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ODP used rude tweets 'to blow off steam' about safety concerns

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A hospital worker has spoken of how he feels “embarrassed and ashamed” over a series of tweets he posted, including a comment that he was going to use pubic hair shaved from a patient to create the sideburns sported by Olympic cycling champion Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Paul Nam said he had apologised at the time he was first confronted and he still did over his “incredibly stupid” actions on Twitter in 2012.

The former operating department practitioner at Lincoln County Hospital used the popular social media site to post: “I was going to save the pubes from the first patient I shaved today and stick them on Wiggins-style”, a disciplinary hearing of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) was told.

The hearing was told Mr Nam attributed his behaviour to “frustration” about his “predicament”, including his “limited career progression” at the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.

Mr Nam told the panel hearing his case that using Twitter had been a means of “blowing off steam” for staff who felt unable to approach managers over concerns they had.

He said during his six years at the hospital there had been incidents that gave him “a great deal of concern”.

“We were all pretty ignorant of the consequences of something like Twitter, it was basically tweeting to one another and ourselves as a forum just to express our frustrations I suppose,” he said.

Mr Nam said the tweets had been meant as humour. He said: “There was no actual patient, it was just a joke around Wiggins’ sideburns.”

He added: “I felt ashamed really from day one when I was confronted with it and suspended from the trust, I felt foolish and ashamed for what I have done.

“I was not until it was presented to me in that forum that you realised your error as such. As far as I was concerned at the time, I was just tweeting to colleagues.”

The HCPC was told Mr Nam had been employed by the trust from April 2007.

He posted a series of tweets from August 1, 2012 before a member of operating theatre staff raised the alarm and he was suspended in September of that year.

Other tweets included the rude remarks about about working in the gynaecological theatres and about a particular surgeon, the HCPC was told. Questioned about this tweet, Nam said there was a “culture” among operating department practitioners of insulting people when they were intending to pay them a compliment.

“If you were insulting people you were actually paying them a compliment, the more insulting you were then the bigger the compliment,” he said. “I know that sounds a bit ridiculous.”

Mr Nam’s actions also included posting a photograph of the trust board and executive team with an accompanying comment “Bunch of Vandals except top right, No, he’s a complete *******”.

The hearing was told he posted a photograph of an ambulance and commented “casualty busy as ever! I am now waiting in A&E for the victims of light aircraft crash, will keep you posted”.

He also tweeting a photograph of a theatre list showing the names of surgeons and anaesthetists, and procedures commenting “think yourself lucky your (sic) not doing my list”.

Mr Nam has admitted posting the tweets and further admitted misconduct.

His lawyer, Lee Gledhill, has told members of the panel hearing that it is up to them to make a determination on an allegation that his fitness to practise is impaired as a result of misconduct.

The HCPC was told Mr Nam, who began working for the trust in April 2007, resigned from his post ahead of a disciplinary hearing in February last year.

The hearing, which took place in his absence, found that had he not resigned, he would have been dismissed, Ms Elia told the panel.

Elena Elia, for the HCPC, addressing the panel in closing submissions, said: “You may think that there has been an extraordinarily strong focus from the registrant on the issue he had with the management of the trust, rather than a real appreciation and acknowledgement of the inappropriateness of his tweets and the seriousness of the impact it would have on his colleagues and his profession.”

Mr Gledhill said the tweets, although “wholly inappropriate”, amounted to “banter” or “pub talk, unfortunately in public for others to read”.

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