Monday, 12 December 2016

The Health and Care Professions Council – have we lost our senses?

A recent decision of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is reported in Community Care.

To cut a long story short a child protection social work team manager was said to have been operating with a vacancy rate of nearly 50% (3.5/7.5). In addition to her management duties, she is said to have had 40 unallocated cases assigned to her and was working long hours including evenings and weekends. Not surprisingly, she was overwhelmed by her workload.

The case against the manager appears to be that she tried to cope with the situation and did not complain with sufficient vigour to her superiors about her problems. As a result, so it is argued, some children received an unsafe service. The panel found that the manager chose to ask for more resources for her team rather than highlighting any specific cases that were of particular concern. After a full hearing the manager was given a three-year caution by the HCPC. That will allow her to continue to practice, but will be a stain on her record. She is now working in a non-management role.

It is hard to read this account and not be left breathless by what appears to be the sheer chutzpah of those who brought the case. It has all the hallmarks of a blame-the-victim culture, in which people are left unsupported to struggle in impossible situations for which they are then held accountable.

How long will it take before the powers-that-be realise that blaming people is a very poor way to achieve greater safety or high quality? I challenge anybody to explain how bringing this case has helped anyone. Safer services are brought about by people feeling able to talk openly about the difficulties they have in coping with challenging situations. They are brought about by supervisors who are quick to spot situations in which people need help and support. They are brought about by valuing hard working employees, not scapegoating them.

They are not brought about by unjustifiable and punitive disciplinary procedures, which are in danger of making professional regulation a laughing stock. The HCPC should concern itself with cases of egregious behaviour and never exercise sanctions against people who are just doing their best in difficult circumstances.