From November 2015 to January 2016, the Professional Standards Authority briefly suspended the UK Council for Psychotherapy from their list of accredited registers. After the UKCP made a number of changes, the suspension was lifted. The PSA have now published their reasons for the suspension. When I commented about it online, various people suggested I was making a fuss about a “storm in a teacup”, and that this was simply a normal part of the reaccreditation process.
From reading the PSA’s review, it becomes clear that this was no storm in a teacup. It involves, among other things, the apparent mishandling of a sexual misconduct case.
The review highlights a number of ways in which the UKCP was not meeting the PSA standards. Much of this relates to their online register, and the accessibility of information about registrants facing complaints hearings. However, there’s one issue that stands out.
The Panel discussed a concern regarding the handling of a complaint alleging breaches of sexual boundaries. The Panel noted that the case had been dismissed by the Adjudication Panel. There was no route of appeal as a sanction had not been issued by the Adjudication Panel. The Panel noted that the case had been dismissed without hearing the registrant and the procedural reasons for that that (based on advice from the UKCP legal assessor), but remained concerned that the evidence had not been appropriately tested. The Panel considered the selection of an allmale panel in a sexual boundaries allegation had been insensitive. It also concluded that the handling of this case whilst it may have been in line with UKCP’s processes, was not compatible with good practice set out in the Authority’s ‘Clear sexual boundaries between healthcare professionals and patients: guidance for fitness to practise panels.’
The PSA guidance they refer to in the last sentence is available online here. It’s pretty much the Bible when it comes to issues around sexual boundaries. Given that protecting the public from serious sexual misconduct is one of the most important functions of a register, I find it quite alarming that the UKCP processes apparently didn’t reflect this vital document. It seems to have led to an outcome where a panel made up exclusively of men threw out a case without even hearing the alleged perpetrator.
As part of the steps taken by UKCP to get their accreditation, they have informed the PSA that new panel members and chairs will be issued copies of Clear Sexual Boundaries. Well, that’s reassuring for future cases, but I find it quite incredible that they may not have been given it in the first place.
There’s other concerns about an alleged breach of confidentiality that had been “not addressed conclusively” despite going through multiple UKCP panels, to the point that the case had to be discontinued due to the length of time taken.
The PSA also found that information about disciplinary hearings, suspensions and sanctions weren’t easy enough for the public to find and that sanction outcomes were displayed on the UKCP website for too short a time.
Overall, a storm in a teacup is exactly what this wasn’t.
The UKCP has now taken steps to address all these issues, and that’s why they got their accreditation back. Even so, it concerns me a lot that this sexual boundaries case has not been properly addressed.
I’ll make an observation here. From my various sources the UKCP are not the only accredited register about which I’ve heard of these sorts of inadequacies in handling complaints. The UKCP may be first AR to have their accreditation suspended by the PSA, but I would not be at all surprised if they turn out not to be the last.