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1. The Panel is satisfied that the Rules relating to service have been complied with. A Notice letter was sent by first class post to the Registrant’s registered address. The Panel has seen a copy of the Notice letter which contains all relevant information and a certificate certifying the fact of postage. In addition, there is evidence that the Council sent Notice of the hearing by way of email. The Panel has therefore concluded that the Council has used its best endeavours to bring today’s hearing to the Registrant’s attention. Further, there is evidence that the Registrant is aware of today’s hearing as she has responded to the HCPC.
Proceeding in the absence of the Registrant
2. The Council submitted that the hearing should proceed in the absence of the Registrant and that there was public interest in this mandatory review taking place without delay.
3. The Panel had before it written communication received from the Registrant on 1 December 2016 in which she acknowledged that she was aware of today’s hearing and would not be able to attend due to work commitments but that she wanted the Panel to take into account her submissions during the hearing.
4. The Panel heard and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.
5. The Panel was aware of the need to exercise its discretion to proceed in the absence of the Registrant with great care and caution.
6. The Panel has decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant; its reasons are as follows
• The Registrant has not made an application to adjourn today’s hearing.
• Reasonable steps have been taken to serve the Registrant with notice of this hearing by sending written notice of the hearing by first class post to her registered address.
• There is no reason to suppose that if the hearing was adjourned the Registrant would attend a resumed hearing.
• The Registrant has sent in written representations to be considered by the Panel in her absence.
• In all the circumstances the Panel considered that the Registrant had voluntary absented herself.
• There is public interest in this mandatory review proceeding without delay and that the public interest, in the circumstances outlined above, outweighs any potential disadvantage to the Registrant in this instance.
Hearing in private
7. The Panel made a decision to hear the whole of the review in private. This reflected the personal nature of the matters that would be referred to within the hearing.
8. The current Panel noted that the previous Panel’s decision identified that a future reviewing Panel may be assisted by evidence that the Registrant had addressed her health issues.
9. The previous Panel had that a reviewing Panel may expect to see evidence that she has engaged in continuing professional development and has attempted to keep her knowledge and skills up to date. There was no indication of the format that this evidence should take.
10. The Panel noted that there had been a joint application for the suspension order to be made by mutual consent.
11. The Panel took into account the background to this matter being received by way of a referral from the Registrant’s previous employer, in September 2014. The Panel accepted the Legal Assessor’s advice and took note of the terms of the relevant Practice Notes relating to Finding that fitness to practise is impaired, Health Allegations and Indicative Sanctions Guidance.
12. The Panel had been informed that the Registrant had responded to communications sent to her as part of the HCPC administrative processes.
13. The Panel had before it a letter received by the HCPC on 1 December 2016 from the Registrant in which she gave details of her current professional and personal situation and her assessment of her current medical condition. She had concluded her one page representation with the assertion that she felt able to return to work as a Social Worker. There was no independent employment or medical reports nor any supporting evidence of personal study, reflective thinking or reading.
14. The HCPC submitted that there was continuing current impairment of the Registrant’s fitness to practise and that in the absence of any supporting independent evidence from any medical practitioner some form of restriction was still required on her practice. The lack of information to support a lesser sanction was argued as supporting the imposition of another period of suspension.
15. The Panel first considered whether there was sufficient evidence to support a decision that the Registrant had resolved her health issues and that as of today her fitness to practise was no longer impaired. The Panel noted the information supplied by the Registrant and positive measures she stated she has pursued however there was no supporting documentation or testimony from her or others on which the Panel could place further reliance. There was no evidence of the professional or personal study and reflection undertaken by the Registrant. This being the case, the Panel came to the conclusion that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired.
16. Having made this decision the Panel went on to consider the appropriateness and proportionality of any restriction it placed on the Registrant’s registration. In reaching its decision in this regard the Panel took into account the limited extent of the guidance provided to the Registrant as to what to produce on review.
17. As directed, the Panel considered the range of sanctions available to it in ascending order. The Panel noted that in a health case such as this, there is no power to strike the Registrant from the Register until there had been a continuous uninterrupted period of suspension or conditions of practice in excess of two years.
18. The Panel considered that the matters identified were too serious for it to allow the order to lapse or to take no further action. The imposition of a Caution Order would not provide any service user protection nor would it provide any support or protection for the Registrant. A Conditions of Practice Order in this instance would have to be drafted in a very restrictive way and so would in effect be a suspension order by another means. A Conditions of Practice Order was also, in the Panel’s view, not an appropriate means for the Registrant in resolving her health issues.
19. The Panel has therefore concluded that the proportionate and appropriate measure in this instance is the imposition of a further period of suspension. In the absence of any independent medical evidence of successful steps taken to resolve the health issues, the Panel has assessed that a further period of twelve months is sufficient time for these medical issues to be resolved. The Panel decided not to restrict the time during which the Registrant may make an application for an early review of this Order. In light of the information given by the Registrant it may be that an early review could be founded upon supporting documentation and evidence provided by the HCPC and the Registrant at a much earlier date.
20. This Panel considers that a future reviewing Panel either at the next mandatory or early review would be assisted by evidence from her in person either by video-link or telephone, either in London or the Registrant's location and evidence in documentary or testimonial form, of the following:
• Independent medical evidence from a medical practitioner who is competent to give an opinion that the Registrant’s health issues have been resolved successfully.
• Evidence from the Registrant:
• Of information as to how the Registrant has maintained her professional knowledge. This may take the form of details of specific literature she has read, courses she has attended, any e-learning, and any other evidence she wishes to provide of CPD.
• That she reflected on her previous behaviours and this is supported by a reflective piece of writing.
• Of testimonials and/or references from current and previous employers since that date. This evidence may be supported by the live testimony from managers or previous employers.
The order imposed today will apply from 19 January 2017.
This order will be reviewed again before its expiry on 19 January 2018.
History of Hearings for Laura Pennery
|Date||Panel||Hearing type||Outcomes / Status|
|14/12/2017||Health Committee||Review Hearing||Hearing has not yet been held|
|13/12/2016||Conduct and Competence Committee||Review Hearing||Suspended|