Ms Sarah Helen Goldby

: Social worker

: SW72678

: Final Hearing

Date and Time of hearing:10:00 18/12/2017 End: 17:00 21/12/2017

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

: Conduct and Competence Committee
: Suspended

Allegation

Allegation (as amended at Final Hearing):

During the course of your employment as a Social Worker with Durham County Council between December 2015 and 24 August 2016;

1. Between or around the 4-6 May 2016, in regards to service user A, prior to his discharge from hospital you;

a) Did not complete an/or any adequate assessment of service user A’s needs and/or what services were identified to meet these needs;

b) Did not complete an/or any adequate Care Plan for service user A;

c) Did not adequately advise relevant parties of the planned discharge of service user A, which included;

i. your colleagues; and/or
ii. the Locality Team;

d) Did not seek the appropriate authorisation for the amended care package;

e) Did not maintain accurate case records in regards to service user A in a timely manner;

f) Did not adequately involve service user A’s family in the assessment process

i. to ensure their views were included; and/or
ii. to ensure that they could provide the level of care required during the day;

g) Did not adequately share appropriate and/or accurate information with;
i. service user A;
ii. his family; and/or
iii. the care agency.

2. Your actions as set out in paragraphs 1a - g amount to misconduct and/or lack of competence.

3. By reason of this misconduct and/or lack of competence your fitness to practise as a Social Worker is impaired.

Finding

Preliminary matters:

Proof of Service


1. The Panel was provided with a signed certificate as proof that the Notice of Hearing had been posted on 13 September 2017 by First Class post, to the address shown for the Registrant on the HCPC register.  The Notice was also sent to the Registrant by email on the same date. The Panel was satisfied that Notice had been properly served in accordance with Rule 3 (Proof of Service) and Rule 6 (date, time and venue) of the Conduct & Competence Committee Rules 2003 (as amended).

Proceeding in Absence


2. Having determined that service of the Notice of Hearing had been properly effected, the Panel went on to consider whether to proceed in the Registrant’s absence. The Panel was advised by the Legal Assessor and followed that advice. The Panel also took into account the guidance as set out in the HCPTS Practice Note “Proceeding in the Absence of the Registrant”.

3. The Panel determined that it was fair, reasonable and in the public interest to proceed in the Registrant’s absence for the following reasons:

a) The Panel noted that on the pre-hearing information form the Registrant had circled ‘No’ in response to the question, ‘Are you planning to attend the hearing?’. The Panel also noted that the HCPC subsequently sent a letter, dated 26 October 2017, to the Registrant informing her that the hearing could be moved to a venue close to her registered address. The Registrant was invited to respond to the letter by 10 November 2017 if she intended to attend. There was no further response from the Registrant. In these circumstances the Panel was satisfied that it was reasonable to conclude that the Registrant’s non-attendance was voluntary and therefore a deliberate waiver of her right to attend.

b) There has been no application to adjourn and no indication from the Registrant that she would be willing or able to attend on an alternative date and therefore re-listing this final hearing would serve no useful purpose.

c) The Panel recognised that there may be a disadvantage to the Registrant in not being able to respond to the HCPC’s case. However, in the letter from the HCPC, dated 26 October 2017, she was given the opportunity to provide written representations but did not respond to that letter. In these circumstances the Panel concluded that any disadvantage to the Registrant was outweighed by the strong public interest in ensuring that the final hearing is commenced and considered expeditiously.

Application to Amend

4. At the outset of the hearing Mr Millin, on behalf of the HCPC, made an application for the Allegation to be amended. The Panel noted that the Registrant had been put on notice of the proposed amendment in a letter, dated 11 May 2017.  The Panel was satisfied that the proposed changes were for clarification purposes only, and did not materially alter the substance or meaning of the Allegation as originally drafted. The Panel also noted that the proposed amendments included deletion of some of the particulars altogether. The Panel was satisfied that no injustice would be caused by making these amendments as they more accurately reflected the HCPC case and would limit rather than expand the scope of that case. In forming this view the Panel took into account the fact that the Registrant had not raised any objection to the proposed amendments.

Health Matters


5. The Panel noted that the Registrant had enclosed a letter from her GP with the pre-hearing information form. The GP’s letter was dated 20 June 2017, and referred to a health condition, which had been on-going for approximately 2 years, and at the time that letter was drafted, was not being managed successfully.
 
