment in determining whether the Registrant's fitness to practise remains impaired. It kept in mind the need to protect the public, to maintain public confidence in the profession, and to uphold proper standards of conduct and performance within the profession.

15. The Panel was concerned at what it considered to be a lack of insight on the Registrant’s part. Whilst the Panel accepted that the reflective piece was a first draft rather than a fully reflective document, as this was an early review, the Panel was not of the view that it demonstrated a sufficient level of insight. The mindfulness practice and CBT workshop discussed within it pre-date the conclusion of the Final Hearing and although the Registrant said he continued to use mindfulness techniques, the Panel was not reassured that he was able to demonstrate that he had learnt from these so as to be able to apply it to future, challenging clinical and non-clinical settings.

16. Condition 5(C) sought evidence of the Registrant’s understanding of issues of personal space, conventions about appropriate language and behaviour and how he might manage any cultural differences which have the potential to be problematic in the workplace. In the Panel’s view, the reflective piece did not adequately address these issues, or consider the measures he might put in place to prevent a recurrence in the future. In evidence, he spoke of not bringing back gifts from India for work colleagues and appreciating that this was not appropriate. However, he did not address, for example, how he might understand and interpret body language.

17. The Panel was also concerned at the Registrant’s apparent lack of insight in relation to the type of information appropriate to disclose to the substantive Panel, so that it did not act on incorrect information. He had not appeared to understand the need to disclose the fact of his dismissal, which had occurred by the time of the resumed hearing. It was clear to this Panel that the substantive panel had considered mitigating and aggravating factors when deciding which sanction to impose, and the lack of disclosure had allowed that panel to proceed on the incorrect basis that:

• ‘There have been no similar concerns since 2012’ and
• ‘The Registrant’s current employer states that the Registrant is an outstanding professional and a hard-working member of a multi-disciplinary team, who interacts well with staff and patients’.

18. At paragraph 62 of the determination, when considering sanction, the previous panel found that ‘A suspension order would be disproportionate because the evidence before the Panel shows that the Registrant is performing satisfactorily in his current role and has done so for some time…’. However, this Panel is satisfied that the previous panel was working under a misapprehension that the Registrant was still working when he was not, as he had been dismissed by his employer following disciplinary proceedings, less than two weeks previously.

19. The Panel made no assessment as to the accuracy or reliability of the subject matter of the referral, recognising that it was still at the early stages and was disputed by the Registrant who was appealing the dismissal to the Employment Tribunal. However, the Panel did have regard to the referral to the extent that the Registrant had not volunteered the fact that he had been dismissed by his employer for an allegation of inappropriate behaviour toward a colleague, which in turn allowed the Panel to proceed to sanction in the mistaken understanding that the Registrant was in work and that no further concerns had been raised.

20. In light of the above, and in particular the Registrant’s lack of insight, and the fact he has been unable to demonstrate remediation, the Panel was of the view that there remains a risk of repetition. The Panel therefore concluded that the Registrant’s fitness to practise currently remains impaired.

21. Having concluded that the Registrant's current fitness to practise remains impaired, the Panel went on to consider what would be the appropriate, proportionate and sufficient sanction, or other outcome in this case, in order to protect the public and also meet the public interest.

22. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy and considered the sanctions in ascending order of severity. The Panel was aware that the purpose of a sanction is not to be punitive but to protect members of the public and to safeguard the public interest, which includes upholding standards within the profession, together with maintaining public confidence in the profession and its regulatory process.

23. The Panel does not consider the option of taking no further action or a Caution Order to be appropriate or proportionate in the circumstances of this case. Neither would protect the public nor meet the wider public interest.

24. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. In light of the Panel’s concerns as to the Registrant’s level of insight, it was not satisfied that such an Order poses ‘no risk of harm’ to the public, given its finding of the risk of repetition. In considering whether a Conditions of Practice Order was appropriate this Panel takes a different view to the substantive panel because it is not accurate to say that he was “performing satisfactorily in his current role”. Therefore this Panel considers that this case is now too serious for a Conditions of Practice Order and only a Suspension Order would adequately protect the public and meet the wider public interest.

25. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order, and determined that this was the appropriate and proportionate response. The Panel was of the view that a period of 12 months would be the appropriate length. Although the Registrant, at this stage lacked insight, the Panel considered that over the period of the suspension, he may be able to achieve and demonstrate the level of insight to reassure a future Panel that the risk of repetition is low, such that he may be able to return to safe practice.

26. The Panel acknowledged that such an Order would be likely to have a serious impact on the Registrant as he will not be able to practise as a Practitioner Psychologist. However, the Panel determined that the interests of protecting the public and upholding confidence in the profession outweighed the interests of the Registrant.

27. A reviewing panel may be assisted by:

• further reflections to demonstrate insight
• evidence of steps taken to address his failings.

Order

The Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Mr Vijayakumaran Kuttampoil for a period of 12 months with immediate effect.

Notes

The order will be reviewed before its expiry.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Mr Vijayakumaran Kuttampoil

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
31/10/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
07/12/2016 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended