UK Psychiatrist Valerie Murphy guilty of misconduct in case of teen’s tragic death

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Oxford Mail
Tribunal decision: Valerie Murphy guilty of misconduct in Connor Sparrowhawk case
By Sophie Grubb
November 12, 2017

Psychiatrist Valerie Murphy

Psychiatrist Valerie Murphy

A TRIBUNAL has rapped a doctor responsible for Connor Sparrowhawk’s care, throwing doubt on her fitness to practise and deeming her failures ‘deplorable’.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service has published its report on psychiatrist Valerie Murphy, who was accused of a catalogue of oversights in the run-up to the Oxford teenager’s tragic death.

Following a hearing, which began in August, the tribunal today found several failures had been proven and concluded her fitness to practise had been ‘impaired by reason of misconduct’.

Connor, who had epilepsy, autism and a learning disability, drowned in a bath at Slade House in Headington – an NHS care unit – in 2013, when he was 18-years-old.

His family and friends have since pushed for action against Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which ran the unit, campaigning under the banner Justice for LB (laughing boy).

The MPTS report said Dr Murphy, who was working at Slade House at the time and responsible for his care, failed in ways that ‘fellow professionals would regard to be deplorable’.

The psychiatrist admitted a string of failures during the course of the tribunal, but denied misconduct.

In its judgement, the tribunal described Connor’s death as a ‘tragic case’ and ruled that Dr Murphy had not carried out any risk assessments.

It highlighted a ‘major opportunity missed by Dr Murphy’ after another incident in which Connor had a nose bleed while left unsupervised in the bath.

The report added: “She missed key signs, twice, and failed to check or record in the notes what others in the multidisciplinary team had done.

“The tribunal considers that carrying out a risk assessment is part and parcel of undertaking an adequate assessment of the patient’s condition.

“Doctors are human and do make mistakes, therefore it is important to have safety netting in place to ensure effective risk management.”

It stressed ‘the extent and gravity of the breaches of fundamental principles’ and ‘failure to comply with mandatory legal obligations to conduct a best interests meeting on two occasions’, which it said must amount to misconduct.

Its report adds: “The tribunal is satisfied that…fellow professionals would regard them to be deplorable.”

The tribunal noted Dr Murphy had begun a ‘process of remediation’ following Connor’s death, but added: “More wide-ranging failures of her handling of the case of [Connor] have not been remedied.

“Of concern is the fact that Dr Murphy has not demonstrated insight into the gravity of the findings of facts made against her.

“In her reflective statements of 2014 and 2015 Dr Murphy appears not to recognise the extent of her failings. Even at the beginning of these proceedings in 2017, she still appeared to be looking for excuses.

“There is a clear reluctance to admit full responsibility for her actions.

“Furthermore, the tribunal has noted that there has been an absence of apology to [Connor’s] mother and an absence of remorse for the consequences.”

Earlier this year Connor’s mother Sara Ryan spoke to the Oxford Mail about the ‘trauma’ of the tribunal, for which a conclusion was postponed for several months.

In a statement released this afternoon, the MPTS said the tribunal will reconvene on February 19 for three days, to consider a sanction for Dr Murphy.

Its report added: “The tribunal considers that Dr Murphy’s misconduct has adversely affected the reputation of the profession.”

This evening Dr Ryan tweeted to say there was ‘no celebration’ about the determination, but ‘relief the right decision was reached’.

UK Psychiatrist Valerie Murphy

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