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OT who submitted inaccurate report has suspension extended

HCPC extends suspension after occupational therapist fails to engage with HCPC

Published on 23rd June 2019

An occupational therapist suspended from the register for producing an inaccurate and misleading report has had her suspension from the HCPC register extended.

Miss Paru Vekaria prepared an Employment and Support Allowance Medical Report Form following a meeting with Service User A on 24 October 2016. She did not conduct a physical examination of Service User A but the report was inaccurate and/or misleading in that it indicated a physical examination was conducted when this was not the case.

Miss Vekaria was an Occupational Therapist employed by Maximus Companies Limited to undertake Employment Support Allowance (‘ESA’) assessments. Service User A attended a medical assessment on the 24 October 2016, along with his daughter, in relation to his ongoing ESA entitlement and was seen by Miss Vekaria.

Following this appointment and the assessment, Miss Vekaria produced a report, which was passed to the decision maker acting on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. The decision maker concluded that Service User A did not qualify for ESA.

Service User A applied for reconsideration of this decision and, when this was unsuccessful appealed the decision with success in June 2017. As part of the appeal process Service User A was provided with a copy of Miss Vekaria's report but he had several concerns about it and visited his GP then made a formal complaint to the HCPC.

A hearing of the HCPC Allegation took place between 12 and 15 June 2018, which found those points proved and amounted to misconduct. She was suspended from the register for 12 months. When imposing the twelve month suspension order, the Panel also made suggestions that a future review panel might be assisted by:

I.the Registrant could present evidence as to how she has developed and reflect on: record keeping, professional autonomy and the impact of her actions on service users and the profession as a whole; and

II.the aforementioned could be demonstrated by training and/or maintaining a reflective portfolio and/or receiving support from a mentor.

However, at a review hearing last week, the panel found that there was a lack of information or evidence before them to satisfy it that Miss Vekaria had taken any steps towards addressing the concerns found by the previous panel. In particular, the previous panel had indicated that Miss Vekaria might provide up to date evidence of how she has developed and reflected on record keeping, professional autonomy and the impact of her actions on service users and the profession as a whole. They also suggested that this might be achieved by Miss Vekaria undertaking training and/or maintain a reflective portfolio. The Panel noted that the only engagement or contact made by the Registrant, since the Suspension Order was imposed at the substantive hearing is her email indicating that she would not be attending today’s review hearing.

The panel considered therefore that they could not yet be confident that Miss Vekaria has the required insight and that she has remediated her failings and therefore it could not be confident that the behaviour would not be repeated.

The panel is not satisfied that in all the circumstances Miss Vekaria does not still pose a real and on-going risk to the public and that public confidence in the profession would not be undermined should she be permitted to return to unrestricted practice.

The panel therefore decided that the appropriate and proportionate sanction would be to extend the current Suspension Order for the maximum period of twelve months to allow her time to reflect further and to demonstrate remediation of her misconduct. She can apply for an early review of the Order if her circumstances allow her to demonstrate that remediation before the expiry of the Suspension Order.

The panel noted Miss Vekaria's email outlining “personal circumstances” as her reason for her desire to “voluntarily relinquish” her registration, but that she had not provided any information in respect of her request or her circumstances or reasons for wishing to be removed from the HCPC register.

They therefore strongly recommend to Miss Vekaria that she takes time to reflect on whether she wishes to return to the profession, bearing in mind the decision of the Substantive Hearing Panel’s that her shortcomings are remediable and that there is a public interest for otherwise competent professionals to remain in practice. Conversely, if she chooses to leave the profession on a voluntary basis, she would need to engage with the HCPC in order that this be facilitated. A failure on her part to do so may result in a future review panel removing her from the register.

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