6. The Panel, of its own volition, considered whether the statutory ground should be amended to reflect the Registrant’s health, which would require a transfer to the Health Committee. The Panel heard preliminary submissions from Mr Millin and accepted the advice of the legal assessor.

7. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note entitled ‘Health Allegations’ and concluded that there was insufficient evidence that the fitness to practise concerns arose as a direct consequence of the registrant's physical or mental health. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that it should not exercise its discretion to transfer the Registrant’s case to the Health Committee. However, the Panel recognised that the Registrant’s health may be relevant at any later stage that the Hearing might reach.

8. The Panel directed that any specific references to the Registrant’s health condition should be heard in private to protect her right to a private life and should not form part of the public record.

Application for Telephone Evidence

9. Mr Millin made an application for Witness 1 to give evidence by telephone on the grounds that she was willing to give evidence but had been unable to attend in person.

10. The Panel was aware that the issues to be determined in the case should be based on the best evidence and that was usually live evidence in person unless there was a good reason for accepting evidence by alternative means. However, the Panel noted that although in the Registrant’s letter, dated 10 January 2017, she had not made any admissions in response to the HCPC Allegation, she did not indicate that the evidence was materially in dispute.  Furthermore, although Witness 1 is the sole witness, her primary involvement with the Registrant was as the internal Investigating Officer tasked with investigating the concerns that had been raised with regard to the Registrant’s management of Service User A’s discharge from hospital. The Panel was satisfied that in these circumstances Witness 1’s inability to attend in person did not raise concerns about her credibility and it was clear that her evidence did not relate to a first-hand account of disputed facts. 

11. The Panel concluded that Witness 1 should be permitted to give evidence by telephone. The Panel was satisfied that no injustice would be caused to the Registrant as the evidence is predominantly document based.


Background

12. The Registrant is a registered Social Worker. The Registrant commenced employment as an Intermediate Care Social Worker, for the Intermediate Care Plus Service in the South Durham Team on behalf of Durham County Council (the Council). The Registrant was responsible for adults over 18 with a physical disability and primarily dealt with hospital discharge assessments.


13. Concerns were raised with regards to the Registrant’s practice in relation to the discharge of Service User A. Service User A was approximately 68 years old and was discharged home from University Hospital North Tees on 4 May 2016. The concerns were investigated by Witness 1, the Intermediate Care South Durham Manager.


14. The matter was subsequently referred to the HCPC on 27 June 2016.

Assessment of Live Witnesses


Witness 1 – Intermediate Care South Durham Manager

15. Witness 1 is a Social Worker and was the Intermediate Care South Durham Manager. She had not worked with the Registrant, but she had interviewed her on two occasions for different roles within the Council, one of which she was offered. Witness 1 was tasked with conducting the internal investigation on behalf of the Council. During her oral evidence Witness 1 informed the Panel that she had provided the Registrant with a typed copy of the record of interview that she had conducted with the Registrant on 8 June 2016. She stated that the Registrant had annotated the record of interview with comments and returned it to Witness 1. The Panel had seen the record of interview, but had not initially been provided with the version showing the Registrant’s annotations.


16. Witness 1 had a good recollection of events despite the passage of time and did her best to assist the Panel. Her evidence was balanced, consistent and fair and the Panel had no reason to doubt that she was anything other than a credible and reliable witness. This impression was reinforced when she provided additional evidence which offered potential mitigation on behalf of the Registrant.

Decision on Facts


Panel’s Approach


17. The Panel was aware that the burden of proving the facts was on the HCPC. The Registrant did not have to prove anything, and the individual particulars of the Allegation could only be found proved if the Panel was satisfied, on the balance of probabilities.

18. The Panel noted that in her letter, dated 10 January 2017, the Registrant did not make any admissions, but she stated, ‘I have now had time to reflect on my practise and realise that it was a major error on my behalf.’ The Registrant went on to state, ‘I am very disappointed in myself and can only apologise profusely for my lack of professionalism.’ The Panel proceeded on the basis that the Registrant had not formally admitted the Allegation and that the references to her health in her January 2017 letter was an invitation for the Panel to treat her health condition as a defence or mitigation or both.

