Miss Frances Katherine Linehan

: Social worker

: SW10623

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 31/08/2017 End: 17:00 31/08/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Caution

Allegation

While registered as a Social Worker and employed by Cambridgeshire County Council:

 

1.     On or about 23 May 2016, you did not maintain service user confidentiality in that you shared an email containing confidential information relating to another service user with Service User A.

 

2.     The matter set out in paragraph 1 constitutes misconduct and/or lack of competence.

 

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

Finding

Background

 

1.             The Registrant was employed by Cambridgeshire County Council (the “Council”) as a Social Worker at the relevant time. On the day in question the Registrant shared an email containing the detailed information about another service user with Service User A, without first redacting that information. As a result the Registrant was dismissed by the Council. The Registrant self-referred herself to the HCPC.

Decision

 

2.             In coming to its determination, the Panel considered all the evidence in this case together with the submissions made by Mr Claughton on behalf of the HCPC, and by Mr Bennett on behalf of the Registrant.

3.             The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor, and also reminded itself of its over-arching objective to protect the public and the wider public interest.

4.             The Panel first considered whether the allegation made against the Registrant was well founded. The Panel received a bundle of documents which included the following:

(a)            The disciplinary records of the Council;

(b)            The reflections of the Registrant on her actions; and

(c)            Positive references submitted on her behalf.

5.             The Panel also tested the Registrant’s level of insight by asking detailed questions of her. The Panel was impressed by the honesty and openness of her answers.

6.             The Panel determined that the evidence demonstrated that this was a case of misconduct rather than one of lack of competence on the part of the Registrant. The Panel also determined that the allegation, taken in context, was sufficiently serious so as to amount to misconduct for the purposes of these proceedings. In the light of the evidence before it, the Panel was satisfied that the HCPC’s case is well founded on the sole basis that the public interest would require a finding of impairment in this case.

7.             The Panel then considered what the likely range of sanctions would be imposed in the light of the evidence in this case, and compared that with the proposed course indicated in the Consent Order. In doing so, the Panel took into consideration the following factors:

(a)            The full admissions made by the Registrant as to the facts, and her acceptance that her fitness to practise was impaired.

(b)            The seriousness of the allegation in the light of the circumstances of the incident.

(c)            The admissions made by the Registrant at the earliest opportunity during the Council’s investigation.

(d)           This was a single incident in an otherwise unblemished career.

(e)            No harm was suffered by any service user.

(f)             The level of insight demonstrated by the Registrant from the start of the Council’s investigation, and the remediation undertaken. She told the Panel of how she had changed her practices since the incident to ensure that it would not happen again.

(g)           The positive references provided by the Registrant, including one from her current line manager, stating “I have not concerns regarding Frances’s handling and management of confidential information.”

(h)           The Registrant self-referred these matters to the HCPC and has fully engaged with the investigative process.

8.             The Panel took into consideration the Indicative Sanctions Policy issued by the HCPC and determined that the just and appropriate sanctions available in this case would range from a Caution Order to Conditions of Practice Order. It determined that in the circumstances of this case, a Suspension Order would neither be a just nor an appropriate sanction in this case.

9.             The Panel was satisfied that the evidence demonstrated that the Registrant has full insight into her misconduct, and that the misconduct is not likely to be repeated.

10.           The Panel determined that a Caution Order would be the most likely sanction in this case if the matter proceeded to a substantive hearing. In particular, the Panel noted paragraph 28 of the Indicative Sanctions Policy, which states:

A caution order is an appropriate sanction for cases, where the lapse is isolated, limited or relatively minor in nature, there is a low risk of recurrence, the registrant has shown insight and taken appropriate remedial action. A caution order should also be considered in cases where the nature of the allegation means that meaningful practice restrictions cannot be imposed but where the registrant has shown insight, the conduct concerned is out of character, the risk of repetition is low and thus suspension from practice would be disproportionate. A caution order is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.

11.           The Panel determined that Conditions of Practice would be an unlikely sanction in this case where:

(a)            it is one of misconduct,

(b)            the evidence demonstrated that the Registrant has full insight into her misconduct; and

(c)            the misconduct is not liable to be repeated.

12.           In the circumstances, the Panel were satisfied that a Caution Order for 24 months would be sufficient to:

(a)            protect the public; and

(b)            would not undermine public confidence in the profession or the regulatory process.

13.           Notwithstanding the above, the Panel also considered whether this case was so serious that a public substantive hearing was necessary in the wider public interest. It determined that this case was not so serious as to make a public substantive hearing necessary.

14.           In the circumstances, the Panel determined that a Consent Order that places a Caution against the Registrant’s name in the Register for a period of 24 month is a just and appropriate method of dealing with this case.

15.           Panel therefore allows this allegation to conclude by way of consensual disposal as set out in the terms of the Consent Order before it.

Order

Order: The Registrar is directed to annotate the register entry of Miss Frances K Linehan with a caution, which is to remain on the register for a period of 24 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Miss Frances Katherine Linehan

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
31/08/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Caution