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Locum OT receives caution for submitting time sheets when she was on leave

Locum OT also falsified her supervisor's signature on her time sheet on seven occasions

Published on 21st May 2019

A locum occupational therapist has received a caution from the HCPC for putting in time sheets for hours when she was on leave and falsifying her supervisor's signature.

Miss Jessica Ricci was employed by the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust as a locum occupational therapist and recorded on the Locum Time Sheet which she submitted that she had worked for three days on the 12, 18 and 19 January 2018 when she was absent from work.

Furthermore, on seven occasions between 4 December 2017 and 19 January 2018, she falsified the signature of her supervisor, Colleague A on the Locum Time Sheet.

As a locum, Miss Ricci would record the time that she worked on a timesheet provided by her agency. The timesheets recorded the dates and duration of the time worked, setting out the start, finish and break times, and it included a declaration, to be signed by the locum member of staff, that the information contained on it was correct. The timesheet would then be signed by an authorised individual, such as a supervisor, and submitted to the administration office at the Trust where it would be verified and processed.

A discrepancy was discovered in one of Miss Ricci's timesheets, which led to a further review.

The Panel noted that when confronted by her supervisor at a meeting on 22 January 2018, Miss Ricci is recorded as having admitted her failings and apologising for her actions. The Panel also had careful regard to her email to the HCPC dated 14 May 2019 in which she expressed her remorse and apologised for “the past mistakes I have made and any subsequent damage I have caused to the public and wider health and care profession”, and provided information in relation to matters since the incidents in question.

Miss Ricci also admitted in their entirety the facts alleged in the Notice of Allegation sent to her on 23 January 2019 by the HCPC.

Also in her Response Pro-Forma and Pre Hearing Information Form Miss Ricci had made
formal admissions to all the facts alleged. In addition, the Panel had careful regard to her email to the HCPC dated 14 May 2019 in which Miss Ricci states: “I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologise for the past mistakes I have made and any subsequent damage I have caused to the public and wider health and care profession…I take full responsibility for the actions I have taken. I agree with the statutory ground on which the allegation is based (misconduct) and accept any resulting consequences. What I have done is wrong and I will not make excuses for the decisions I have made and actions I have taken.”

The Panel also considered that Miss Ricci had demonstrated early and significant continuing insight into the unacceptability of her actions and its impact, both potential and actual, on colleagues and on the public as well as on the reputation of the profession.

Miss Ricci said in written evidence that she had taken steps to adjus ther practice to ensure she does not harm the public and hopefully regain their confidence in the profession and regulatory process.

She added that, following the incident on 23 January 2018, she met with PN, the Operations Manager of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, who was placing her in roles as a locum Occupational Therapist. "This meeting was an opportunity to reflect on my mistakes and take responsibility for my actions. I was sincerely remorseful and [the organisation] allowed me to continue working for them as an occupational therapist, giving me a second chance to demonstrate that I can be trusted to act professionally," she added.

Further, she said she had continued to work as an occupational therapist for 7.5 months in two consecutive roles between 29 January 2018 and 14 September 2018 and a further three months from February 2019 to present. "I have acted professionally throughout these roles and have reported my hours worked accurately and honestly,” she said.

The Panel considered that, while Miss Ricci had not appeared before it in person or provided corroborative evidence of the matters set out in her email to the HCPC, that document nevertheless contained strong reassurance that she had developed significant insight into her failings and had taken substantial steps to remediate her misconduct. In the Panel’s independent judgment, the risk of repetition is low.

The aggravating factors in the case were that the dishonesty was not isolated and was repeated over a period of weeks and Miss Ricci's actions breached the trust placed in her by her employer, her colleagues and the wider public.

The Panel found that the mitigating factors were that at the times in question, Miss Ricci was a relatively newly qualified Occupational Therapist. Since then, she has been working as a Registered Occupational Therapist for in excess of 10.5 months without further incident.

She made early admissions and has demonstrated significant insight, remediation and remorse, and the Trust did not sustain financial loss as a result of Miss Ricci's misconduct.

The Panel concluded that a Caution Order would be appropriate and proportionate in this case. While the misconduct could appropriately be marked by a Caution Order, the nature and seriousness of Miss Ricci's dishonesty was such that a duration of the maximum period of five years was necessary and proportionate in order to send a clear message to occupational therapists and the public that such conduct is unacceptable and must not be repeated.

 

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