OT suspension for lack of competence extended

HCPC extends OT’s suspension after she failed to show remediation

Published on 21st August 2017

The HCPC has extended the suspension of an occupational therapist originally suspended from the HCPC register for a lack of competence.

Miss Wilma Szwajcar did not complete adequate Initial Assessments and or adequate treatment plans in relation to a number of service users, while employed as a Band 5 Occupational Therapist within the Occupational Therapy Adult Mental Health Service at St John’s Hospital, NHS Lothian.

Miss Szwajcar, who worked on a 12 bed inpatient ward, did not adequately explore and/or assess the mental health of the patient concerned as part of your Initial Assessment in relation to six patients. She did not complete all relevant sections of the Initial Assessment form in relation to eight patients.

She failed to include appropriate goals and/or interventions relating to the mental health of the patient in three separate cases, suggested treatment for anxiety management without ascertaining whether symptoms of anxiety were present for one patient and was unable to devise appropriate treatment activities without prompting in relation to five patients.

NHS Lothian referred the matter to the HCPC after Miss Szwajcar had been through a formal and informal capability process after concerns were raised about her competency in relation to some of the core skills of the Band 5 role, including assessment, treatment and communication. 

The HCPC took into consideration the fact that Miss Szwajcar was experiencing some health problems and ‘other major issues’ at the time which exacerbated her inability to cope. She had apologised for what happened, demonstrated a willingness to meet the required standards and had good relationships with colleagues.

However, her failings were wide ranging and related to the core skills of an occupational therapist, her shortcomings were not isolated and occurred over a long period of time in relation to a significant number of patients. Despite extensive and continuous support for four years, Miss Szwajcar was unable to meet or sustain the standard expected of a Band 5 Occupational Therapist, she demonstrated limited insight and there was no evidence of remediation and little reflection.

The original Panel suspended Miss Szwajcar for a 12 month period and said that a future reviewing panel is likely to be assisted by the following:

 ·          Evidence that she has kept her clinical skills and knowledge up to date;

·          Reflections on her practise in relation to the facts and issues found proved;

·          Reflections on how she intends to remediate and achieve the necessary competencies;

·          Any up to date relevant medical evidence.

However, at the review hearing this month, the Reviewing Panel found that while Miss Szwajcar’s failings were, in theory, capable of remediation, there was no evidence of remediation and there remained a real risk of repetition.  

The Reviewing Panel had limited information from Miss Szwajcar. She sent a letter to the HCPC in March 2017, but it provided no details of any steps to address the deficiencies identified by the previous panel. 

As a result, the panel concluded that her fitness to practise remains impaired.

The panel agreed that a Suspension Order for a period of 12 months would provide further time for Miss Szwajcar to reflect on her actions and to demonstrate full insight and remediation.

“This Order will be reviewed by another panel prior to its expiry,” said the Reviewing Panel. “That panel may be assisted if the Registrant were to engage with the process and attend a future review hearing. It may also be assisted by evidence of any relevant training activities and/or professional development undertaken by the Registrant; evidence of reflection, such as a reflective piece, demonstrating insight into the Registrant’s lack of competence and the associated consequences for patients and her profession and any other evidence that the Registrant considers might be useful to the reviewing panel.”



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