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Nursing bodies condemn prank call

Heathcare organisations have expressed concern at the hoax call that duped nurses into helping reveal details about the Duchess of Cambridge’s condition.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing said it did “not condone” the trick played by 2day FM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian to extract information from the staff treating Kate at King Edward VII’s Hospital in central London.

One of the nurses who was duped, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead after apparently taking her own life.

RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter said in a statement: “This is tragic news, and the thoughts of all at the Royal College of Nursing go to the family of Jacintha Saldanha.

“It is deeply saddening that a simple human error due to a cruel hoax could lead to the death of a dedicated and caring member of the nursing profession.”

The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association also released a statement.

It said: “The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSW NMA) expresses its sincere condolences to the family, friends and work colleagues of British nurse Jacintha Saldanha.

“The NSW NMA had written to Mr Jeremy Simpson, general manager of 2Day FM, prior to this tragic incident occurring.

“We urge all nurses and midwives who are under pressure or feeling stress to seek appropriate assistance and to not feel afraid to reach out for help.”

The letter from NSW NMA general secretary Brett Holmes expressing his concerns about the prank call was sent to the Australian radio station before he was aware of Ms Saldanha’s death.

In the letter, he said: “While I appreciate that your station may well consider this incident a successful coup in terms of its news and entertainment value… I would like to draw your attention to the very serious professional consequences such a stunt would have had for a nurse or midwife in the Australian context.”

The letter explains that if the call had been to a hospital in Australia, the nurses involved could potentially have had to go through three separate disciplinary processes, including those conducted by their employer and other inquiries conducted by the regulating authority and the Health Care Complaints Commission.

He described these processes as “stressful and deeply traumatic experiences for many nurses and midwives, regardless of the level of wrongdoing”.

The letter adds: “In the future I urge you to consider the personal toll such a prank could exact from a profession care-giver.”

He said he hoped the station “has undertaken to never again attempt to jeopardise their professional standing by perpetrating such a deception against another hardworking nurse or midwife”.

Readers' comments (25)

  • this is so sad. I see that the hospital are setting up a memorial fund - not through the british papers I hope who hate nurses and I do wonder what the headlines would have been if this tragedy had not happened.

    ..maybe there would have been a 'poll' asking the public if the nurses involved should be sacked - nothing would surprise me any more with the media.

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  • A newspaper or broadcaster has done this before, its a ploy they use which is why confidentiality is so important. On the occasion that i recall the outcome was not tragic but the confidentiality processes increased. It is really sad about Jacintha, my thoughts go out to her family. It is a tragedy that should never has happened and i hope something suitably disciplinary happened to the 2day FM presenters occurred. How selfish, and irresponsible has 2day FM been?

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  • surely imposture, especially when it concerns the Head of State, is a criminal act?

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  • Where are the responsibilities in this of :

    1. The Hospital Management to support a valued member of staff (apparently living alone in nurse accommodation, away from family)

    2 The police in protecting the Royal Family (and hospital staff) from such hoax calls ?

    All too easy just to blame the DJs for a stupid prank that went tragically wrong ?

    Are we all too quick to rush to judgement of others these days ?

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  • I can see it may be viewed as a prank that went wrong. Are we all not though, sick to he back teeth of media types whose job it is to be immature and trite. While they are busy droning meaningless platitudes on air, others are working in immensely stressful jobs.
    Even if the tragedy had not occurred they took a busy health worker away from her core responsibilities and put her at risk of a disciplinary for breach of confidentiality.

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  • Florence

    The media has done a thourgh job, through inaccurate sensational reporting, of tarnishing the image of Nurses and the NHS. There is very little fair unbiased reporting on Health Issues in the UK in the world of Newspapers.
    The circumstances surrounding the death of Jacintha, were absolutley tragic. My heart goes out to her family.The poor woman must have been so desperate to take her own life.Needless to say she should not have been on that hospital switchboard.
    I don't believe that William & Kate '' court'' the media in any way.The tradegy of Diana has made William completley protective of his wife.
    However alot of celebritys do this and then when they recieve poor publicity they sue and use their wealth to campaign like Hugh Grant did.

