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Former Mid Staffs chief nurse given caution by NMC

A former chief nurse at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital has received a five year caution, after being found guilty of exposing patients to danger.

A fitness to practise panel ruled earlier this week that Jan Harry – now retired – had put patients at risk by not ensuring that there were adequate nursing staff on a number of wards at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

It found Ms Harry failed to ensure there were adequate nursing staff in the accident and emergency department, the emergency admission unit and another ward. She was also criticised for serious care failings in the EAU between 2004 and 2006.

Ms Harry was employed by Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust and its predecessor Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals Trust from 1998 to 2006.

From 1998, she was director of nursing and quality assurance at Stafford Hospital. In 2002 she was appointed director of clinical standards and chief nurse, as well as director of infection prevention and control.

In her evidence, Ms Harry insisted that despite her title she was not the line manager for any of the hospital’s ward nurses and that she instead oversaw clinical standards across the NHS trust.

Ms Harry appeared before the Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing accused of a string of misconduct charges relating to her role at the scandal-hit trust.

On Tuesday, the fitness to practise panel found her guilty of some of the charges but she was cleared of others, including those relating to cleanliness and hygiene, inappropriate handling of incident forms, reducing a colleague to tears and disregarding staff concerns.

On Thursday, the NMC panel chose not to strike off Ms Harry and instead imposed a five year caution.

The panel noted that Ms Harry had “not acknowledged the impact” that her “failings may have had on patients and other members of staff at the trust”.

However, it said “this lack of insight” was a result of how Ms Harry perceived her role as being a strategic one, divorced from an operational one. The panel rejected this view of the director of nursing or chief nurse role, but said other managers at the trust also had responsibilities for staffing.

In its summing up, the panel noted there had been no suggestion of failings in Ms Harry’s clinical practice and she had a “long, distinguished and otherwise unblemished, career as a nurse”.

It stated: “Although the panel found you were not a ‘voice for nurses’ [at the trust], it recognised that you were committed in your managerial role in supporting the board in trying to meet government-set targets.

“The panel also noted that you strove to develop the skills of the nursing staff generally,” it said.

“The panel therefore concluded that there was no requirement to restrict your practise in order to ensure public protection,” it added.

Ms Harry retired in 2010 after being suspended by the NMC for two years ahead of her hearing.

After leaving Mid Staffordshire, she provided management support at Salisbury Foundation NHS Trust between December 2008 and May 2009.

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