The practitioner had a long history of mental illness, with periods of hospitalisation and community treatment orders (CTO) dating back to 1998. She suffered from a serious chronic psychotic disorder characterised by paranoid delusions and disorganised behaviour. As a result of her illness, various conditions had been imposed on her registration during periods between 1999 to 2012.

Most recently, the practitioner had been discharged from hospital in February 2016, following a suicide attempt and breaches of her CTO in 2015. In September 2016 the practitioner surrendered her registration. However, she denied that that she suffered an impairment that was likely to affect her ability to practice or that she lacked capacity to practice.

Upon application by the HCCC, the Tribunal found that the practitioner was impaired and not competent to practise. It was not the existence of her illness itself, but the long-standing chronic nature of her illness and her reluctance to comply with medication and maintain a regular relationship with a mental health care provider that meant her impairment posed a substantial risk to her ability to practice as a professional. The Tribunal did not have confidence that the practitioner would continue to take medication and undertake treatment once the CTO expired.

This decision serves as a reminder to practitioners of the importance of seeking formal healthcare when necessary. Practitioners have a professional obligation to all patients to maintain their own health and ensure they have access to independent, objective and appropriate care. Suffering from an illness will not necessarily render a practitioner impaired if he or she has insight and takes steps to obtain support and minimise the risk to the public.

To read the decision in Health Care Complaints Commission v Flett [2016] NSWCATOD 138, click here