Former HRI Theatre Assistant Suspended For Opiate Dependence

He worked at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary from 6 February to 26 October 2017.

A theatre assistant at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary has been suspended after being found unfit to practise due to opiate dependence.

Medical experts heard Liam Smyth appeared “committed to addressing his health conditions and is apparently engaged in residential rehabilitation focused on his opiate dependence”.

They imposed a 12-month suspension order on the grounds of public safety.

Mr Smyth was described as an “exceptional” student who had worked in the Operating Department at HRI before being employed as an operating department practitioner (ODP) by Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.

He worked at HRI from February 6 to October 26 2017.

His day-to-day responsibilities entailed assisting anaesthetists by preparing drugs, monitoring patients undergoing anaesthesia, carrying out scrub duties within theatres and completing circulating duties.

In May 2017 Mr Smyth told his line manager that he was suffering from a health condition.

During the course of his employment concerns about his health and its impact on his conduct at work also began to be reported by colleagues.

Mr Smyth also had long periods of absence from work, which led to him not completing his probationary period.

A four-day hearing held by the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service (HCPTS) in London considered an allegation that Mr Smyth’s fitness to practise as an ODP had been impaired by reason of his physical and/or mental health.

A doctor who compiled a report on Mr Smyth said he was likely to recover from his current health condition “but there was a high likelihood of a relapse”.

The panel heard that shortly after starting work, Mr Smyth had become effectively unable to work.

He no longer engaged with his colleagues; he required significant periods of sick leave and could not engage with the occupational health department when they tried to assist him.

He also took unexpected breaks during work shifts in a way that was “incompatible” with providing safe care to patients.

Mr Smyth was not represented at the private hearing, which ran from August 2 to 5, and did not attend. The decision was posted on the HCPTS website.

The HCPTS Health Committee heard that Mr Smyth “appeared to have insight into his health conditions and to be seeking appropriate treatment”.

The panel also read an email in which Mr Smyth said he had openly stated that his fitness to practice was impaired during his employment and that he did not have any plans to return to work as an ODP.

It emphasised that he was “not in any sense to blame” for suffering ill-health and that he was a good student who had been prevented from practising because of his health.

But it had a duty to protect the public and that there was evidence that Mr Smyth could not remain at work and sustain a sufficient period of work to maintain patient safety “until his health recovers to the level it was at when he was an impressive student”.

It added: “It would put patients at risk if [he] were allowed to return to practice at present.”

The panel determined that the only workable sanction that would protect the public whilst Mr Smyth is recovering is a period of suspension.

The 12-month suspension order will be reviewed before its expiry.

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