Miss Nichola Taylor

: Social worker

: SW18175

: Review Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 22/12/2016 End: 13:00 22/12/2016

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

: Health Committee
: Conditions of Practice

Allegation

The following allegation was put before a Panel of the Health Committee at the substantive hearing on 08 – 11 June 2015.

Your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired by reason of your physical and/or mental health.

The Panel at the substantive hearing found the Registrant’s fitness to practise to be impaired and imposed a Suspension Order for 12 months.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Service 

1. The Panel was satisfied that notice of the hearing today had been properly served on the Registrant. 

Proceeding in Absence:

2. The Panel decided to proceed in the absence of the Registrant. This is a mandatory review and it is in the public interest that it should proceed today as the current order expires on 8 January 2017. There is before the Panel a letter from the Registrant date stamped “received 12 Dec 2016”. In her letter the Registrant indicated that she would be unable to attend because of family/work commitments and expense. She has not asked for an adjournment of the hearing and in her letter she has made some submissions and included documents for the purpose of the review today. The Panel finds that the Registrant has waived her right to attend and that a fair hearing can take place in her absence.

Application to hold the hearing in Private:

3. Mr Doyle, on behalf the HCPC, applied for this review hearing to be heard in private in order to protect the private life of the Registrant, under rule 10(1)(a) of the Health Professions Council (Health Committee) (Procedure) Rules, 2003. The Panel was advised to consider the HCPC Practice Note entitled “Conducting Hearings in Private”. The Panel decided that as this review today primarily relates to the Registrant’s health, it should be conducted wholly in private.

Background:

4. The Registrant started work on 2 July 2012 as a Grade 4A Social Worker in the Adult Safeguarding Review and Extra Care Team based within the Community Health and Social Care Department.  She was employed on a fixed term contract (for twelve months) which was due to expire on the 3 July 2013.

5. On 20 September 2012, the Registrant informed her line manager that due to a health issue her driving licence was being revoked from Monday 24 September 2012.  The Registrant told her line manager she had attended a medical appointment and had been advised to appeal the DVLA decision, but would not at that time share the nature of her health problem.

6. Between 4 October 2012 and 8 October 2012, the Registrant had a period of sickness absence.  She would not disclose the nature of the illness to her employer. 

7. Around this time concerns arose about the Registrant’s ability to carry out her duties, her behaviour and demeanour: in particular unexplained periods of time spent away from her desk.  She was described as being preoccupied, lacking concentration and having difficulties prioritising her work.

8. On 19 October 2012, the Registrant’s line manager received a phone call from a health practitioner which led to the Registrant being told to go home and seek advice from her GP.

9. The Registrant was off sick for several months during which time three sickness Absence Review Meetings were held in line with her employer’s Attendance Management Policy. The Registrant was eventually signed fit to return to work and began a phased return from 25 March 2013. The Registrant left her place of employment at the end of her fixed term contract on 2 July 2013.
Findings of the panel at the substantive hearing (08 – 11 June 2015)

10. The original Panel accepted the evidence of the HCPC’s expert medical witness that the Registrant had a continuing health condition.  In his opinion there was the start of acceptance of her current health condition and of gaining an insight into its impact. The Registrant told the Panel that she would continue with her treatment. However, there was evidence that previously she had decided to stop her medication and stated she continued with her medication because others wished her to do so. The Registrant also confirmed that she would, when applying for a Social Work position, tell a future employer that she had a health condition because this would be part of an Occupational Health questionnaire.  There was, however, evidence that she had been reluctant to inform her employer in 2012 of her health condition.  The Panel had concerns about the true level of insight that the Registrant had gained into the nature of her condition and the need for disclosure and had determined that her fitness to practise was impaired and that a Suspension Order was required.

11. The Suspension Order was reviewed on 22 June 2016. At that hearing there was no new information before the Panel and as a consequence the existing Order of Suspension was extended for a further 6 months.

Decision (of the reviewing panel today):

12. Article 30(1) of the 2001 Order provides that before the expiry of the Suspension Order currently in force, this matter shall be reviewed. This is a two stage process. The Panel today must first decide whether the Registrant’s fitness to practice remains currently impaired. If it so finds it must then must consider what, if any, sanction should be imposed. In that regard, its powers are that it may with effect from the date on which the order expires, extend, or further extend the period for which the order has effect, or make an order which could have been made at the time the order being reviewed was made.

13. In reaching its decision the Panel has considered all the information before it including the submissions of Mr Doyle, on behalf of the HCPC, and the written submissions and documentation provided by the Registrant. It has had regard to the HCPC’s Indicative Sanctions Policy. It has exercised the principle of proportionality at all times. It has accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. 

