Locum OT struck off register

Locum occupational therapist is struck off register after she asked a junior colleague to fill in a reference for her claiming to be a previous employer

Published on 1st February 2019

A locum occupational therapist has been struck off the register after she asked a junior colleague to complete a reference purporting to be a previous employer.

Patricia Garcia Barragan, who qualified as an occupational therapist in Spain in 2009, was employed as a band 5 occupational therapist at the Pilgrim Hospital on a locum basis from 9 February 2016 to 23 March 2016.

It was claimed that on 23 March 2016, Ms Barragan asked a colleague, Person A, to complete part of a work reference as though she was Person B, a previous employer in Spain.

The skills part of the reference, which appeared in a grid format with columns labelled ‘good’, ‘very good’, etc,  had already been completed when Person A saw the reference form. Ms Barragan asked Person A to complete the free text portion of the reference and informed her that she had written out separately what she wished the reference to say.

Person A did not agree to complete the reference and reported the matter to her line manager, Witness HT.

An investigatory meeting took place on 23 March 2016 and Ms Barragan accepted having asked Person A to complete the reference. However, she stated that she said she had been asked to do so by her previous employer Person B, who did not speak English and was “lazy”. She initially denied acting dishonestly and maintained that this was common practice in employment agencies.

The HCPTS Panel noted that during the hospital’s internal investigatory meeting on 23 March 2016, Ms Barragan allegedly made partial ‘admissions’. However, she denied the allegations in the undated letter she sent to the HCPC on or around June 2017. Therefore, the Panel proceeded on the basis that none of the particulars were admitted.

Following the evidence given to the Panel however, they found the allegations to be proved.

The Panel was aware that breach of the standards alone does not necessarily constitute sconduct. However, the Panel took the view that Ms Barragan's behaviour fell far below the standards expected of a registered practitioner.

"References are integral part of an employers’ duty to ensure that employees and prospective employees meet the standards required to be able to provide safe and effective care to patients," said the Panel.

It also noted that locum practitioners are expected to be able to work autonomously and fit into a new team quickly.
"Therefore, even greater reliance is placed on skills and competencies that demonstrate these abilities. The Panel took the view that the Registrant dishonestly attempted to circumvent the integrity of the recruitment process and concluded that such behaviour is sufficiently serious to be characterised as misconduct," the Panel added.

While noting that there were no concerns with regards to Ms Barragan's clinical practice as an occupational therapist, she was was willing to involve another individual in her attempted deception, her actions involved a degree of pre-planning, she has not provided any explanation for her actions, nor an alternative account and demonstrated only limited insight.

The Panel considered a Suspension Order, which would send a signal to Ms Barragan, the profession and the public re-affirming the standards expected of a registered occupational therapist. However, they said Ms Barragan has demonstrated very limited insight into her wrongdoings and has not remediated her previous misconduct to the extent that there remains a risk of repetition.

In the letter attached to her email, dated 18 August 2018, Ms Barragan stated: "I am done with this. It has been 29 months, don’t you think is more than enough punishment? (sic) Don’t you think this could have been resolved at least 18 months ago? I can’t go on with life untill (sic) you finish this so please, I am finally begging you to make a decision. Enough is enough."

The Panel said that, as a result, in these circumstances a Suspension Order would not be sufficient to maintain public trust in the profession and the regulatory process and would not have a deterrent effect on other registrants.

Having determined that a Suspension Order does not meet the wider public interest the Panel determined that Ms Barragan's name should be removed from the register.

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