Doncaster mental health worker struck off after 'inappropriate' flour fight with patient

A Doncaster mental health worker who had a flour fight and used a patient’s bank card has been struck off for repeatedly breaching ‘professional boundaries.’

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 8:44 am
Becky Jones, who worked at Cheswold Park Hospital, has been struck off.

Becky Jones. who worked as an occupational therapist at private mental health facility Cheswold Park Hospital, was struck off earlier this year after a misconduct panel found that she had behaved "inappropriately" and in ways that posed a risk of harm to her patients.

Working with patients sectioned under the Mental Health Act, the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service heard that two patients - Patient A and Patient B - had made complaints about Miss Jones' conduct and she was originally suspended from her job in January 2020.

The first complaint against Miss Jones was made by Patient B in January 2017 and an investigation into her conduct was launched, but Patient B withdrew their complaint and it was decided by the hospital management team that no further action would be taken.

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However, during the initial investigation, "additional concerns came to light regarding [Miss Jones'] professional boundaries with patients", the Conduct and Competence Committee said.

One such concern raised was that Miss Jones had used Patient A's bank card on a number of occasions to withdraw money "on his behalf" and had also made use of his PIN number in doing so.

The panel said: "She said that she had known that it was wrong to take out money on behalf of a patient, but that she 'felt like I was trapped … I didn’t realise how dangerous he was and how manipulative he was'".

"She said that after the first time she had withdrawn money, Patient A told her that if she didn’t do it again, 'he could get CCTV and he could get bank statements … and that I’d lose my job'".

In all, it was accepted that Miss Jones had used Patient A's bank card on three occasions to withdraw cash for him which the panel said showed an impairment of Miss Jones' fitness to practice as an OT.

A second concern relating to Miss Jones' professional fitness related to "innapropriate" conduct between her and another patient - Patient B - with whom she had disclosed sensitive and personal information.

During a therapeutic session with another member of staff in February 2017, Patient B disclosed that he knew "highly personal and sensitive information" about Miss Jones and her personal life, information that Miss Jones had disclosed directly to Patient B on a previous occasion.

Witnesses told the panel that the sharing of information with a patient in this manner was a "breach of professional boundaries" and the panel accepted that.

But Miss Jones' conduct with Patient B had caused further alarm with staff a month before the disclosure of this information, when a team member had walked past the kitchen and found both Miss Jones and Patient B "covered in flour from head to toe", having had a "flour fight".

The panel said: "It caused concern to JL [the member of staff] to see [Miss Jones] in the kitchen with Patient B, who was not her allocated patient, and she believed that such conduct was inappropriate by an OT (or any professional) in a forensic environment in the context of relational security. The Panel accepted the evidence of JL."

Miss Jones was suspended from her role at Cheswold Park Hospital and her suspension was extended by six months, with an expiration date of September 26.

However, during Miss Jones' review hearing in February of this year - which she failed to attend - the panel heard that she had made no effort to engage in remedial action or to address her behaviour.

The panel said there had been "no evidence of engagement" from Miss Jones, who had repeatedly failed to act on the suggestions of the panel in terms of personal development and, therefore, her fitness to practice "remained impaired on personal component grounds".

The panel were initially reluctant to strike Miss Jones off, but her failure to engage at any point with the review hearings meant that she had not "provided evidence of the development of insight or adequate remediation to show that she would not cause a risk of harm to members of the public if she were now permitted to return to unrestricted practice."

She was officially struck off on August 27 this year.