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Case study 3
An occupational therapist (‘the registrant’) was suspended from the Register for twelve months after a panel of the Conduct and Competence Committee found that on seven separate occasions she worked as an agency worker whilst on sick leave from her employer.
The registrant admitted the facts of the allegation and that her actions amounted to misconduct. She stated she was experiencing financial difficulties and admitted she had been dishonest from the outset. Based on the registrant’s admissions and the other evidence heard, the panel found the facts and the grounds.
In relation to whether her fitness to practise is impaired, the registrant accepted that at the time it was, as she was well aware that her behaviour was dishonest. However, she submitted that two years had passed; she had learnt her lesson; would not make the same mistake again; and that her fitness to practise was no longer impaired.
Whether or not a registrant’s fitness to practise is impaired is a question for the panel alone, after consideration of all the circumstances of the case. In reaching its determination, the panel paid regard to the public interest in the wide sense (ie the protection of service users, the maintenance of public interest in the profession and the regulatory process and the upholding of proper standards of conduct and behaviour). The panel also took into account the potential risk to service user safety if an occupational therapist in the registrant’s position was working with service users when certified unfit to work.
The panel was of the view that the registrant’s misconduct was very serious. It reflected seven separate acts of dishonesty committed over two months where the objective was personal financial gain. The panel accepted the registrant had admitted her dishonesty from the outset and had shown genuine remorse. However, in all the circumstances of the case, the panel found her fitness to practise is currently impaired.
When considering the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose, the panel took into account that the misconduct took place two years ago; that since its discovery the registrant had reflected on her behaviour and had been honest; and that she had learnt her lesson. It also considered a number of positive testimonials about her. Despite this, due to the serious nature of her conduct, the Panel was of the view it was not sufficient to conclude the case by taking no further action or a caution order. It also considered that a conditions of practice order would not adequately address the gravity of the registrant’s behaviour.
The panel was of the view that the registrant’s misconduct although serious was remediable. In light of this and due to the registrant’s genuine insight and remorse, the panel decided that in all the circumstances the appropriate and proportionate sanction to impose was a suspension of a period of 12 months.