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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