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NMC struck off Mid Staffs nurses for 'wholly unacceptable' misconduct

The nursing regulator has revealed details of its decision last week to strike off two former accident and emergency nurses who altered patient discharge times to meet waiting time targets at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

A fitness to practise panel at the Nursing and Midwifery Council ruled last Thursday that the actions and behaviour of Sharon Turner and Tracy White was so serious they should no longer be allowed to work as nurses.

In its case determination report, published late last week, the NMC panel said it recognised the “toxic” environment at the trust when the events occurred.

But in a clear signal to the rest of the profession, the panel said it was “absolutely clear” the same sanctions would be imposed on “any nurse working at any hospital” who was guilty of the same misconduct.

Both Ms Turner and Ms White were working as sisters in Stafford hospital’s A&E department during the period “hundreds” of patients suffered appalling care.

They were found to have been dishonest and altered discharge times for A&E patients, as well as pressuring other nurses to do the same.

They also ordered staff to transfer patients before they had been assessed and while some were left in soiled sheets.

Ms Turner, who left the trust in 2009, used foul language about patients and threatened to make her colleague’s life “hell”, the panel found. On one occasion she said she didn’t give a “flying f***” about patients” and was racist towards junior doctors, calling them “suicide bombers” or “Osama’s mate”.

Ms White refused to help a senior nurse undress an elderly patient, who she called a “naughty little monkey” for refusing to take drugs to treat constipation.

In relation to a patient who attended A&E following a pregnancy termination, the panel heard Ms White said words to the effect of: “She can wait, if you can do that to your baby.”

The NMC panel ruled the pair had shown “deep seated attitudinal problems” and “a lack of insight”, adding: “It is a fundamental tenet of the nursing profession you should put patients and their care first.  You did not do that.”

It concluded: “Your conduct was completely unjustifiable and the panel must make it clear, however long ago it may have happened, such prolonged and serious failings over an extended period of time are wholly unacceptable.”

Both nurses were the subject of a complaint by whistleblower Helene Donnelly who told the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public Inquiry that she “regularly” saw patients dying “without dignity or respect”. Despite her complaint, an investigation was never completed and both sisters were re-appointed to their roles.

Readers' comments (4)

  • michael stone

    Pity the NMC apaprently cannot address what it has admitted it could see:

    'In its case determination report, published late last week, the NMC panel said it recognised the “toxic” environment at the trust when the events occurred.'

    Merely picking off the people near the bottom, who are probably being partly influenced by 'toxic enviroments' which tend to trickle down from much 'higher up', isn't the solution to 'toxic enviroments'.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • michael stone | 30-Jul-2013 2:40 pm

    Of course the more senior managers absolutely must be made to publicly answer for their part in Mid Staffs. Anything less would be criminal.

    However, Unit sisters are not "near the bottom". They are directly responsible for the standards of patient care (much more so and with more immediacy than more 'senior' managers) and for the team of nurses who carry out that care. We really really need to get away from this myth that nurses are victims. Nurses are autonomous practitioners who are responsible for their own practise and they need to start remembering that and take responsibility. Nurses need to take back their role as the patient advocate and stop being seen as sheep following the orders of the non-clinical managers. Otherwise, people like you will continue to label them as almost irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 30-Jul-2013 7:14 pm

    I certainly do not consider nurses irrelevant - but I am not persuaded that nurses can withstand pressure from above (starting with trust boards) to do things which they know will be deleterious for patient care, because there is lots of evidence that nurses, doctors and managers all 'get bullied' within 'bad cultures'.

    And so far as I can work out, it is usually nurses who feel they are victims.

    Nurses are CRUCIAL because nurses have the greatest degree of interaction with patients !

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I stood up to a non-nursing manager when he demanded that professional standards of nursing were a secondary concern in the specialised environment we were working in. I got the hair dryer treatment at the time, but at a subsequent inquiry when this was brought out into the open the manager was moved sideways in a very obvious manner and out of the healthcare side of the environment.

    Sometimes we need to have the courage to stand up and be counted. If you are doing it for the right reasons you will be protected by and large. Preparing junior management in Trusts to have these courageous conversations is what is lacking.

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