Reprimand for Facebook nurse whistleblower
A nurse who expressed concerns in this magazine and on the social networking website Facebook about standards at his hospital has been reprimanded by the nursing regulator.
Colin Stewart Toseland warned that wards at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in north Wales were unsafe.
He also told Facebook friends the hospital had asbestos in it and bosses did not have enough money to pay nurses’ wages before “threatening” to go public.
The posts came two years after he wrote an article in the Nursing Times in 2008 about a day in the life of a bed manager, which claimed the hospital had a “lack of medical capacity”.
Following the publication of the article and his posts on Facebook, Mr Toseland was the subject of a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise hearing.
A three-person panel decided to throw out allegations the registrant had acted unprofessionally with his Nursing Times piece.
However, it found Mr Toseland’s online complaints had impaired his fitness to practise.
Panel chair Tessa King said she had a range of sanctions at her disposal - including suspending the registrant as well as striking him off.
However, she viewed his errors as being at the lower end of the scale - and imposed a 12 month caution instead.
She said: “The purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive, but to maintain high standards and public confidence in the nursing profession.
“Taking no action would have been inappropriate given the registrant’s mistakes were deliberate, inappropriate and repeated.
“However, a caution order is sufficient. While his remarks had the potential for public harm there was no evidence any actual harm taking place.
“Mr Toseland has a passion for the nursing profession, and clinically he is very good at his job, but on these occasions he overstepped the mark.”
During an earlier hearing, the panel was told by case presenter Miranda Stotesbury that the NMC had clear guidelines on whistleblowing - and that Facebook was not an appropriate way of raising concerns.
Mr Toseland used the site in February 2010 to vent his spleen about wards being unsafe and there being asbestos in surgical theatres at the hospital.
Although the health board later carried out an asbestos removal programme, Mr Toseland still wrote to hospital chiefs admitting his conduct had been “unacceptable” and promised not to do it again.
But six months later, he used the site again to admonish his employers - this time for allegedly not supporting workers properly and also saying there was not enough money to pay nurses’ wages before “threatening” to go public.
“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.”
“And by not raising his concerns in the proper way the registrant has damaged the reputation of the profession. And the public may lose faith in the nursing profession if no action was taken.”
Mr Toseland was not present at the hearing in Cardiff, although he had previously written to the panel expressing regret about his online posts.
Following the panel’s verdict, Ms King said: “We hope this matter can now be put to bed and I would like to wish Mr Toseland well in his career in the future.”
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