19. In reaching its decision the Panel took into account the oral evidence from Witness 1 and the documentary evidence including the Registrant’s letter, dated 10 January 2017, her responses on the pre-hearing information form, the letter from her GP dated 20 June 2017 and the comments she had handwritten on the typed record of interview.

20. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

Particular 1(a) – Found Proved

‘Between or around the 4-6 May 2016, in regards to service user A, prior to his discharge from hospital you;
Did not complete an/or any adequate assessment of service user A’s needs and/or what services were identified to meet these needs;’

21. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 based on her witness statement that the Registrant commenced employment with the Council on 21 December 2015, as an Intermediate Care Social Worker and that her last day of employment was on 19 June 2016. Therefore, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant was employed by the Council between December 2015 and 24 August 2016.

22. In her written evidence Witness 1 informed the Panel that Service User A had been admitted to University Hospital North Tees (‘the hospital’) following a fall. He had cellulitis in his legs which was painful and caused mobility problems and had a number of other medical problems. She informed the Panel that Service User A was known to social services as he had a low-level care package prior to going into hospital with one daily visit in the morning. On 8 April 2016 a referral was received by the Intermediate Care Plus Team to conduct a discharge assessment and Service User A was allocated to the Registrant.

23. The Panel accepted that according to the documentary evidence the Registrant visited Service User A in hospital on 11 April 2016 and 28 April 2016. Service User A was discharged on 4 May 2016 with a care package arranged by the Registrant that provided for two carers attending for 30 minutes twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, which represented an increase of one visit per day. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that the Registrant should have considered as part of the assessment how Service User A would get his lunch, how he would be toileted and how he would manage during the long periods that he would be home alone. The Panel noted that other than the increased visit there was no indication that the Registrant had given consideration to Service User’s skin care or considered his other needs. For example, the Registrant’s need for a rota stand to transfer from chair to standing and to wheelchair or bed, which required two people to support him. The records indicate that the Registrant spoke to Service User A’s family who stated that they would be able to provide support in the form of lunch calls, but the note was added on 9 May 2016, which was after Service User A had been discharged. However, there was no indication that the Registrant had enquired with the family whether two people would be available to mobilise Service User A between care visits.

24. The Panel was satisfied that, in these circumstances, an adequate assessment would require the production of a written document which accurately recorded a holistic assessment of Service User A’s needs and the services necessary to meet those needs. No such document existed. The Panel concluded that the Registrant did not carry out an adequate assessment or the necessary information gathering exercise which would allow for such an adequate assessment.

25. Accordingly, particular 1(a) was found proved.


Particular 1(b) – Found Proved

‘Did not complete an/or any adequate Care Plan for service user A’;

26. The Panel accepted the written evidence of Witness 1 that a Care Plan identifies the service user’s needs such as mobility issues, personal care needs, preparing meals and sets out the support that the service user requires.  The Panel noted that Care Plans are recorded on the computer recording system SSID along with assessments and case records.

27. The Panel was satisfied that a Care Plan would be essential to communicate Service User A’s needs to those responsible for delivering and overseeing his care. There was no evidence before the Panel that the Registrant had completed a Care Plan. The Panel noted that Service User A’s GP, his family and the care agency engaged to deliver his care all raised immediate concerns about the inadequacy of the twice daily care visits set in place for him.

28. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that no adequate Care Plan had been completed when Service User A was discharged from the hospital.

29. Accordingly, particular 1(b) was found proved.

Particular 1(c)(i) & 1(c)(ii) – Found Proved

‘Did not adequately advise relevant parties of the planned discharge of service user A, which included;
i. your colleagues; and/or
ii. the Locality Team;’

30. The Panel accepted the written and oral evidence of Witness 1 that it was well known within the team that there was an expectation that when a service user was to be discharged from the hospital the social worker’s supervisor and other colleagues should be informed. It was particularly important for this team as they worked shifts over a seven-day period and so the responsible team member may not have been on duty at the time of discharge. The Panel was told by Witness 1 that although there was no formal policy on this issue the Registrant was aware of the expectation as it was documented in her supervision notes of 28 January 2016. Witness 1 also stated that the Registrant confirmed during the internal investigation interview that she was aware of the expectation.  In addition, Witness 1 informed the Panel that Service User A had a locality social worker. The locality team were the responsible case holders and the locality social worker should also have been informed of Service User A’s discharge because he was about to become active on the locality team’s case load again.

