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OT cautioned for sex in service user's home

HCPC issues three year caution order against OT's name after finding she had sexual intercourse with a colleague in a service user's home

Published on 22nd August 2018

An occupational therapist has received a caution order for having sex with a colleague in a service user's home.

Service User A was in hospital when Mrs Hazel Bryce visited her house to collect some items while she was working as a Band 7 occupational therapist for Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust in the Sheffield Outreach Team (SORT).

Colleague A had a different professional background, and his role included offering a specific specialist therapy to SORT service users at Band 7.

On 8 July 2015, Mrs Bryce intended to visit the home of Service User A, who was hospitalised as a result of acute mental ill health, in order to collect items.  On the way to the Service User’s home she met Colleague A, who was on sick leave at the time and they went Service User A's house where they had sex.

Early in the morning of Saturday 8 August 2015, Colleague A visited Mrs Bryce's home.  After going to a bedroom, and his clothes being removed, a man entered the bedroom and photographed Colleague A.  The man who entered the room was the person who has represented Mrs Bryce in the present proceedings.  Later that day compromising photographs of Colleague A were sent to his wife.  The discovery by Colleague A’s wife of his involvement with Mrs Bryce had far-reaching and negative consequences for Colleague A.

In her evidence Mrs Bryce accepted that on 8 July 2015 she did indeed have sexual intercourse with Colleague A at the home of Service User A.  However, she made the case that the incident occurred in circumstances where she had no ability to prevent the incident occurring.

Therefore, the Panel had to make contextual findings, generally about her relationship with Colleague A.

It emerged that having been work colleagues for some time before 2011, it was in that year that Mrs Bryce and Colleague A became closer. Colleague A’s work involved him offering a specific specialist therapy to service users, and it is the case that difficulties in Mrs Bryce's  personal life meant that there were issues she wished to discuss although there was no formal therapist/service user relationship between them as Mrs Bryce had suggested.

During 2012 a consensual sexual relationship commenced between the two. It is possible that as time went on, Mrs Bryce considered that the balance of power in the relationship had tilted in favour of Colleague A, but the Panel is satisfied that at no time did the Registrant lack the ability to desist from any behaviour she did not wish to indulge in.

In relation to the visit to Service User A’s home on 8 July 2015, the Panel rejected Mrs Bryce's evidence that Colleague A arrived at the Service User’s home without her knowing that he was intending to go there, and it also rejects her case that he entered the property without her knowledge.  Consistent with the finding already expressed, the Panel finds that Mrs Bryce could have declined to have sex with Colleague A had she wished to do so.

"It follows from these findings that the Panel finds that the Registrant had sexual intercourse with Colleague A at the home of Service User A on 8 July 2015 in circumstances where she was not deprived of the ability to refuse to act as she did.  This is the factual finding that is relevant to take forward to the consideration whether the statutory ground of misconduct is made out," said the Panel.

Although Service User A was not at her property when the incident occurred on 8 July 2015 as she was in hospital and the decision was taken by the Trust to not inform her of what had occurred between the Registrant and Colleague A during her absence from her home, in the judgement of the Panel the behaviour was serious. They decided that there is misconduct that is currently impairing Mrs Bryce's fitness to practise.

The Panel determined that there were both negative and positive factors that it was required to consider when reaching its decision on sanction.  The most prominent negative factors are that the finding was one of a serious breach of proper professional behaviour which would inevitably result in public and professional disapproval, and that Mrs Bryce  has failed to take full personal responsibility for that behaviour.  On the positive side, the case involved a single incident, and, as a result of the Trust taking the decision not to inform her, Service User A suffered no harm as a result of the incident.

The Panel concluded that a lengthy caution order would meet the circumstances of the case.

"The presence of a caution against the Registrant’s HCPC registration for a lengthy period would be a significant factor, and in the judgement of the Panel would satisfy informed members of the public that it represented a serious view of the Registrant’s behaviour," said the Panel. "Furthermore, so far as the Registrant herself is concerned, the presence of a caution against her name would serve to remind her for the duration of the caution of the paramount importance of ensuring that she adheres to proper professional standards."

The Panel issued a three year caution order.

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