Counsellor found guilty of misconduct

the NMC ruled a caution was an appropriate sanction for Kirby, allowing her to continue working as a counsellor. They found that Kirby's inappropriate and unprofessional text messages and exchanging of gifts with Miss A amounted to misconduct, but the panel did not find Kirby guilty of misconduct by giving Miss A her mobile number and she was also cleared of failing to maintain an adequate care plan.

A counsellor has been found guilty of professional misconduct after she swapped expensive gifts and text messages with a sex abuse victim.

Phillipa Kirby, 42, persuaded vulnerable Miss A to trust her with intimate details of the harrowing ordeal she suffered as a child and also convinced the patient to write a “life story” of the abuse, but then severed all ties and left her devastated, it was claimed.

Miss A told the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) how she was put in touch with Kirby, who worked for the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership in Lowestoft, in late 2003 after being diagnosed with Menieres disease, which badly affected her hearing.

Miss A began a six-week course of counselling to counter depression, but after the sessions ended, Kirby, of Bungay, continued to see her at home twice a week, she said.

“My dependency on Phillipa was very unhealthy,” said Miss A. “There was something about the way she operated that wasn't right and she made me lose my ability for rational thought.”

Miss A told how she baked cakes and give Kirby presents including a jewellery box, ring and “pampering” hamper full of treats as a thank-you for helping her through the depression.

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“She felt I was unable to trust or feel dependent on another person and she suggested my cure was to trust her,” Miss A told the NMC's conduct and competence committee.

Kirby then encouraged her to text or call whenever she needed help and suggested writing a book. Miss A said she wrote three drafts in quick succession and passed them all to Kirby.

The patient added: “She suggested it as a way of exorcising my demons and I agreed with her.” Kirby then severed all ties between the two women, but held on to at least one of the drafts containing graphic details, said Miss A.

In April 2003, Kirby told Miss A she was going on annual leave and never contacted her again, leaving her “devastated”, it was also alleged.

The NMC ruled a caution was an appropriate sanction for Kirby, allowing her to continue working as a counsellor.

They found that Kirby's inappropriate and unprofessional text messages and exchanging of gifts with Miss A amounted to misconduct, but the panel did not find Kirby guilty of misconduct by giving Miss A her mobile number and she was also cleared of failing to maintain an adequate care plan.

The panel ruled Miss A had improved under Kirby's care and the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust was partly to blame for what had happened.

Explaining his panel's decision, Professor Paul Lewis said: “Her text messages were a serious departure from appropriate professional standards and in view of this we have decided to impose a caution order for the maximum order for the maximum period of five years.”

Kirby did not attend the hearing in central London and had not formally admitted or denied the charges.