A physiotherapist who had a relationship with the mother of a child patient lied to bosses at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust to save his reputation, it has emerged at a misconduct hearing.
Community paediatric physiotherapist Stephen P Brown only admitted the truth when called before his governing body, the Health and Care Professions Council in London, and faced with a written statement from his lover, detailing their year-long romance which began when he treated her young daughter.
The hearing heard how Mr Brown breached professional boundaries by developing a personal relationship with the child’s mother during work time which led to her being emotionally dependent on him and then to the start of a sexual relationship in April, 2012.
Mr Brown had a girlfriend and his affair was exposed a year later on April 22, 2013 when he suggested to a manager that the 11-year-old girl patient be treated by a female physiotherapist instead.
The same day the manager had a call from the girl’s mother, referred to in the inquiry as Person B, who revealed all.
The hearing was told: “Person B said the real reason care was being transferred was that she had been in a sexual relationship with the Registrant (Brown) and that the Registrant’s girlfriend had now found out.”
Mr Brown’s lover did not at first provide a formal statement and he denied everything to Airedale NHS bosses, the report of the hearing states. “Following the conclusion of the trust’s internal disciplinary procedures, Person B subsequently did provide a written statement detailing the nature of the relationship, but the trust chose not to re-open the investigation,” it was told.
However, that statement was presented to the HCPC hearing – at which Brown fully admitted to all of the allegations – including that he visited the child’s home when it was “not clinically justified to do so.”
His long-term girlfriend also gave evidence on “sensitive issues”. And the panel found that Mr Brown’s lover was “an open and honest witness”.
However, it heard criticism of Mr Brown’s attitude, who was said to have “little or no appreciation” of the impact of his actions on the girl he was supposed to be treating and her mother.
It was also claimed his only regret was for the hurt he had caused his girlfriend.
And the panel was very concerned that he had denied any wrongdoing to the trust – which only learned he had finally admitted the truth on the first day of the hearing earlier this month.
The panel did consider suspending Mr Brown from professional practice, however it did not regard him as a predatory threat, concluding: “The facts, as found proved, would suggest that this was a case of human fallibility on the part of the Registrant (Brown) rather than the deliberate targeting of Person B.”
However, he was issued with a Conditions of Practice Order for one year which states he must only practice as a member of a team, work in a clinical setting and not undertake home visits unaccompanied.
Mr Brown must also formally develop and follow a plan with bosses at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust on keeping sexual boundaries with patients.
Reacting to the HCPC decision, Rob Dearden, director of nursing for Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are currently considering what, if any, further action to take as a result of the information and outcomes from the HPCP hearing and will fully adhere to all the HPCP’s recommendations to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect the safety of our patients and quality of our service.”
Mr Brown is also listed as working for the Airedale Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Clinic in Devonshire Street, Keighley, which his boss, David Cook said, adhered to all professional codes of practice. “He only ever worked for us part time,” Mr Cook said.