31. The Panel was satisfied that in the circumstances, the Registrant was required to advise adequately the relevant parties of the planned discharge of Service User A. At a minimum the Panel concluded that the Registrant should have had a conversation with the relevant parties and preferably should have produced a written record confirming that the relevant parties had been notified of Service User A’s planned discharge. During the internal investigation interview, when the Registrant was asked, ‘Did you advise anyone in the team he was being discharged?’, she responded, ‘No – did not advise anyone’. Further, when asked, ‘Did you advise anyone in the locality team of this discharge? If yes, why not recorded?’, the Registrant responded ‘No’.

32. Accordingly, particular 1(c)(i) and 1(c)(ii) were found proved.

Particular 1(d) – Found Proved

‘Did not seek the appropriate authorisation for the amended care package’
 
33.  The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 with regards to authorisations for different levels of care packages. The Panel had regard to the ‘Children and Adult Services Scheme of Delegation’, which details the relevant care package approval process. The Registrant was only able to authorise care packages of up to 7 hours. The Registrant increased Service User A’s care package from 7-14 hours per week and the approval process required that this should have been authorised by a Principal Social Worker or a Team Manager.

34.  During the internal investigation interview the Registrant confirmed that she was aware of the authorisation procedure and levels. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that the Registrant did not obtain the proper authorisation.

35. Accordingly, particular 1(d) was found proved.

Particular 1(e) – Found Proved

‘Did not maintain accurate case records in regards to service user A in a timely manner;

36. In considering this particular, the Panel restricted itself to a review of the case records pertaining to 28 April 2016 and 4 May 2016. Key elements of these records were added or entered retrospectively and some time after the dates with which they were associated. In relation to the 28 April 2016 record, information was added on 3 May 2016 and 9 May 2016. In relation to the 4 May record, additional information was added on 9 May 2016.

37. The Panel was unable to make a finding as to the final accuracy of these records but concluded that at the time the original entry was made the record could not have been accurate. Furthermore, as additional key elements were subsequently included on later dates, the records were not maintained in a timely manner.  In reaching this conclusion the Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that adding notes the next day and back dating the entry to reflect the date that the action was undertaken would not be inappropriate if a tag was added showing the date of addition or amendment. However, the Panel noted that the Registrant made the entries several days after the action was taken and, therefore, concluded that they were not timely.

38. Accordingly, particular 1(e) was found proved.

Particular 1(f)(i) and 1(f)(ii) – Found Proved

‘Did not adequately involve service user A’s family in the assessment process
 to ensure their views were included; and/or
to ensure that they could provide the level of care required during the day;’

39. The Panel noted that according to the case notes which documented contact with Service User A’s family, the records principally concerned the Registrant passing information to them rather than her seeking their meaningful involvement in the assessment process. 


40. The Panel concluded that the Registrant did not adequately involve Service User A’s family to ensure that their views were included in the assessment process and that they could provide the level of care required during the day.


41. Accordingly, particular 1(f)(i) and 1(f)(ii) were found proved.

Particular 1(g)(i) – Found Proved


‘Did not adequately share appropriate and/or accurate information with;
service user A;’

42. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that the Assessment of Needs form and Care Plan of Service User A should have been shared with him. The Panel also accepted that as there was no reference to either of these documents in the case notes, no evidence that they were completed on the computer system and no evidence that the documents were given to Service User A, it was reasonable to infer that they were not completed and not shared with Service User A.

43. The Panel concluded that the case records of the two meetings between the Registrant and Service User A on 11 April 2016 and 28 April 2016 were insufficient. The case notes did not demonstrate that the Registrant had adequately shared information with Service User A which was necessary to ensure a proper understanding of his Care Plan. The Panel was satisfied that this was a basic, core and essential communication need.


