OT avoids HCPC sanction following drink driving conviction

Occupational therapist avoids sanction at HCPC hearing after demonstrating insight and remorse

Published on 5th April 2019

An occupational therapist will face no further action from the Health and Care Professions Council despite receiving a Conditional Discharge for 24 months and being disqualified from driving after pleading guilty to a drink driving offence.

Mrs Sharon D Gratton was employed as an Occupational Therapist with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust when she pleaded guilty to a drink driving offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 on 6 November 2017.

Mrs Gratton received a Conditional Discharge for 24 months and was disqualified from driving for 12 months which could be reduced by 3 months if she completed an approved driving course at Teesside Magistrate’s Court.

The Probation Service had provided a report to the court which the Magistrates considered and which made reference to Mrs Gratton's personal circumstances, although this report was not made available to the HCPC.

Mrs Gratton told a Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service Panel that she she was deeply sorry for her actions. She said she should not have done what she did, she was struggling with stress arising from health, family and work related problems. In addition, a change to her role at work had not become permanent as she had hoped. She told the Panel she had done the approved driving course and would never drink and drive again. She said she was currently working as an OT and that she was well respected and dealt with complex cases.

Furthermore, Mrs Gratton told the Panel that with regards to stress, her personal situation has improved. She did not drink at home and in any case, was not a frequent drinker. She sewed and gardened to help her relieve stress and had found counselling useful.

She explained that she has now moved employment and was well supported by her employer. Mrs Gratton told the Panel that she had brought the profession into disrepute and did not know what made her get in the car that day. She said it should “never have happened” and she acknowledged she could have injured her own grandchildren.

The Panel found that the conduct in breaching drink driving law was serious and placed the public at risk of harm. Mrs Gratton was well in excess of the prescribed legal limit for blood alcohol and the conduct found proved which resulted in the Conditional Discharge, was conduct which fell well below the proper standards to be expected of an Occupational Therapist and amounts to misconduct.

The Panel found Mrs Gratton had demonstrated well developed insight and had shown genuine remorse. It found that that she was open, credible and reliable. She explained clearly in her evidence that she had attended counselling and developed coping strategies to deal with stress. She set out her difficult and stressful personal circumstances at the time and the context in which the incident occurred.

Mrs Gratton's competence has not been called in to question and she is currently working in her profession and is being fully supported by her manager. The Panel concluded that the Registrant does not present a risk to the public and that the misconduct is highly unlikely to be repeated.

The Panel considered that the aggravating feature was the potential risk of harm to members of the public as a result of Mrs Gratton driving whilst under the influence of alcohol.

However, it considered the mitigating features were that Mrs Gratton had positively addressed her ability to cope with stress, she had demonstrated significant insight and remorse. Mrs Gratton had attended the hearing and was able to take full responsibility when giving evidence to the Panel. She continued to be employed an OT where no issues or concerns have arisen with regards to her practice.

The Panel was impressed with the Registrant’s insight and considered that she has fully addressed her failings. She at no time has sought to excuse her actions and the Panel has found that her misconduct is highly unlikely to be repeated.

The Panel decided that in all these circumstances, the appropriate and proportionate response is to take no further action and impose no order.

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