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Nurses 'warned children about Savile'


Nurses advised young patients to “pretend to be asleep” when Sir Jimmy Savile was visiting their hospital, it has been claimed.

Allegations of child abuse against the late radio DJ and TV presenter initially centred on his time at the BBC. However, new claims have been made concerning the two hospitals where he worked as a volunteer and visited regularly due to his involvement in charity fundraising.

A former patient at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire told the BBC News on Wednesday night there was an “air of resignation” among nursing staff ahead of a visit by Sir Jimmy, who had the free use of an on-site flat there.

Rebecca Owen told the programme: “There was some sort of ironic chatter between the nurses about who would be the lucky one to go off to his room.

“And then, as one of the nurses was leaving or passing by my bed, she leant over and said the best thing you can do is stay in bed until he’s gone and pretend to be asleep.”

A second former patient at Stoke Mandeville, calling herself Laura, phoned BBC Radio 5 Live and told the programme she had heard nurses say Sir Jimmy took girls to his “little room” inside the hospital after he carried out what were referred to as “ward rounds”.

She said: “There was chatter and miserable faces about the fact that Jimmy Savile was due to do what they called his particular ward round that day, and they were talking to themselves about which one would be, as they put it, ‘the chosen one’ to go off with him to his little room.”

Meanwhile, a former nurse told Sky News that she had seen Sir Jimmy molest a child at Leeds General Infirmary.

June Thornton, who was recovering from an operation at the hospital when she witnessed the alleged incident, said: “She had brain damage and Jimmy Savile came in and kissed her.

“I thought at the time that he was a relative. Then he started kissing her neck and running his hands up and down her arms and then started to molest her. Because I was laid flat on my back, there was nothing I could do about it.”

A spokesman from Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust said: “We are shocked at the nature and extent of the very serious allegations made against Jimmy Savile which were revealed by the Metropolitan Police on Wednesday. We have made contact with the police and they will be meeting with us to discuss their investigation.”

He added: “The trust does not have any record of complaints about Jimmy Savile’s behaviour made during the time he was a volunteer and charity supporter at Leeds General Infirmary or at any of our other hospitals.

“As a result of the TV documentary and subsequent media publicity we have, however, been contacted by two individuals, one of whom wishes to remain anonymous, about incidents said to have occurred in the 1970s.”

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville Hospital, also said it was “shocked” over allegations that Sir Jimmy Savile abused children while volunteering there.

Sir Jimmy was a high profile fundraiser for the National Spinal Injuries Centre and also volunteered as a hospital porter.

Allegations that he abused patients surfaced after a documentary about his serial molestation of under age girls screened by ITV last week. Police have since said that they have gathered information suggesting abuse on a “national scale”.

In a statement, the trust said: “Buckinghamshire Healthcare is shocked to hear of the allegations about Jimmy Savile.

“We are unaware of any record or reports of inappropriate behaviour of this nature during Jimmy’s work with the trust.

“We can confirm that the police have contacted us this week as part of their assessment exercise and we are co-operating with them fully.”

A trust spokesman said it has received no formal request for information, and had no record of either formal or informal complaints about Sir Jimmy’s conduct.

A spokeswoman for the Nursing and Midwifery Council said any failure by nurses to report abuse by Mr Savile would need to be judged against the rules governing the profession when it occurred.

The NMC was established in 2002 when it took over from the UK Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting. However, the UKCC itself was only created in 1983 and replaced nine separate nursing regulators.

The spokeswoman said: “Although we cannot comment on individual cases, if we receive a referral about the actions of a nurse before the NMC came into existence we would first look to see if they are currently registered with us.

“If they are currently registered with us the referral would proceed through our normal investigations process, but any judgement on their fitness to practise would be made in line with the rules and guidance laid out for nurses at the time the allegations took place.”

She added: “If they are no longer a registered nurse we would be unable to take any action.”


Readers' comments (44)

  • Any nurse who makes such allegations (which may well be true) needs to ask herself (or himself) whether they complied with their then Code of Practice by drawing their concerns to the attention of appropriate persons.

    If they did what was done about those concerns?

    If nothing was done why were those concerns not taken further - anonymously if necessary - to more senior management or to the regulator of the time if there was one.

    If they didnt raise those concerns - and it sounds as if they should have been raised collectively as well as individually - then they were in breach of their Code and their duty of care to the children in their care. And so were their managers if they didn't take the concerns seriously.

    Raising such concerns cannot be the preserve of the odd brave soul but is the responsibility of every registered nurse (and doctor). It is no good complaining that too few people spoke out effectively at Mid Staffs Hospital if the same thing is happening elsewhere.

    It is time this message was thoroughly embedded into the training and practice of every health professional not just those with the courage to raise concerns.

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  • Well said Roger. I thought I was going to be a lone heretic on this, it looks like I was wrong.

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  • I can only agree with Mr Kline.
    Not only did these nurses have a duty of care but what about the moral obligation we have as human beings to our children.
    And in response to Mrs Thorton, yes you may have been recovering from surgery but you still had a voice,you could have told someone!
    I personally would find it very difficult to look myself in the mirror each day had I seen such a thing and not said a word to anybody!

