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Why I'm horrified at the NMC's treatment of Margaret Haywood

  • 25 Comments

Julie Fagan, founder member of the Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions in the NHS, on the campaign to support Margaret Haywood, the nurse struck off for exposing care failure on national television

As a result of a letter published in Nursing Times on 31 March, I was asked to contribute to a Radio Five Live discussion about the striking off of nurse Margaret Haywood by the NMC.

In readiness for the discussion, I read the reasons given by the NMC’s Fitness to Practise panel for their decisions and was horrified. They demonstrate the panel’s failure to grasp the issues and protect the public. There has also been a grave miscarriage of justice.

I therefore conclude that they are not fit for purpose and an alternative body should be set up to take over their role, for the following reasons:

1. Patients, relatives and staff ‘made complaints and raised concerns about fundamental basic nursing failures… occurring on Peel and Stewart Ward in summer and autumn 2004’. The panel described these failures as ‘of an exceptionally serious nature’ (p3) and ‘dreadful’ (p8). By their very nature they were putting patients’ lives at risk and may even have caused premature deaths.

The head of matrons took no action about these complaints and concerns until 17 December, when he ‘carried out an inspection of the ward’ (p2).

Matrons are supposed to be aware of what is happening on their wards.

Why didn’t the matron for that ward already know there were significant problems?

Why had he or she not taken any action?

Why didn’t the NMC pick up this failure?

Why did they show no concern that it took the head of matrons so long from the initial complaints until December to make any response?

Why did they think ‘an inspection of the ward’ was a satisfactory way to investigate the serious complaints?

 

2. The head of matrons took until April 2005 to write a report.

Why did the panel express no concern at the length of time taken to write a report regarding exceptionally serious and dreadful failures?

The panel said that the ‘report and recommendations therein contained was in the view of the panel not very impressive’. So why did the panel not consider the report and recommendations as a major failure by the trust to protect patients – the fundamental duty of the NMC and reason for the hearing?

3. It took the showing of the Panorama programme before ‘much more significant recommendations were made’, said the Director of Nursing (p3). So Margaret Haywood’s case had been made. She had also expressed her concerns to the new ward manager before filming without any change occurring.

4. The NMC said she should have used the trust’s whistleblower’s policy and taken it to various levels of management or to the NHS counter fraud unit or the Department of Health directly, if necessary.

Why did the NMC panel think anyone would take action if all the complaints and concerns had thus far failed to bring about any change?

Why couldn’t they see that the trust had had an opportunity to take action, had made a very poor attempt to investigate and had therefore failed completely in its duty of care to patients, as other trusts have been found to fail – the latest being Stafford Hospital, resulting in patient deaths?

5. Margaret Haywood had to answer a second charge of failure to assist a call for help by a fellow nurse.

The panel failed to comment on the punitive behaviour of the head of matrons who ‘was seeking information concerning the behaviour of the registrant on the ward’ (p4) and made an allegation 14 months later. ‘There was no criticism of her [Margaret Haywood’s] behaviour at the time by any of the protagonists in the incident.’ (p4). Why?

CAUSE has found this behaviour to be common. People who are failing in their duty of care try to deflect their poor practice by making false allegations about the whistleblower and, worse still, their trust upholds their actions. In other words, there is a culture of cover up and unjust investigations and disciplinary hearings.

This will not have been the first time the panel has met this, but once again they fail to denounce the practice. Why?

Why do they not see this as a denigration of the registrant’s character and reputation, as well as a waste of everyone’s time? It is also a very distressing experience to be falsely accused, and takes immense amounts of time and energy to write a defence.

6. Margaret Haywood believed the protocol established with the BBC meant that patients would not be included in the programme without their or their relatives’ consent. She avoided filming patients’ faces and I understand that where that had been unavoidable, the faces were blurred during transmission. Presumably to obtain the necessary proof that poor nursing care was happening causing suffering to patients, it would take more than filming one shift to establish.

The panel seemed unable to understand this. They seemed unable to understand that Margaret Haywood genuinely believed she was acting in the best interests of the patients and that filming the evidence was the only way to stop this terrible suffering and possible loss of life. Why?

The panel seemed to find it hard to believe that she could trust the BBC to keep to its word and protect patients’ identity. They did not establish any reason why she should not have done so. Why?

7. The reason for striking the registrant off the register (p7 and 8) makes chilling reading. Margaret Haywood’s belief that she was acting to protect patients is ignored. Her integrity is denied. The public interest is ignored. The fact that Margaret Haywood stood by her claims is seen as a ‘lack of any real insight into her misconduct’ (p8).

Why did the panel fail to look at the bigger picture of public protection from these ‘exceptionally serious and dreadful failures’?

The message the panel has given to nurses is destructive to the cause of changing the culture of blame and looking instead at the failure of systems to protect patients.

