Professional Conduct V Workplace Pressure

Is your professional conduct and ethical behaviour in conflict with work place pressures?

Normally people have very positive experience when working with Occupational Therapists. However this is not always the case; early last year my mother had a really bad fall and was admitted through A & E into critical care and then onto a ward.

The rehab she received was appalling, and resulted in me putting in a formal complaint (no mean feat) about the occupational therapist who treated her.

I have been an OT for over 30 years and have been lecturing students for well over 20. As such a passionate advocate of occupational therapy, and in the light of the Francis report, I was horrified that someone, especially an occupational therapist, could treat someone with such lack of compassion, dignity and respect.

The department was so obviously process/time driven, and the rush to return people to home was palpable.

My mother, who had a C2 fracture, a neck brace on,  had 7 fractured ribs, has a hip replacement and was recovering from the removal of a kidney due to cancer three months previously, was assessed as FULLY independent in dressing while all her clothes were at home in the wardrobe.

She explained clearly with full capacity that she was not independent and stated she felt bullied by the OTs who said she was safe to go home, live on her own and go home in a taxi. Luckily I arrived as she did not even have a key, clothes, shoes or a coat. It was a freezing cold rainy January day, shocking I know...

I started to think about where our boundaries are, where are the edges to our professional responsibilities, what does practising ethically mean?

There are always things as OTs we discover from patients during assessments, on home visits with clients or during group work with service users. What do you do with that information whilst watching the clock ticking or knowing the party line of the MDT or the hospital. Regardless of these pressures, it is your duty to follow not only ethical practice, but also the code of conduct which gives clear guidance on these situations.

A consultation document has recently been circulated by COT relating to our Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct as part of its five year revision process. I would advise you to be very familiar with that document.

If a formal complaint is made against you, the HCPC will examine your behaviour against those standards in order to make an informed decision about whether you have breached your code of ethics. Should this be the case, you face the very real prospect of being removed from the register making you unable to practice as an Occupational Therapist.

As a supervisor, I never move without my Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct booklet and HCPC guidelines are my bibles. I refer constantly to them. When did you last cast your eyes over them?

Remember we have talked about evidence for your HCPC audit in 2015? Maybe in the next couple of weeks you can audit your practice against those standards and review your policies and procedures in light of this.

They should all be in sync, and if not you have clear reason to change them to ensure you are following them to the letter, working ethically within your Professional code of conduct. If not, your name on the HCPC register and therefore your job may be in jeopardy.

As a post script my mum has made a fully recovery but is still traumatised by the experience. As for the OT, I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about the appropriateness of her actions once you have read the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.


Margaret Spencer MA Consultant Occupational Therapist & Senior Lecturer LinkedIn Profile

Note from the author:

My blogs are a culmination of over thirty years experience  working in Occupational Therapy, including material from my books and conference presentations.

They answer the real queries and questions that 100's of undergraduate  and post graduate students, qualified OT's and managers, that I have had the privilege to work with and supervise continue to asked me.



This is part of our OT Series





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