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  • The Francis report on Mid Staffordshire will rightly talk about the climate of fear and bullying that is so widespread in health and social care.

    It will rightly want to hold senior management to account.

    I know well, having represented several whistleblowers, and written extensively about it, the price that can be paid for speaking out, however professionally it is done.

    But we all have a responsibility to stand up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. Professional bodies, trade unions and indeed employers should be working to give everyone the courage to do so, individually and collectively.

    We still have a long way to go I'm afraid.Let's hope the Francis Report makes it just that bit easier to do so.

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  • I am not surprised these nurses did not speak out given the corrupt culture of the NHS. I took part in a group grievance towards protecting patient care and our service. What a mistake the managers sought revenge leading us to do a group whistleblow which has resulted in me being victimised and having malicious and vexatious allegations levied against me resulting in the probability I will lose everything I have worked for over last 35 years. This all because I have had the courage to speak out. I would suggest no one speaks out until the culture undergoes radical change because there is no protection for whistleblowers despite peoples widely held beliefs that there is in reality you are shunned and left alone.

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  • michael stone

    Roger Kline is correct, but so is the Anonymous above.

    'Professional bodies, trade unions and indeed employers should be working to give everyone the courage to do so, individually and collectively.'

    Yes - although accusing a celebrity, with a reputation for charity work, would probably be difficult even if the procedures and protections for 'normal whistleblowing' were in place.

    It is, as many people point out, a 'culture thing' - you need 'good behaviour and an expectation of (suspected) bad behaviour being criticised' to be the culture - but you don't need immediate suspensions and lengthy NMC investigations, at the merest hint of something which might be bad behaviour. Getting the balance spot-on, is tricky.

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  • I simply cannot agree with your suggestion anonymous 11-Oct 2.47pm,that "no one speaks out until the culture undergoes radical change". Unless people speak out the culture will never change.
    You spoke out and the world should be grateful to people like you. You will not lose everything. You are morally and ethically intact and can rise above those who shun you.
    I spoke out and lost my job and marriage but I don't know how I would live with myself if I had kept my mouth shut.
    Management,HR and union conspired to get rid of me (done deal). I took out an ET claim but was paid a large sum of money to settle out of Tribunal (with gagging clause).
    An Independent Investigation of NHS Lothian in May 2012 found what I tried to disclose from 1996 onwards " an undermining,intimidating,demeaning,threatening and hostile working environment for some staff". That was without hearing the worst abuses, as those employees had been bullied out of the workforce.
    You can get support from Patients First.
    www, or email
    10 years ago i thought that I had lost everything, but in fact I gained strength and skills that I could never have foreseen.
    We must continue to ensure that the culture changes; otherwise no one is safe in the care of Health/Social Care.
    Kathleen White, Edinburgh

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  • Jimmy Saville walks into a public ward and in full view of someone [flat on her back] 'molests' a patient and everyone keeps quiet? sounds implausible even in a bullying culture. He was not a senior manager - he was a visitor - or voluntary porter, I would have thought management would have been more worried about it coming to light on their wards than they would have been about keeping quiet. You would expect there to have been an unwritten rule about his not being left alone if nothing else. Its far from clear about who the nurses at stoke mandeville were talking about when they said about who would be unlucky enough to go to his room - sounds more like one of the nurses and from all accounts he prefers people somewhat younger than a trained nurse. Having read a couple of books recently about people who were in stoke mandeville with spinal injuries it was obvious that Jimmy's visits were not looked forward to due to his annoying personality which would be enough for the nurses to suggest that patients pretended to be asleep. It has not surprised me to hear that Jimmy did abuse young vulnerable girls however I am not sure how helpful it is to read so much into every action he ever took - I feel it more likely that his 'charity persona' was the smokescreen he used to help keep him above suspicion when he was carrying out abuse in other situations. The nurse in this story was a patient at the time - surely she could have reported this incident without fear of reprisal - in fact how selfish for your first thought to be about yourself.

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  • Kathleen Wright the gagging clause is illegal. I have chosen to be anonymous because my case is ongoing and to speak would breach confidentiality at this time. I have always spoken out and refused to lower the standard of care I give to my patients however my experience now is to keep quiet. I say this with a heavy heart and it goes against everything I know and believe in but I have to protect the naive who are just starting their careers in the NHS. Don't believe the rhetoric trusts spout do your job the best you can on one to ones with your patients but keep your head down. The culture will never change because the lowly nurse speaks out this has been proved over and over.

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  • Tinkerbell

    I was shocked by the recent revelations regarding jimmy savile. I grew up watching 'Jim'll fix it' believing he was a kind, caring person.

    I hope the stigma of speaking up and out for abused children is decreasing and that children are now being listened to.

    Sexual abusers and abusers in general sometimes gravitate to jobs where they have easy access to children and the vulnerable so they can abuse the power and trust invested in them.

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