14. In her written submission the Registrant said that she had continued to cooperate and work fully with her medical treatment. She also indicated that she has continued in full time employment as a care assistant in a residential home for the elderly. She has produced a supportive testimonial from her employer who is aware of the background to this matter. She has provided information about training courses she has attended some of which would be relevant to Social Work Practice. She has confirmed her wish to return to Social Work practice.

15. There was before the Panel a report dated 14 September 2016 from the HCPC’s expert medical witness, in which he said that the current prognosis is good; that the Registrant has conformed to her treatment plan; exhibits no active symptoms and is “appearing to have significant volition to manage a busy work routine”. He further states that there is no reason from a health perspective why she could not return to her profession but that she would need adequate support.

16. In the light of the expert opinion the Panel has concluded that, although the Registrant’s condition has improved significantly, she is not yet ready to practise without restriction.

17. The Panel has therefore found that the Registrant’s fitness to practise remains impaired. It has further determined that the Registrant’s ability to practise as a Social Worker should continue to be restricted in order to protect the public and that it is also in her own interests.

18. In regard to sanction the Panel first considered whether to make no Order but this would be insufficient to protect the public as it would allow the Registrant to practise without restriction.

19. It then considered a Caution Order but again this would be insufficient to protect the public as it would not restrict the Registrant’s practice.

20. The Panel next considered a Conditions of Practice Order. In the light of the expert opinion it has concluded that the public would be adequately protected by such an Order which should be for a period of 12 months. However, the Panel is aware that the Registrant has not worked as a Social Worker, save for the short period of employment, since 2007. The Panel is therefore concerned that her knowledge and skills should be updated.

21. The Conditions of Practice are:

1) You must promptly inform the HCPC if you take up employment as a Social Worker.
2) You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a Senior Social Worker registered by the HCPC and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 14 days of commencing employment as a Social Worker. You must attend upon that supervisor as required and follow his/her advice and recommendations.
3) You must obtain a quarterly report from your supervisor about your ability to practise safely and effectively. These reports must be submitted to the HCPC for consideration by a future reviewing Panel.
4) You must inform your general practitioner and your treating clinician about these Conditions of Practice and authorise them to provide the HCPC with information about your health and any treatment you are receiving. 
5) You must cease practising immediately if you are advised to do so by your general practitioner and/or treating clinician.
6) You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:
A) Any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work as a Social Worker.
B) Any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and
C) Any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

22. The Panel determined that the period of 12 months would be sufficient to protect the public and will enable the Registrant to demonstrate her continued progress in managing her health condition and in updating her skills under supervised practice.

23. A future reviewing Panel would doubtless be assisted by evidence of the Registrant’s compliance with these conditions. It may also be assisted by:

• A report from the Registrant’s GP or treating clinician about her current state of health.
• Evidence of continuing professional development i.e. courses attended, reading and other learning undertaken relevant to the social work profession.

Order

The Registrar is directed to annotate the Register to show that, for a period of 12 months, from the date this Order comes into effect (“the Operative Date”), you, Miss Nichola Taylor, must comply with the following conditions of practice:

1) You must promptly inform the HCPC if you take up employment as a Social Worker.
2) You must place yourself and remain under the supervision of a Senior Social Worker registered by the HCPC and supply details of your supervisor to the HCPC within 14 days of commencing employment as a Social Worker. You must attend upon that supervisor as required and follow his/her advice and recommendations.
3) You must obtain a quarterly report from your supervisor about your ability to practise safely and effectively. These reports must be submitted to the HCPC for consideration by a future reviewing Panel.
4) You must inform your general practitioner and your treating clinician about these Conditions of Practice and authorise them to provide the HCPC with information about your health and any treatment you are receiving. 
5) You must cease practising immediately if you are advised to do so by your general practitioner and/or treating clinician.
6) You must inform the following parties that your registration is subject to these conditions:

A) Any organisation or person employing or contracting with you to undertake professional work as a Social Worker.
B) Any agency you are registered with or apply to be registered with (at the time of application); and
C) Any prospective employer (at the time of your application).

Notes

The Conditions of Practice Order replaces the Suspension Order with immediate effect.

The Order will be reviewed before its expiry on 22 December 2017.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Nichola Taylor

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
30/11/2017 Health Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
22/12/2016 Health Committee Review Hearing Conditions of Practice
22/06/2016 Health Committee Review Hearing Suspended
08/06/2015 Health Committee Final Hearing Suspended