44. Accordingly, particular 1(g)(i) was found proved.

Particular 1(g)(ii) – Found Not Proved

‘Did not adequately share appropriate and/or accurate information with;
…his family;

45. The Panel took into account its findings in relation to particular 1(f). Having already made a finding that the Registrant did not adequately involve Service User A’s family in the assessment process the Panel concluded that particular 1(g)(ii) lacked particularity concerning what other information should or could have been provided. The Panel noted that Witness 1 stated in her witness statement that with consent the Assessment of Needs and Care Plan could have been shared with Service User A. However, the Panel took the view that the Assessment of Needs was included within its findings in relation to particular 1(f) and the Care Plan could only be provided to the family if the Registrant had given his express consent.
46. In these circumstances, the Panel concluded that the HCPC had not produced sufficient evidence to prove particular 1(g)(ii) proved.


47. Accordingly, particular 1(g)(ii) was found not proved.


Particular 1(g)(iii) – Found Proved


‘Did not adequately share appropriate and/or accurate information with;
…the care agency.’

48. The Panel accepted the evidence of Witness 1 that the care agency should have been provided with the Assessments of Needs and the Care Plan to enable them to update their own case plan. The Panel noted that the importance of communicating the Care Plan is to ensure that the key parties have the same information and are aware of the expectations in providing care to Service User A.

49. The Panel concluded that the Registrant should have shared the assessment needs and Care Plan with the care agency to ensure that they fully understood Service User A’s increased needs. When interviewed as part of the Council’s internal disciplinary process the Registrant stated that she had ‘forgotten’ to give the agency a copy of the Care Plan. When a representative from the care agency was asked, as part of the internal investigation, whether the agency had been given a copy of the Care Plan the representative confirmed that they had not, and further that they had not been advised of any significant change to Service user A’s care needs.


50. Accordingly, particular 1(g)(iii) was found proved.

Decision on Grounds


Panel’s Approach


51. In considering the issue of misconduct, the Panel bore in mind the explanation of that term given by the Privy Council in the case of Roylance v GMC (No.2) [2000] 1 AC 311 where it was stated that:
“Misconduct is a word of general effect, involving some act or omission which falls short of what would be proper in the circumstances. The standard of propriety may often be found by reference to the rules and standards ordinarily required to be followed by a … practitioner in the particular circumstances. The misconduct is qualified in two respects. First, it is qualified by the word ‘professional’ which links the misconduct to the profession ... Secondly, the misconduct is qualified by the word ‘serious’. It is not any professional misconduct which will qualify. The professional misconduct must be serious.”


Decision on Misconduct


52. The Panel considered the HCPC Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and was satisfied that the Registrant’s conduct breached the following standards:

• ‘1.2 you must work in partnership with service users and carers, involving them, where appropriate, in decisions about the care, treatment or other services to be provided;
• 2.2 you must listen to service users and carers and take account of their needs and wishes;
• 2.6 you must share relevant information, where appropriate, with colleagues involved in the care, treatment or other services provided to a service user;
• 6.1 you must take all reasonable steps to reduce the risk of harm to service users, carers and colleagues as far as possible;
• 10.1 you must keep full, clear, and accurate records for everyone you care, treat, or provide other services to;
• 10.2 you must complete all records promptly and as soon as possible after providing care, treatment or other services’

53. The Panel was aware that a breach of the standards alone does not necessarily constitute misconduct. However, the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s failings in relation to Service User A, and in particular, the assessment, the Care Plan, communication and record keeping fell far below what would be proper in the circumstances and represents a serious departure from the standards expected of a registered social worker.

 
54. The Panel noted that there was no evidence of actual harm to Service User A as a direct consequence of the Registrant’s acts or omissions. However, in the Panel’s view the Registrant’s conduct and behaviour presented a significant risk of harm, which was unnecessary and avoidable. In addition, the Registrant’s conduct had the potential to adversely affect other service users as time and resources had to be allocated to resolve the concerns raised as a consequence of Service User A’s unsafe discharge from hospital. Furthermore, the Registrant’s actions had the potential to adversely affect colleagues within her team, the wider profession and the reputation of the Council. Confidence and trust amongst colleagues is extremely important; they should be able to expect that individuals within the team can be relied upon to work in accordance with established policies and procedures at all times.

55. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant’s failure to follow the policies and procedures relating to the discharge of Service User A amounts to serious misconduct as described in the Roylance case.

