UKCP fails to sanction therapist despite admitting destroying notes

A couple of weeks ago I published the apparent mishandling of a Fitness to Practice inquiry by the UK Council for Psychotherapy. The UKCP took over three years to find proven seven allegations against John Smalley, a Jungian analyst from the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. These allegations related to smoking during therapy, making derogatory remarks about clients to other clients, blurring the boundaries between his art business and therapy, and introducing two clients to each other in inappropriate circumstances.

Not only did the UKCP take an inordinate amount of time to come to these findings, but once they did, they failed to apply any sanction at all to Mr Smalley. He was just sent merrily on his way. This is even more shocking when I discovered a startling admission from the hearings. Mr Smalley freely admitted that he destroyed his notes.

At a hearing on 9th December 2011, the complainant’s barrister was quizzing Mr Smalley on his witness statement.

As a professional, there’s two things here that are absolutely shocking to me. First, “It’s not my practice to keep notes and there’s no professional requirement to do so.”  Throughout my nurse training, I had it drilled into me, “If you haven’t documented it, you haven’t done it.” I’ve lost count of how many times I was told that.

The Nursing and Midwifery Code is quite clear about this.

42. You must keep clear and accurate records of the discussions you have, the assessments you make, the treatment and medicines you give and how effective these have been
43. You must complete records as soon as possible after an event has occurred
44. You must not tamper with original records in any way

Okay, that’s the obligation for nurses. Is it different for psychotherapists?

Smalley’s UKCP member organisation is the Independent Group of Analytical Psychologists. Their Code of Ethics isn’t on their website. I e-mailed them on May 31st and asked if I could see a copy. They didn’t reply.

What about the UKCP itself? Their Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Conduct is on their website.

8. Records
8.1 The psychotherapist agrees to keep such records as are necessary to properly carry
out the type of psychotherapy offered.
8.2 The psychotherapist commits to store and dispose any personally identifiable records
or data securely in order to protect the client’s confidentiality.

I’m still not so clear.  A psychotherapist has to “keep such records as are necessary”? Frankly, that’s a bit vague and wishy-washy. Compare it to the NMC Code and the difference in wording is stark.

The second thing that shocks me is that he admits destroying notes. This seems to be something that the complainant’s barrister was trying to catch him out on, while discussing a dispute over the provision of receipts.

In my NHS trust, it’s certainly not considered acceptable to destroy notes 6 months after a patient is discharged. There are good reasons for this. A civil tort can be brought up to six years after the event. As for a fitness to practice inquiry, that can be brought at pretty much any time. Oh, and there’s that unambiguous statement in the NMC Code that I have to follow. “You must not tamper with original records in any way.” I don’t even destroy my old work diaries from previous years. Never mind notes.

After such a black-and-white statement in the middle of a hearing, the UKCP still decided his fitness to practice was not impaired, and didn’t sanction him.

Both IGAP and UKCP have indicated that they do not wish to discuss the specifics of this case.

This is an organisation whose own chair recently told its members, “There has been too much crony-ism and amateurism in the conduct of complaints for far too long.” Could this be the sort of thing they were talking about?

9 thoughts on “UKCP fails to sanction therapist despite admitting destroying notes

    • Mind you, in the 60s/70s RMN students weren’t necessarily taught a great deal about record-keeping, it varied according to local practice . Then again, often there was tension between what was taught in the School and what actually happened on the wards (very often as decreed by this or that consultant). Since then, nursing has grown up and accepts responsibility for its own actions. Maybe one day psychotherapy (“the bastard child of analysis,” I forget who said that), too many of whose practitioners currently behave like irresponsible and/or self-important adolescents, will do the same.

  1. “the bastard child of analysis,” … I agree. Gosh, BM does change, only a few weeks ago I got my legs slapped for “sectarianism” But Z, why waste mental energy and time on the UKCP. Just let them wither away and try and divert biz the the semi-ineffective BACP who are moderately better.

    • Legs slapped, Jo? No, surely not! Hand gently placed on your wrist to encourage you to pause and think about your invective. There, ideology was the point; here, it’s about incompetence. There’s a difference. As to the bastard child, whoever said that was implying lack of of rigour. However, there’s not many people would go in for daily analysis, and even less for whom it might be appropriate. There’s many a good person or idea born on the ‘wrong’ side of the sheet!

  2. Z, you are correct in that the independent panel did not find the therapist guilty of something of which he was not accused.

    This case had four public hearings. The parties were able to present their views, and all were legally represented. And the case was considered by an independent panel. There were 18 different complaints grounds. No complaint was made against the therapist about destroying notes.

  3. Brilliant response from UKCP. Just what we would expect! Well done you guys you really did your homework on that response.

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