Social Worker suspended for leaving Service User alone in bath & using physical force

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A Social Worker, Amy Royal, working Acorn Park School, Norfolk was given a 12 month suspension order following repeated misbehaviour on 3 June 2011 when she did not follow the care plan for Service User A which set out protocols for her care.

A Panel of the Health and Care Professions Council Conduct and Competence Committee heard that Amy Royal did not follow the service user’s care plan in respect of where the service user needed to eat and left the service user alone in a bath despite the risk this posed to her. The Panel also heard that Amy Royal used physical force towards the service user restraining her unnecessarily and pulling a duvet out from under her on a bed, did not administer medication on time and did not communicate effectively with service user A.

Amy Royal had worked at Acorn Park School since November 2010 and was employed as the Deputy Team Leader until June 2011. Amy Royal worked in the residential house of the School with female autistic students. The allegations occurred on 3 June 2011 whilst Amy Royal was based on the Eyrie Unit, a residential house of the School. Support workers Amanda Martin and Sasha Brown were present at the time of the alleged incident and raised concerns about Amy Royal with the Registered Manager of the School, Chris Towndrow, the next day. An investigation was conducted and a disciplinary hearing took place on 20 June 2011. The disciplinary panel found that Amy Royal actions amounted to gross misconduct and she was summarily dismissed.

The Panel found each of the charges proved apart from the allegation regarding Amy Royal administering medication late. The reason being that there was little evidence to support this charge. The Panel concluded that Amy Royal was a qualified social worker who was employed as a Deputy Team Leader and had an increased scope of practice. Amy Royal was expected to supervise others and had failed in her duty to protect those around her including Service User A and her colleagues. The panel concluded that she must have known what was expected of her in the circumstances. The matters found proved were serious acts or omissions and did not arise from any lack of knowledge or competence.

The panel considered that the acts found proved were very serious and although they took place on a single day they covered a variety of acts and mounted to repeated behaviour. In her written response to the disciplinary hearing, Amy Royal failed to acknowledge her misbehaviour or the extent of it. Amy Royal’s actions caused actual and potential harm to the Service user and her colleagues. The panel were in no doubt that the matters they found proved amounted to misconduct.

The panel found the misconduct was serious and had the potential to put service users and colleagues at risk. Amy Royal did not attend the hearing. The panel said there was no evidence of remorse or insight from Amy Royal for her actions within the disciplinary hearing notes. The panel were only aware that Amy Royal was dismissed on 23 June 2011 and has no recent knowledge of what she has done since that date. The Panel said they had no knowledge of what efforts Amy Royal has made to keep her professional skills and knowledge up to date. The Panel concluded that Amy Royal presented a risk to members of the public in her role as a social worker.  The Panel concluded that Amy Royal’s fitness to practise was currently impaired.

Panel Chair Brian Wroe stated that “Because of the apparent lack of insight and lack of communication from miss Amy Royal, (the Panel) cannot be confident that there will be no repetition of similar events and also public confidence in the profession would be undermined in a finding of impairment were not made in this case.”

In determining a sanction the Panel decided that a striking off order would be disproportionate. The Panel considered a conditions of practice order but as they were not aware of Amy Royal’s current employment status they would be unable to determine any conditions and would not be clear as to how these conditions could be managed. The Panel made a decision to impose a suspension order for the maximum period of 12 months. At the end of this suspension Amy Royal is required to demonstrate that she has taken steps to remedy her actions. The Panel said that this can be done through genuine efforts to show that she had shown full remorse and insight; and had remedied the deficiencies in her current standards.