    But what about people like ourselves and Jacintha? We have no experience with the media. She must have been terrified. Maybe this tradgedy could have been avoided if she had recieved appropriate support ?
    While the DJ'S could not have anticipated this outcome. And there must have been a myriad of factors involved. The media as a whole must look again at the lengths they go to , to supposedly entertain the public. I for one am not '' entertained' by such things.
    It was a prank in extremley poor taste.
    Im glad the New South Wales and Australian Nurses Association has spoken up.
    Which leads me to the question...
    Why have we heard nothing from our NMC ?
    And what about Jane Cummings ?
    Compassion ???

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  • Florence

    Sorry the '' New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association''.
    I just get really frustrated when anything involving the media is concerned!!!
    Our local newspaper is one of the worst offenders in the UK .
    It delights in running down our District General Hospital.

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  • Nobody has mentioned that this was a pre-recorded call and the radio station management still broadcast it. Perhaps that is where some questions need to be answered too!

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  • Anonymous | 10-Dec-2012 2:48 pm

    It was pre-recorded and passed by the station's legal team prior to airing and was broadcast before the nurse's death. There will be a lot of questions asked.

    I am impressed by the actions of NSW NMA. They acted immediately and didn't wait for the the dreadful consequences before making their feelings felt to this radio station. They knew how serious this was for those involved and didn't waste any time in making that known. What do we get from any UK Nursing authority, professional organistaion, etc.? Too little, too late. It is all too typical of the ineffectual nursing bodies in this country. They just CAN'T stick up for their own. They don't even try.

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  • I don't know what the tipping point will be for nurses in this country to start fighting back against all the sh*t being thrown in our direction. Surely, there needs to be some positive outcome here.

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  • Florence

    It would help if our Leaders stood up for us. Im not saying that we should sit back and not take any responsibility.
    Perhaps we should start asking when Jane Cummings and leaders at NMC are going to start really doing their jobs and supporting us ? And doing so publicly.
    What about Dan Poulter too ?
    While we cannot and should not hide bad practice we need to look at the bigger picture.
    The NSW NMA did the right thing. The NMC have remained silent. At least the RCN have spoken up.
    No wonder we are walked over as a profession.

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  • Anonymous | 10-Dec-2012 3:10 pm

    I totally agree. I don't know what it will take for nurses to say 'enough is enough'.

    Florence | 10-Dec-2012 4:16 pm

    Unfortunately Florence, nurses really do have to take responsibility.

    We must stop blaming others.

    We have a tendency to blame the unions for being ineffective, when we are the membership. If we do not vote for union representatives, leaders or in any of the ballots about serious stuff that affects us (remember, only 16% of RCN members voted on the pensions issue and the RCN had no mandate to act), then it becomes hard to justify blaming them all the time.

    Jane Cummings is a government puppet, feathering her own nest and mortified that all nurses are not working 24/7, for free. She has also developed an unhealthy obsession with the letter 'C', which is another diversionary tactic to deflect attention from nursing reduncancies, years of pay freezes, nose-diving staffing levels, crap new pension deals, low morale, etc,. She is not interested in nurses, or improving their lot, at all.

    The NMC is the regulatory body for nursing. It exists to protect the public from nurses. It does not exist to support nurses.

    Dan Poulter is a medical doctor with very little NHS experience and completely unqualified to speak about nursing at all. He is also a representative of a government which is systematically dismantling the NHS.

    The nursing profession must change and soon.

    Anonymous | 10-Dec-2012 3:05 pm

    One wonders if a more robust, supportive response to the initial broadcast, by one of our professional organisations may have been enough of a difference for Jacintha. However, I do have a problem with laying the total blame for Jacintha's death at the door of these DJs. There is more to Jacintha's own story than we will probably ever know, but that does not make it any less tragic.

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  • Mags, well said, I agree with all of your sentiments.