Decision on Lack of Competence


56. The Panel noted that the concerns raised with regards to the Registrant’s practice related to a single service user during a relatively short period of time. The Panel noted that the Registrant is a Social Worker with approximately 16 years’ experience, who had the training, support and policy guidance necessary to be able to carry out her role effectively. The Panel was satisfied that the Registrant knew what was expected of her as a Social Worker and was capable of working to the required standard but did not do so.

57. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s acts and omissions did not establish a lack of competence.

Decision on Impairment 

Panel’s Approach


58. Having found misconduct the Panel went on to consider whether the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired. The Panel took into account the HCPTS Practice Note: “Finding that Fitness to Practise is Impaired” and accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor.

59. In determining current impairment the Panel had regard to the following aspects of the public interest:
• The ‘personal’ component: the current behaviour etc. of the individual registrant; and
• The ‘public’ component: the need to protect service users, declare and uphold proper standards of behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession.

Panel Decision


60. The Panel considered the Registrant’s current fitness to practise firstly from the personal perspective and then from the wider public perspective.


61. There has been no engagement from the Registrant during the hearing. As a consequence, there was limited evidence before the Panel that she fully appreciates the gravity of her conduct and behaviour and had reflected on the impact of her behaviour on Service User A, other service users, her employer and the wider public.  There was also no explanation as to how she would behave differently in the future. The Registrant demonstrated some insight in that she acknowledged in her letter to the HCPC, dated 10 January 2017, that she was, ‘very disappointed in [her]self…’ and offered an apology for her ‘lack of professionalism.’ However, the Panel concluded that the Registrant’s insight was inadequate in that it does not acknowledge the risks and consequences of her failings.


62. The Panel recognised that the Registrant’s failings are, in theory, capable of remediation provided that there is evidence of sincere and meaningful reflection and that appropriate steps have been taken to remedy the misconduct.  However, the Registrant has provided no information that would assist the Panel in this regard. The Panel took the view that in the absence of sufficient insight and any steps that the Registrant has taken towards remediation there remains an ongoing risk of repetition which has the potential to place service users at risk of harm.


63. The Panel concluded that for these reasons the Registrant’s fitness to practise is currently impaired based on the personal component.


64. In considering the public component the Panel had regard to the important public policy issues which include the need to maintain confidence in the profession and declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and professionalism.

65. Members of the public would be extremely concerned to learn that a registered Social Worker working with a vulnerable service user had compromised his safety and well-being. The Registrant’s conduct not only placed Service User A at risk of harm, but also brought the profession into disrepute and undermined a fundamental tenet of the profession in respect of the high standards expected of all registered Social Workers. As a consequence, the Panel concluded that public confidence would be significantly undermined if a finding of current impairment of fitness to practise was not made, given the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct. In reaching this conclusion the Panel took into account the Registrant’s submissions regarding her health at the material time. The Panel accepted that the Registrant may have been unwell during the relevant period. However, there was insufficient medical evidence that the Registrant’s health was a significant factor and therefore the Panel gave the Registrant’s assertion only limited weight.

66. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s current fitness to practise is impaired on the basis of both the personal component and the wider public interest and therefore the HCPC’s case is well-founded.

Decision on Sanction


Panel’s Approach

67. The Panel accepted the advice of the Legal Assessor. The Panel was mindful that the purpose of any sanction is not to punish the Registrant, but to protect the public and the wider public interest, albeit that it may have a punitive effect. The public interest includes maintaining public confidence in the profession and the HCPC as its regulator and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The Panel applied the principle of proportionality by weighing the Registrant’s interests with the public interest and by considering each available sanction in ascending order of severity.
 
68. The Panel had regard to the Indicative Sanctions Policy (ISP) and took into account the submissions made by Mr Millin, on behalf of the HCPC.

Decision

69. In determining what sanction, if any, to impose the Panel identified the following mitigating factors:
• the Registrant had not previously been referred to her regulator and therefore had an unblemished fitness to practise record;
• the Registrant experienced a period of poor health although there was no medical evidence that it had any causal effect;
• the Registrant acknowledged in her letter, dated 10 January 2017, that she had made a ‘major error’;
• the Registrant expressed a willingness in her letter, dated 10 January 2017, to ‘embark on additional training.’

