Dr Jane Kelly

: Practitioner psychologist

: PYL27815

Interim Order: Imposed on 10 May 2017

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 10/05/2017 End: 17:00 12/05/2017

: Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS), 405 Kennington Road, London, SE11 4PT

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Struck off

Allegation

Allegation as amended

While registered as a Practitioner Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council, between approximately February 2016 and March 2016 you:

1. Whilst providing Service User A with psychological treatment, you did not maintain appropriate professional boundaries, in that you:

a. sent inappropriate text messages to Service User A;

b. arranged appointments with Service User A at your home and/or other non-clinical locations;

c. had a personal relationship with Service User A;

d. you had a sexual relationship with Service User A.

2. Your actions set out in paragraph 1 were sexually motivated.

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

4. By reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practise is impaired.

 

Finding

Amendment of Allegation

1. Ms Eales, on behalf of the HCPC, applied to amend the allegation to add particular 1(d) which reads “had a sexual relationship with Service User A”. Dr Kelly had been notified, in a letter dated 8 November 2016 that this application would be made.

2. Ms Eales also stated that the HCPC did not wish proceed with Particulars 1(a) and (b) as they were background to the other particulars and she offered no evidence in respect of these.

3. Ms Hadfield, on behalf of Dr Kelly, did not object to the application.

4. The Legal Assessor advised that the HCPC legislation did not contain any provisions about the amendment of an allegation. He advised the Panel that an allegation can be amended if the amendment can be made without injustice.

5. The Panel agreed to the amendment.

Background

6. Dr Kelly is a registered Practitioner Psychologist and in September 2015 she started treating Service User A.

7. Dr Kelly admits she had a personal relationship with Service User A. Dr Kelly admits that a sexual relationship between her and Service User A began in February 2016. 

Decision on Facts

8. Dr Kelly has admitted the facts and the Panel finds Particulars 1(c), 1(d) and 2 proved on the basis of these admissions. The Panel finds Particulars 1(a) and 1(b) not proved as the HCPC has offered no evidence.

Decision on grounds and Impairment

9. Dr Kelly has admitted that the facts amount to misconduct and that her fitness to practise is impaired.

10. The Panel agrees with the HCPC’s submissions that Dr Kelly’s actions amount to misconduct; Dr Kelly was in a position of responsibility, in a psychologist/patient relationship, having a sexual relationship with a patient, who had gone to her for treatment, breaches a fundamental tenet of being a Registered Practitioner. The Panel also agrees with the HCPC’s submissions that a finding of impairment is required to maintain public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process.

11. The Panel is satisfied, based on all the evidence it has been provided with, that Dr Kelly’s admissions are appropriate and it has determined that her fitness to practise is impaired by reason of her misconduct.

Decision on Sanction

12. In coming to its own, independent, decision as to sanction, the Panel took into account all the evidence including the oral evidence Dr Kelly gave at the sanction stage.

13. In deciding what sanction to impose, if any, the Panel has reminded itself that the purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive but to protect service users and the public interest, although there may be a punitive effect. The Panel has also taken into account the principle of proportionality, weighing the interests of the public with those of Dr Kelly. It has also taken into account the HCPC’s Indicative Sanction Policy. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

14. The Panel has identified the following aggravating factors:

• The sexual relationship was with a vulnerable service user.

• This was a serious abuse of trust and a failure to maintain appropriate professional boundaries.

15. The Panel has identified the following mitigating factors:

• The facts, misconduct and impairment were admitted.

• Dr Kelly cooperated with the HCPC process

• No previous regulatory findings have been made against Dr Kelly

16. Ms Hadfield, on behalf of Dr Kelly, realistically accepted that the minimum sanction that was appropriate was one of suspension. However, she submitted that a striking off order would be disproportionate.

17. The Panel agrees that in view of the nature of the misconduct that gave rise to the finding of impairment it would not be appropriate to conclude the case without taking any action, to arrange mediation, to impose a caution order or a conditions of practice order.

18. The Panel then considered a suspension order.

19. In her statement Dr Kelly stated:

“I do not wish to sound naïve but the depth of my feelings for Service User A and his for me took me by surprise. I accept that I handled the situation extremely badly. I would under no circumstances allow this to happen again. It has been a very sharp and painful lesson in the importance of recognising failing boundaries at an early stage and taking appropriate advice and action immediately. I realise that entering into a relationship with Service User A during the therapeutic relationship was wrong and that the strength of our feelings for each other does not excuse that. What I can say, in mitigation, is that I ended the therapeutic relationship once professional boundaries had failed.”

20. However, in her oral evidence she was less convincing and the Panel is not satisfied that if faced with a similar situation Dr Kelly would not act in a similar manner. She referred to still being on a “journey” and told the Panel of the supportive measures she would need to return to practice. The Panel is concerned that even after a year she does not seem to have fully grasped the concept that it is wrong to have any sort of personal relationship with a service user let alone a sexual one. Her evidence focused on the steps she could take to return to effective clinical practice rather than what steps she could take to prevent a recurrence of similar behaviour.

21. The Panel was very concerned by Dr Kelly’s apparent reliance on the fact that she lived in a rural area and lacked professional contacts to apparently explain, if not excuse her behaviour. The Panel was also concerned that Dr Kelly sought to explain that what happened was as a result of her failure to seek professional supervision appropriately.

22. Whilst Dr Kelly has expressed her regret for her actions, she has been unable at this hearing to demonstrate that she has gained a sufficient level of understanding of the magnitude of her misconduct. As a consequence, the possibility of repetition remains. The lack of insight was such that this Panel is not convinced that there are steps which Dr Kelly will be able to take to remedy her misconduct. In addition the Panel considers that a Suspension Order would be insufficient to maintain the public’s confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator; nor would it act as a deterrent to other practitioners.

23. In the Panel’s view Dr Kelly’s actions were entirely unacceptable and fell far below the standard expected of a registered Practitioner Psychologist. The Panel has therefore come to the decision that the only proportionate and appropriate sanction is the making of a Striking Off Order.

Order

That the Registrar is directed to strike the name of Jane Kelly from the Register on the date that this order comes into effect.

Notes

An Interim Suspension Order was imposed to cover the appeal period.

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Dr Jane Kelly

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
10/05/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Struck off
31/03/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
10/01/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Interim Order Review Interim Suspension
20/07/2016 Investigating committee Interim Order Application Interim Suspension