A POWYS care home manager with more than 30 years’ experience has kept her job but will be closely monitored for a year after appearing at a disciplinary hearing this week.

Melanie Christopher appeared before a Social Care Wales panel on Monday and Tuesday, February 22-23, which found that her fitness to practice is currently impaired. It follows Ms Christopher receiving a 10-month prison sentence at Swansea Crown Court in January 2020 after she admitted throwing a wine glass at a colleague during a staff party in a pub.

The fitness to practise panel was told that Ms Christopher, who manages the Angorfa Residential Home in Coelbren in South Powys, could not remember the September 27, 2019, incident, which happened at the Lamb and Flag pub in Glynneath, and said she might have suffered temporary amnesia.

The victim, meanwhile, referred to as Person A during the hearing and someone Ms Christopher described as a “best friend” whom she had known for 30 years, suffered a cut just below her eye and facial nerve damage which means she cannot smile properly.

Ms Christopher admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm at West Glamorgan Magistrates’ Court in November 2019 and her prison sentence handed down in the crown court in January 2020 was suspended for two years.

On the second day of hearing this week – held via Zoom – the panel found that Ms Christopher’s fitness to practice was impaired and ordered her to adhere to a 12-month conditional registration order.

Presenting officer Delme Griffiths told the panel Ms Christopher’s “serious criminal behaviour” was a clear breach of the code of practice and that a finding of current impairment should be made.

“The judge in her case said this was very dangerous behaviour,” said Mr Griffiths.

“This was an incident that involved alcohol and violent behaviour. Ms Christopher said she suffered global amnesia over a four-hour period.

“She repeatedly sought to downplay the incident and cannot bring herself to admit her conduct. She has repeatedly focused on the impact on herself and the home.

“Far from taking a step back, one witness, Ms Jones, told us she’s ‘still the same, always full on, she doesn’t ask for help and is available 24/7. This hasn’t affected her at all’.

“She was meant to be a role model for her staff and home users. That position of authority and status she had in the community and in the home meant she was on a higher pedestal in terms of standards expected of her and that makes the extent to which she fell below those standards and the impact on public confidence all the greater.”

Samantha Hughes, an advanced nurse practitioner at the home who spoke as a witness for Ms Christopher, said: “She (Ms Christopher) was always professional and courteous in her approach.

“The residents and clients are very fond of Melanie. The carers under her command are very caring and go above and beyond.”

After several hours of deliberation, the panel found Ms Christopher’s fitness to practice to be impaired by reason of her conviction for a criminal offence.

A tearful and clearly emotional Ms Christopher said she was in shock at the panel’s finding.

“I have huge regrets about that night but the action happened within seconds and I can’t take that back, but I know I am a very good manager and I’m not a bad person,” she said.

“I know that if the person concerned was here today they would be sat here holding my hand.

“The judge (in the criminal case) also made positive comments about me and how I’ve employed hundreds of people and looked after elderly people over 30 years.

“The staff and local community have persuaded me and given me the strength to go back to work. I could have closed the home.”

Chair of the panel, Dee Rogers, in delivering their verdict, said the panel was concerned at Ms Christopher’s apparent perception of being the victim and her unwillingness to take full responsibility for her actions.

“It is clear you are well liked and trusted as a manager of the home,” she said.

“You’ve expressed remorse and some empathy to Person A, including writing a heartfelt letter of apology.

“We have concerns, however, regarding the level of insight demonstrated and the impact of your actions on Person A. We find there is work to be done in relation to your understanding about what brought about your behaviour and the gravity of your conduct.

“We’re concerned that you’ve not yet taken full responsibility for your actions and instead perceive yourself to be the victim.

“You’ve told us you were badly hurt by these events but do not acknowledge the extent of any impact on others or the social care profession.”

Ms Christopher can continue in her registered role but must meet specific conditions set out by the panel. These include attendance at monthly one to one counselling sessions; a requirement to attend an online alcohol awareness course and attendance at monthly meetings with a mentor to assist with reflecting on issues identified in the panel’s decision.

The order will be reviewed before its conclusion and Ms Christopher can appeal within 28 days.