70. The Panel identified the following aggravating factor:
• the Registrant’s actions placed a vulnerable service user at real risk of harm;
71. The Panel first considered taking no action. The Panel concluded that, in view of the nature and seriousness of the Registrant’s conduct and the risk of repetition that it has identified, to take no action on her registration would be wholly inappropriate. It would be insufficient to protect the public, maintain public confidence and uphold the reputation of the profession.

72. The Panel went on to consider a Caution Order. The Panel noted paragraph 28 of the ISP 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 is unlikely to be appropriate in cases where the registrant lacks insight.’


73. The Panel acknowledged that the Registrant’s lapse in professionalism related to a single service user, occurred during a relatively short period of time and was an isolated incident within the context of an otherwise unblemished career. However, as the Registrant had demonstrated only limited insight into her misconduct, provided no evidence of remediation and whilst the risk of repetition remains, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be inappropriate. In any event, the Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be insufficient to protect the public and meet the wider public interest given the nature and gravity of the Registrant’s actions.

74. The Panel went on to consider a Conditions of Practice Order. The Panel noted that at paragraph 33 the ISP states:
‘Conditions will rarely be effective unless the registrant is genuinely committed to resolving the issues they seek to address and can be trusted to make a determined effort to do so. Therefore, conditions of practice are unlikely to be suitable in cases:
• where the registrant has failed to engage with the fitness to practise process, lacks insight…;
• where there are serious…failings;

75. The Panel noted that a Conditions of Practice Order requires a willingness on the part of the Registrant to comply with them and a willingness to make a determined effort to remediate the previous misconduct.  The Panel concluded that given the absence of any evidence that the Registrant is willing and able to perform the role of a Social Worker to a competent standard, the Panel could not be assured that she would comply with a Conditions of Practice Order.  The Panel concluded that there were no conditions it could devise which would not be so restrictive as to amount to suspension by another name. Furthermore, the Panel concluded that, given the Registrant’s lack of engagement, conditions would undermine public confidence in the profession and undermine the need to uphold proper standards of conduct and professionalism.


76. The Panel next considered a Suspension Order. A Suspension Order would re-affirm to the Registrant, the profession and the public the standards expected of a registered Social Worker. The Panel noted that a Suspension Order would prevent the Registrant from practising as a Social Worker during the suspension period, which would therefore provide protection to the public. However, a Suspension Order would also provide the Registrant with the opportunity to consider carefully the decision of this Panel and properly focus on the issues of insight and remediation.

 
77. The Panel decided that the appropriate and proportionate order is a Suspension Order.


78. The Panel determined that the Suspension Order should be imposed for a period of 6 months. The Panel was satisfied that 6 months was the appropriate period as this was the minimum necessary to reflect the seriousness of the Registrant’s misconduct and to declare and uphold the standards expected of a registered Social Worker. The Panel was also satisfied that this period would provide the Registrant with the opportunity to develop her insight and to take appropriate steps to remediate her actions. 


79. For completeness the Panel went on to consider a Striking Off Order. The Panel concluded that the Registrant’s misconduct was not fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the Register and that a Striking Off Order would be disproportionate.
80. The Suspension Order will be reviewed shortly before expiry. Although this Panel cannot bind a future panel, the review panel may be assisted by the Registrant’s engagement, evidence that the Registrant has reflected on the Panel’s findings and made significant steps to facilitate a safe and effective return to practise, which may include:


• The Registrant’s attendance in person;

• A written reflective piece which demonstrates the Registrant’s insight into her misconduct and, in particular, the implications for Service User A, her employer and her profession; 

• Evidence that the Registrant has kept her skills and knowledge up to date, together with evidence of CPD;

• Up to date and relevant testimonials from paid or unpaid work (including from any current or previous line managers);
 
• Evidence with regards to the Registrant’s current state of health;

• Any other evidence that the Registrant considers may be of assistance to the review panel.

Order

ORDER: That the Registrar is directed to suspend the registration of Ms Sarah Helen Goldby for a period of 6 months from the date this order comes into effect.

Notes

No notes available

Hearing history

History of Hearings for Ms Sarah Helen Goldby

Date Panel Hearing type Outcomes / Status
08/06/2018 Conduct and Competence Committee Review Hearing Suspended
18/12/2017 Conduct and Competence Committee Final Hearing Suspended