    Although a foolish act, by these DJ's, it is not uncommon to "prank call", and it happens most mornings on radio 1! I'm sure that this alone could not have reulsted in these tragic consequences, it may well however, have been the straw that broke the camels back!

    And yes, we will not get protection from the NMC, as they, quite rightly exist to protect others from us! At least the RCN spoke out, but not until after the terrible outcome, whereas is really should have been before....

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  • Oops, "resulted"!

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  • Whilst feeling aggrevied at the actions these radio presenters and their managers have taken and deeply sorry for the nurses and their families.
    One has to wonder what guidance the staff were given regarding patient confidentiality irrespective of wether it was a Royal or Joe Public the same rules apply. How many times do we hear relatives complaining that the nurses won't tell them anything - espeacially over the phone.
    Having worked in the private sector and having had royals and other celebraties as patients I know that they have the same rights to privacy as any other patient. We recieved media training to help us deal with the devious methods tha the press employ.
    The hospital needs to look inward and review it's training and guidance for staff as well as making sure staff understand their responsibilites under the NMC code of conduct.

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  • To make it the DJ's fault, is a wonderful way of covering up the toxic stew which their deeds stirred up. Effectively they wandered into a zone of " the culture of Nurses and Nursing in the UK" which they naturally had no knowledge of and could never have dreamed of the consequences of their actions, as a result.

    What no one with any clout actually wants to examine is: why was this poor Nurse so stressed by this event, that she couldn't see her way out of it?

    With all the Noise about it being cruel and wicked hoax, no one seems to stopping and asking themselves... what is it about the culture in King Edward the V11, which would make a nurse feel so mortified that she is pushed over the edge. I have worked there and I have a suspicion that I know what they said to her, I am sure most of us nurses with a scrap of imagination, do too.

    Clearly it wasn't as supportive as the Management of KE7th thought it was. Though I suppose what Management thinks of as support and what nurses see as support, are worlds apart at the best of times!

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  • There is a memorial service being held on saturday in Westminster Abbey - I sincerely hope that representatives from the nmc and the rcn will be there, plus the PM, the australian embassy and the hospital. It would be nice if William could show his support.

    What a sad Christmas for her family, where do we send donations to? it won't help them with their grief but it would show how much we care about what has happened. I know there will be a great turn-out on Saturday from nurses and other health staff showing their respect and support to the family.

    Does it matter why she committed suicide? this prank should never have happened, it was ill-thought out and pathetic to inflict such an embarrassment on an innocent person - I can understand 'celebritries' getting prank calls but not professional staff going about their everyday life.

    This is very sad and let's hope nothing like this ever happens again. It's time people realised that nurses do care.

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  • Anonymous | 13-Dec-2012 4:50 pm

    "Does it matter why she committed suicide?"

    Of course it does. Particularly to her family. Suicide leaves behind heartbreak and many, many questions. The truth is that there will probably be few satisfactory answers.
    But that is no excuse to place the blame entirely on the shoulders of the Australian DJs. It would be wrong to make them the scapegoats here. There have already been consequences for them and probably more to come.
    We don't know what else was going on in this nurse's life or the state of her mental health prior to the call. There is no doubt that the call never should have occurred, but I don't think it's fair to demonise those involved.

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  • I think the radio presenters have been made scape goats, anyone could have made that call, it just happened it was them. What I'm concerned about is what happened and what was said to that nurse by the management in the 3 days in between the call and the tragedy????

    Bullying and harassment is rife in this industry, but still they do nothing about these perpetrators, and just allow them to carry on regardless, which basically means supporting the bullies.

    I wonder what support they claim they actually gave her for those 3 days behind closed doors....

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  • See today there are apparently three suicide notes left by this poor nurse, one of which apparently laid the blame for these events directly at the door of the hospital.
    Many, many failings here at all levels of involvement ( including, sadly, the nurses who handled this call) as well as heartache on all sides. The emotions the two DJs are going through after their stupid, childish prank backfired so horribly, well it wouldn't surprise me if we heard of another death or two before this finishes.

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