OT struck off after concealing reason for leaving previous employment

OT had left previous employment after gross misconduct while he told employers he left to return to clinical practice

Published on 15th October 2018

An occupational therapist has been struck from the Health and Care Professions Council register after he failed to inform his employer that he had left his previous employment for gross neglect.

Mr Zuber Haji started working for East London NHS Foundation Trust in February 2015  as a Band 7 Occupational Therapist. However, an investigation found that Mr Haji had actually commenced work for the North East London NHS Trust in 2009 as an Occupational Therapist, although by the time he was dismissed he was working at Band 8a as Manager of the Home Treatment Team in Waltham Forest.

The basis for his dismissal on the ground of gross misconduct was around the issue of time sheets as Mr Haji had submitted e-timesheets claiming that he had worked on numerous dates when he had not. Further, he self-authorised  e-timesheets for 81 shifts from 2009 onwards.

However, when Mr Haji applied to work for the East London NHS Foundation Trust, he stated on the application form that his reason for leaving a previous employer, the North East London NHS Foundation Trust, was to “return to clinical work” when in fact he had been dismissed by NELFT for gross misconduct.

The matter came to light when a Counter-Fraud Specialist working with the ELFT, ZB, undertook what is known as an “Intra Authority Transfer Review” (“IAT”) in August 2015. It was not an exercise targeted at Mr Haji, or indeed any particular individual.

However, the exercise involved taking a random selection of employees and reviewing their “Portable Data Set” (records that accompany an individual as they move between roles in the NHS). The focus of the review was the dates individuals had left previous positions, and the reasons why they left them. Mr Haji was one of the individuals selected for examination and on checking his records, ZB discovered that his previous position came to an end on 19 March 2013 and the reason for it ending was that he was dismissed on the grounds of his conduct.

This discovery led to an examination of what Mr Haji had disclosed about this earlier employment and the reason for it ending.

On the basis of the evidence, the Panel was satisfied that Mr Haji did not disclose during the interview that he had been dismissed.

On 4 December 2014 the Registrant was sent a “Conditional Offer of Employment” letter. One box was particularly relevant because it required a reply to the question, “I have not previously been dismissed from any employment, office or other position by reason of misconduct.”

In an interview, Mr Haji was specifically asked why he had not completed the Criminal Conviction and Professional Declaration Form. He said: “To be honest it slipped my mind. That is why I had not sent it back”.

On the basis of all this evidence the Panel was satisfied that the Registrant did not declare that he had been dismissed by NELFT for gross misconduct after he was offered the ELFT post.

Furthermore, the Panel looked at the allegations behind why Mr Haji was dismissed for gross misconduct. He had claimed to have worked four days in e-timesheets when in fact he had not worked. He also self-authorised NHSP e-timesheets for 81 shifts from 2009 onwards. When interviewed for the purposes of the NELFT Mr Haji accepted that he had authorised these claims. When asked about this issue he stated that he had not intended to be fraudulent but had never been given any guidance.

Therefore the Panel decided that while Mr Haji had been dishonest with regards to concealing that he had been dismissed for gross misconduct, he had not been dishonest in self-authorising the e-time sheets.

The Panel noted that it is fair to Mr Haji to acknowledge that when interviewed on behalf of ELFT he accepted that he had knowingly failed to make the required disclosure, and he offered an apology for failing to do so and gave an explanation as to his personal circumstances at the time.

However, even in relation to the ELFT employment his acceptance of wrongdoing was limited because he did not acknowledge a deliberate failure to return or make the declaration after being offered the post. In relation to claiming for work not undertaken during the NELFT employment, there was no acceptance by Mr Haji that he had acted inappropriately.

Despite the serious dishonesty found proved, the Panel felt that if there had been reasons for believing that Mr Haji intended to address matters and take steps to reassure a future panel that the risk of further dishonest conduct was significantly reduced, then the present Panel would not consider that a striking-off order would be appropriate. In such circumstances the Panel would consider that a suspension order preventing practice during the period before a future panel could fully assess the future risk would be appropriate.

However, the position in the present case is that there are simply no grounds on which the Panel can conclude that Mr Haji would wish to avail himself of the opportunity to demonstrate to a future panel that the risk of further dishonest behaviour has reduced.

The only engagement from Mr Haji was to state in June 2017 that he did not intend to engage in the final hearing that was then envisaged to take place later that year. Apart from that single communication, he has not taken any steps to participate in the fitness to practise process.

The inability of the Panel to conclude that Mr Haji would take advantage of any period of suspension to demonstrate that the risk of repetition has reduced has the inevitable consequence that the risk of repetition at the conclusion of any period of suspension would be as great as it is at the present time. For this reason the Panel has concluded that the imposition of a suspension order is not appropriate.

As a result, the inevitable consequence of these findings is that the sanction to be imposed is a striking-off order, the Panel said.

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