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Facebook whistleblower found guilty of misconduct

A whistleblower who raised his concerns about patient safety first via this magazine and again via Facebook has been found guilty of misconduct by a fitness to practise hearing.

Senior nurse Colin Stewart Toseland warned that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in north Wales was “disorganised” some five years before watchdogs published a report highlighting significant failings.

Mr Toseland had written a damning report in Nursing Times detailing a shortage of beds and lack of staff at the organisation’s flagship Ysbyty Glan Clwyd Hospital, Denbighshire back in 2008.

Two years later he then launched a fresh attack via his Facebook profile, saying wards at the hospital were unsafe.

Earlier this year, the health board was heavily criticised by the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and the Wales Audit Office (WAO) for under-reporting infections, which they said had risked patients’ safety.

Following his Facebook posts, Mr Toseland found himself the subject of a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise hearing.

A three-person panel found the registrant’s misconduct had been proven and his fitness to practise had been impaired.

However, the independent body is yet to decide on what punishment to hand out to Mr Toseland.

Sanctions at their disposal include a suspension as well as striking his name off the medical register.

Representing the NMC, Miranda Stotesbury said registrants were well within their rights to blow the whistle when they had concerns.

However, she said these should be done via the the proper channels - and that Mr Toseland’s decision to vent his spleen on Facebook risked undermining the public’s confidence in the nursing profession.

“The issue of whistleblowing has been well documented in the media,” said Ms Stotesbury.

“But there were plenty of mechanisms in place for the registrant to raise any concerns that he had.

“As a senior nurse he would have known this.

“He did not escalate his concerns through the proper and appropriate channels.”

According to NMC documents, Mr Toseland had written an article in the Nursing Times in April 2008 which said Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and its flagship hospital Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Denbigshire, north Wales, were “disorganised”.

The article expressed concern about a shortage of beds, a lack of staff as well as making allegations the hospital was failing to meet a four-hour target for getting patients from the Accident and Emergency department to a ward.

Two years later, the panel was told the registrant then criticised his employers on his Facebook profile.

Posts in February 2010 included details about wards being unsafe and there being asbestos in surgical theatres at the hospital.

Although the health board carried out an asbestos removal programme, Mr Toseland still wrote to hospital chiefs admitting his conduct had been “unacceptable”.

But six months later, he used the site again to admonish his employers - this time for not supporting workers properly and also saying there was not enough money to pay nurses’ wages before “threatening” to go public.

An NMC panel decided to throw out the Nursing Times allegations at a hearing last year.

However, on September 30 it resumed proceedings into the Facebook comments at a hearing in Cardiff - which Mr Toseland, of Colwyn Bay, did not attend.

Case presenter Ms Stotesbury said the NMC had clear guidelines about how members should use social network sites - something the registrant should have been well aware of.

 

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Sounds like Mr Toseland although very committed to his job has used Facebook to make some points that were being (apparently) overlooked by his local health board.
    Sounds like he did try and gain their attention and failed - with the state of the NHS at the moment I imagine this scenario is duplicated up and down the land.
    If these issues of unsafe wards etc were brought out to the public domain and were actually debated by the public perhaps we would all understand a little better as to what is going on, become more aware of the huge financial constraints that are gripping this national institution.
    As for this comment:
    “Representing the NMC, Miranda Stotesbury said registrants were well within their rights to blow the whistle when they had concerns”.
    And this headline:-
    David Cameron: 'We will stand by you if you speak out when things are going wrong'
    5 March, 2013. Nursing Times
    There must be hundreds of whistle blowers out there who have suffered under the mistaken belief that they are in any way protected if they do blow the whistle.
    Perhaps using Facebook was a measure of just how desperate Mr Toseland felt although I am not recommending this action.
    I hope things work out okay for Mr Toseland – there must be a lot of sympathy for this nurse who obviously cares passionately about his patients and their safety.
    I am a whistle blower. Miranda Stotesbury’s comment although true, completely camouflages the appalling fall out of taking such action.
    Unless you have plenty time and lots of money – a cast iron job (or are lucky enough not to need a job) and understand friends and family then I think blowing the whistle is not a course of action people should take lightly.

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  • michael stone

    Growl !

    'Senior nurse Colin Stewart Toseland warned that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in north Wales was “disorganised” some five years before watchdogs published a report highlighting significant failings.'

    Clearly 'the appropriate channels' didn't work, did they !

