A social worker has been sanctioned by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) after she forwarded confidential service user information to a personal email address.
The children’s social worker was given a one-year conditions of practice order by a fitness to practise committee following the “clearly inappropriate” sharing of information between the two email accounts without redacting or encrypting the information.
The emails contained sensitive information relating to and identifying service users.
The panel also found the social worker failed to update notes on her council’s electronic case management system, or keep adequate written records of her meetings with children.
In her evidence, the social worker claimed that forwarding the emails was not inappropriate, but the panel found otherwise.
“It is also a clear breach of any Data Protection Policy to send confidential information in this way. The panel considered that the explanations given by the registrant for this behaviour could not in any way justify these serious breaches of data protection and the subsequent risks thereby posed in relation to breaches of confidentiality,” the panel said.
“The registrant made no attempt to redact or encrypt the confidential emails or attached documents, thereby putting service users and their families at risk of their confidential information being exposed,” it added.
The social worker argued that poor case recording was caused by “limited access to stationery”, and there was confusion about her having two supervisors.
However, she “failed to satisfy” the panel in her explanations for failing for eight months to complete e-learning required to access the local authority’s case recording system.
The panel concluded that the social worker’s failings had the potential to cause harm to service users and their families and gave her a 12-month conditions of practice order.
“[Failings] have not been remedied and although in giving evidence, the registrant made a number of apologies, they do not appear to fully relate to failures of record keeping and the importance of confidentiality and seem to be made to minimise her responsibility.”
As part of the order, the social worker must work with a supervisor to make a personal development plan designed to address “deficiencies” in case recording, data protection and confidentiality.