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Authority statement on the murder of Sarah Everard

The Authority, like the rest of the country are shocked and saddened by the murder of Sarah Everard. It is unacceptable that any woman should live in fear of violence or assault. We have also noted recent concerns in the media about the safety of students from sexual harassment and assault. 

Christine Braithwaite, Director of Standards and Policy at the Professional Standards Authority said, ‘We recognise that Sarah Everard’s murder may trigger concerns and anxieties amongst other women about their own experiences; and may also raise questions for those who train students, practise as registrants or make fitness to practise decisions about navigating professional boundaries safely. We have published guidance for patients, professionals, fitness to practise panels and educators on managing professional boundaries.’

Whilst sexual misconduct disciplinary cases in health and social care are rare, they cause great damage and sadly, we continue to see cases where male registrants behave unacceptably to female patients and colleagues and we act where we consider that regulators’ fitness to practise panels do not address the action strongly enough. In two recent cases, the courts agreed with us that panels’ decisions were not sufficient to protect the public and, in one of them, erased the registrant.

The Authority’s role in scrutinising these cases and appealing when decisions are not sufficient to protect the public plays a vital role in protecting patients. In addition to our research seeking to learn how to prevent sexual misconduct, we will this year increase our focus on this important topic and consider how regulators train their staff and panels to recognise and respond to sexual misconduct; and how education about sexual conduct is incorporated into the education and training of health professionals.