I have contacted my local MP, who is a barrister and QC, and I have asked him for his considered opinion of the verdict (available here) and his representation to the Department of Health to overturn this unsafe decision and suspend the Fitness to Practise panel’s activities.

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  • 25 Comments

Readers' comments (25)

  • I do not believe that Margaret should have been struck off. I wondered if she was being paid to do the filming?

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  • I am completely disgusted by the NMC

    Any news about an appeal? How is she?

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  • Margaret does plan to appeal. As soon we have more information on this we will publish it here.<br/><br/>Clare Lomas, <br/>reporter, Nursing Times

  • Who makes up the NMC fitness to pactice panel and what right do they have to be making these life-changing decisions without at least some consultation? Even a murderer is granted the benefit of the jury system. Where is the justice here? Their judgement appears skewed to say the least.

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  • I had a situation where I was bullied and witch hunted by a community health care trust and lies made against me. Allegations were false and I as a lone individual had no-one to stand in my defence. When you have an organisation up against you, it is very difficult to speak out. As a result the NMC sided with the health authority and I was left picking up the pieces.
    It seems that it is one rule for one and one for another. Justice is not real in this country and the NMC lawyers should also be taken to task for decisions where individuals are hounded and treated unfairly. I have now moved on with my life but at a cost to my personal integrity and having to put nursing as a way of life behind me, something which I truly loved doing and was very capable of.

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  • What a mess! what has this exercise proven? a. if you are a nurse and you see bad practice and no-one in your hospital/home etc is interested....close your eyes to what is happening....
    Good message? I dont think so. When I trained as a nurse, our Matron, a real Matron in those days said, Treat every patient as if they were your mother or father. Would the panel who decided to remove this nurse from the register have been so quick to judge if their parents had been one of those patients who were ill treated? I think not. Nursing needs to stop being so hidebound by rules and regulations that help no one, least of all the patient. Lets stop assuming the hospital is always right and seriously look at these cases and make the right decisions for a change.

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  • What kind of message has the NMC sent to any nurse who is concerned about patient care and safety, especially if they have exhausted all possible whistle blowing options in their Trust. It seems to indicate quite clearly "SHUT UP OR ELSE.....!!!"
    The 'cover-up', 'us and them', culture is so deeply ingrained within all Trust management hierarchies that the attitude appears to be that nurses, already considered 'second-class' employees whose opinions count for nothing, should be penalized severely for highlighting any deficits in care, especially to the media. The NMC decision, without a doubt, condones this type of attitude and gives a green light to these bean-counting, target chasers to be even more confident when disregarding concerns raised by nursing staff. The kind of self-assurance that a PCT Senior Manager obviously had when heard to say at a recent PCT gathering "Newspapers don't scare me!"
    Margaret Haywood should be applauded for her actions and her committment to her patients not villified and and punished by a panel of her peers at the NMC. It is they, and not Margaret who should be brought to task for setting the Nursing profession back by at least 20 years.
    With more than three decades of working in the NHS I can only say, regretfully that nothing changes and add that a mantra once recited by nurses in the 70's is just as pertinent today:
    "WE THE WILLING, LED BY THE UNKNOWING
    ARE DOING THE IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE UNGRATEFUL.
    FOR SO LONG WE HAVE DONE SO MUCH WITH SO LITTLE
    WE MUST NOW BE CONTENT TO DO EVERYTHING WITH NOTHING!"
    Good Luck Margaret and Thank You for standing up to be counted.

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  • I too applaud Margaret Haywood for her brave action to highlight the vulnerable patients in our care, along with the staff shortages.

    Having watched the program myself it left me cold, and yes to those who are unaware this really does go on!, well done for bringing the plight of the patient to the fore. Compassion for the compassionate nursing staff please.

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  • How do we find out if the Nurse managers who dealt with the complaints have been reported to the NMC as to their fitness to practice?

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  • I work in a small community hospital whose patient care is very good. I feel that Margaret got a very poor deal with the MNC. If I had occassion to report poor care, I would feel very unlikely to do so, although I value patient care, I also value my registration.

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  • I also applaud Margaret. The NMC have been naive in their expectations of their actions.
    I tried to address bad practice in my area but was bullied and eventually maliciously lied about, was suspended and dismissed for misconduct arising out of exaggerations and untruths made by a clique of staff who had been in that area for many years and resented a newcomer trying to change their practice. RCN advised me not to appeal as the NMC adopt the attitude that "if you appeal you are not displaying insight into your failings" What protection then do have experienced, caring and responsible nurses have these days?
    In my case, conflicting statements, changed statements, leading questions and an investigation that would never in a month of sunday's stand a chance in a court of law led my trust to state "this case has highlighted a culture within that area, we must be seen to be acting" I feel I have been scapegoated for the sake of political correctness. I know for a fact that abuse is being carried out in that area on a daily basis amongst that clique, but has this been addressed? No. The civil standard of proof that the NMC have adopted will lead to many being struck off just because there is a small chance that allegations might be true.

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