The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal has published its decision following a hearing on 29 – 30 June 2016 concerning a charge laid by a Professional Conduct Committee appointed by the Physiotherapy Board against Mr N1, a registered physiotherapist.
The Tribunal considered this case on the basis that the formal clinical relationship between the Physiotherapist and the patient concluded at the end of the ninth consultation and that the Physiotherapist had clarified with his former patient that their formal clinical relationship had concluded.
In the Tribunal’s view the question that arises when considering a sexual relationship with a former patient is not whether the formal clinical relationship ended within any particular period of time before the sexual relationship commenced but that at the time the practitioner entered into the sexual relationship with the former patient the circumstances were such that any power imbalance arising from the professional relationship had the potential to influence the patient’s judgment.
In this particular case, the Tribunal was satisfied that the imbalance of power which existed during the course of the formal clinical relationship continued after the conclusion of the final consultation and there was therefore a real risk of the Physiotherapist being able to exploit the relationship. Accordingly, the Tribunal found the charges were made out and professional misconduct had been established and warranted disciplinary sanction.
In the Board’s view, the case reflects a significant breach of patient trust placed in a Physiotherapist. Section 2.9 of the Physiotherapy Code of Ethics states clearly that ‘sexual contact of any kind with patients/clients is unacceptable’. Physiotherapists are encouraged to refresh their knowledge of the Code of Ethics – and to contact the Board if they have any queries or concerns.
1Physiotherapist has permanent name suppression