Physio who kept more than 400 patients' record suspended from role after 'significant breach'

PUBLISHED: 17:17 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:17 28 January 2020

Stokes was suspended from her role at NSCP. Picture: Google

Stokes was suspended from her role at NSCP. Picture: Google

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A Clevedon physiotherapist has been suspended after a 'significant breach' of patient confidentiality revealed she kept hundreds of patients' records at her home.

Home care practitioner Helen Stokes kept
patients' records in her own home for 11 years, some in poor condition, mixed with her own papers and disordered.

A tribunal at the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPT) gave Ms Stokes a one-year suspension from her role as a specialist physiotherapist in the falls team at the North Somerset Community Partnership (NSCP), in Old Street.

Between 2006 and 2017, Ms Stokes failed to store or handle service user and staff documentation appropriately by storing the documents at her home.

The breach was uncovered after Ms Stokes was involved in a car crash in January 2017, after which her mobility was reduced and her daughter began clearing out her home.

Her daughter found notes and records she returned to NSCP, which found details on patients and colleagues dating back to 2006 and included 418 patient names, as well as staff names.

Ms Stokes had a supervisory role within the falls department and was responsible for staff and students.

Findings published by the HCPT state Ms Stokes has 'poor organisational skills' and 'significant problems with
technology'.

It adds: "The patients were identifiable from the records, and there was, therefore, a significant breach of confidentiality.

"Though she was apologetic and cooperative, Ms Stokes never appreciated the gravity of the situation.

"She accepted from the outset the material was confidential, and she knew she should not be storing it at her home.

"There was no evidence she had kept up to date with training on how to store records safely.

"Had she not had a car accident, the panel felt it was likely she would have continued to store confidential material in her home."

The HCPT ruled the extent of the breach crossed the threshold into misconduct, even though there was no patient harm.

They described Ms Stokes as 'an experienced physiotherapist' who was 'experiencing organisational problems'.

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