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Former Mid Staffs chief nurse 'risked patient safety', says NMC panel

A former chief nurse at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital has been found guilty of exposing patients to danger by a fitness to practise panel.

By not ensuring that there were adequate nursing staff on a number of wards, Janice Harry put patients at risk, the Nursing and Midwifery Council panel ruled.

Between 1998 and 2006 Ms Harry failed to ensure there were adequate nursing staff in the accident and emergency department, the emergency admission unit (EAU) and another ward, the panel found.

Ms Harry was also criticised for not ensuring that her colleagues provided patient dignity and privacy in the EAU between 2004 and 2006.

in addition, the chief nurse failed to ensure there was appropriate food and drink in the unit, the panel concluded.

She will also be reprimanded for using inappropriate language towards a colleague after telling her that she was a “waste of space”.

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 and in 2002 was appointed director of clinical standards and chief nurse, as well as director of infection prevention and control.

Ms Harry has appeared before an NMC 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 cleared her of others.

She was cleared of charges relating to cleanliness and hygiene, inappropriate handling of incident forms, telling staff off, reducing a colleague to tears and disregarding staff concerns, among other allegations.

When giving evidence to the disciplinary hearing in London, Mrs Harry admitted she could be “intense” at times in her dealings with staff.

She described herself as “firm but fair” but said her sometimes “very straightforward” manner could be misinterpreted as aggressive.

“I think I am firm but fair, I know I can be quite intense sometimes, if I am passionate about something or care about something,” she told the panel.

In evidence, Mrs 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.

The panel will now decide what sanctions to impose on the nurse.

Stafford Hospital was at the centre of a major public inquiry after it was found that poor care could have led to the deaths of hundreds of patients as a result of maltreatment and neglect.

The inquiry highlighted the “appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people” at the trust and probes into the scandal revealed that many patients were left lying in their own urine and excrement for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.

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Readers' comments (9)

  • Nicholson still off the hook, I gather!

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  • I'm waiting to read about the senior clinicians, medics and surgical consultants that have been brought before the GMC and that they have also been suspended or struck off. I may have missed reading the part they also contributed to this situation! Could they have refused to treat patients in this hospital? They are guilty by inaction and not fighting for the lives of the patients. Or is it just me that feels the nurses have become a soft target for all the failures that occur. I won't hold my breath.

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  • Not in any way condoning the Director of Nursings failure to act, however.....Nurses are always the scapegoats!!
    Anon 6-nov 9.11pm and Anon 6-nov 11.21pm - spot on!!

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  • Although some nurses spoke out, most did not. It was the efforts of patients families and friends fighting over a period of years which brought about the Francis Inquiry; not actions taken by nursing staff.
    Nurses need to learn that until they change dramatically the way they operate within the NHS, patients will continue to suffer.
    The interminable moaning has to stop. The endless listing of how many jobs nurses do in a shift, how many breaks they miss and how many hours they stay behind, has to stop. The complete lack of motivation and inability to take united and appropriate action to halt the patient abuse tolerated on a daily basis, must change.
    Until nurses change what they are doing, they will always be the scapegoats and, to a large extent, it will be deserved. They are supposed to be patient advocates. Time to start behaving accordingly.

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  • I see that now that the NMC have made a judgement in this case that NT have suspended comments on that story "because of the legal nature".

    Presumably they will be extending the same courtesy to all Nurses who are dealt with by the NMC in the same way?

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  • Anon 7 Nov - 1.08

    Advocacy is not just 1 professions domain.
    I suggest you read the Hippocratic oath - to practice medicine with integrity.
    Not sure there was much integrity around.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Nov-2013 3:49 pm

    If you are a nurse, I suggest that you look to your own responsibility and integrity before looking around to spread the blame. Had more nurses displayed any integrity hundreds, possibly thousands of lives would not have ended as they did in Mid Staffs.

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  • 30 November 2013

    This comment is intended on "NMC decision on MidStaffs former CNO too lenient." Due to the nature of the article. I will tell a story.

    In a far, far away jungle. Inside the Ant Hill, there is Chief ANT named Mac, who is a just and kind ruler. She had a wife named Hetty who is given a title First ANT.
    She also rules the palace and the Red ANT nation in the absence of the Chief.

    One day, Chief Mac is stricken by an incurable illness. Which left the Red ANT nation to attacks by the hordes of Black ANTS called ronins. The entire Red Ant nation was annihilated by the attacks of the ronins.

    The Red Ants picketed at the palace and address their grievance to the First Ant, Hetty. Hetty ignored the Red Ants.

    Next to the Red Ant Hill is a giant acacia tree bearing with fruits and lushes leaves. An exiled Ant Hero lives in the acacia tree who learned about the Chiefs malady. He decided to return at the Red Ant Hill to help fight against the ronins. With the help of his friends. He secretly went back to the Red Ant Hill.

    The First Ant knew about the return of the Ant Hero because of her power and influence.

    The First Ant, Hetty strongly warned the Ant Hero that their would be an unforeseen consequence if he would return to the Ant Nation.

    One afternoon, a devastating news was announced. The Ant Hero was cut into pieces by a slashing Leaf Cutter Ant. Which resulted to the demised of the Ant Hero.

    Next day, an Ant court hearing was held. It took a month before a ruling or decision was made by the Ant court house. The Ant court house decided that the First Ant, Hetty was innocent in all counts.

    To surmise, as long as you have influence and power in the Ant's society. No Ant is convicted.

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  • I wonder if the NT editorial team will now reflect on their decision to close the comments for the original decision now that the sanction is to be reviewed? The apparent leniency is what the few posts were discussing. So, bearing in mind that the watchdog has agreed with the opinions of many, why did NT act so expeditiously in this case when hundreds of previous cases have been allowed to put ex-registrants in the virtual stocks and to be kicked while they were down?

    Some might say that NT was protecting itself or the posters from charges of libel or cyberbullying, some might say it was running scared of litigation, and a few may suggest that they were potentially being complicit and closing ranks around a senior person.

    Whatever the reason, NT needs to make the reason for this decision to curtail debate in this area clear to all, or to make a policy decision that means that all misconduct cases will be closed to comment from now on. Either is good with me, but it can't be one rule for one and another for everyone else.

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