    This is 100% counter to the contemporary idea that you improve things by shining the light of transparency onto systemic failings - pointing out that an organisation is providing bad nursing, is NOT 'bringing nursing into disrepute' (in fact, it is rather the opposite !).

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  • tinkerbell

    It sounds as though Colin was desperate. Anonymous | 1-Oct-2013 10:42 am. I totally agree.Reading his previous article I fully sympathise with him it sounds very much like a case of 'you really had to be there'. There are lots of nurses struggling under the strain of just 'fire fighting' and knowing that any minute something could go horribly wrong and they will be held accountable. The mental strain of this ongoing stress day in day out, year in year out, is bound to take its toll. You will be damned if you do report and damned if you don't.

    I don't doubt he raised his concerns initially through the correct channels.

    He sounds like a conscientious, hard working, honest guy to me.

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  • I am currently the subject of an NMC FTP investigation. The NMC case against me has resurrected trust "evidence" long since dis-proven and abandoned that was cynically applied by the trust in response to my complaints about malpractice and abuses that precipitated two internal inquiries whose cover-up reports I rejected immediately. The NMC's hired solicitors case is disorganized and haphazard and has simply demonstrated that NMC panelists do not read their own material leaving crucial decisions to "legal advisers". Following a 38 year specialist career, I have been fighting this one since October 2010 when I complained loudly about a small completely calm young female patient was thrown into seclusion for nearly four hours complete with spurious alarm bells and for complaining about inappropriate and incompetent drug prescribing and administration, all demonstrated. I was immediately suspended for "aggression towards a colleague" (six weeks previously) (dis-proven by the only eye-witness, the ward doctor and eventually thanked by the district pharmacist during the initial inquiry for properly complaining about inappropriate medication prescribing. Instead of returning to my usual work I was passed around departments in the classical witch-hunting manner. I have demanded copies of the explanations for the seclusions complained about and covered up by the two internal inquiries subsequently given to safeguarding (social services) that have apparently satisfied them. I strongly supect that they have been furnished with something other than the complete truth. Meanwhile the NMC have invented a new additional charge of their own..that I used my home computer to write my original complaints statement that stopped the abusive seclusions and resulted in citalopram implementation planning and the subsequent thanks of the trust CEO then my firing by his deputy although I followed the trusts and the NMCs complaints procedures to the letter. I have taken a formal complaint out against the NMC and believe a thorough discussion about exactly what our regulator exists for is long overdue.

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  • "proper and appropriate channels.” ??

    Damage limitations more like.
    (control freaks)

    Why not focus on the issues that are wrong instead of 'protecting the public' so they don't lose faith in nursing.
    Bollocks.

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  • Nurses,

    You are amazing and I appreciate what you are going through on our behalf to keep wards safe.

    Nurses seem to be working independently, there is no support out there for whistleblowers. Isn't the RCN meant to help? Its like Nurses are alone when they are forced to whistleblow and they have to fight for themselves.

    And what is the NMC doing? Why is it behaving like this? Is its true role to prevent Nurses fighting back? I just sometimes feel it has another agenda, along with NHS Employers to attack and hurt Nurses. Its getting easier and easier to remove Nurses.

    A few years back a Nurse whistleblowed in her hospital on the BBC and the NMC deregistered her.

    Why is this happening?

    THANK YOU NURSES,
    I LOVE YOU
    PDaveANGEL

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  • tinkerbell

    oh let's just face it we're just paying our NMC for nobody really knows what. It takes two to Quango. It's the whistle blowers, undercover nurses and journalists who are protecting the public. NMC is still trying to find a way to spend our registration fees and will no doubt be announcing another increase again - soon. Might as well just take your yearly donation to them wipe your backside with it.

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  • The bottom line is the NMC are not there to protect the public. They are there to smarmy up to Management, no matter how incompetent they( Management) may be.and protect Nurse Management from the fall out of having thinking competent Nurses in the work force. All the rest of the nonsense the NMC spout is merely a smoke screen.

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  • When the NMC state the proper channels i do agree with them but does this mean sweep it under the carpet to keep the public from knowing?? Facebook is a public social network and unless names were used i feel it should not be used as proof against any body? Nurses seem to be the brunt and take all the blame and the ones held to ransom by the proper channels and yet those who are ideally responsible and on very fat wage packets get glorified and never held to blame.
    I am finding Nursing quite farcical and not the profession it certainly once was

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