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Nurse 'switched off life support'


An agency nurse who was captured on CCTV switching off a paralysed patient’s life support machine and then panicking as she unsuccessfully attempted to turn it back on has been suspended pending an investigation by the NMC.

Tetraplegic Jamie Merrett was left with severe brain damage after Violetta Aylward switched off the machine keeping him alive.

Aylward, an agency nurse working for the NHS, was caught on camera turning off the ventilator while caring for Mr Merrett at his home in Devizes, Wiltshire.

The incident was filmed on a bedside camera set up by Mr Merrett after he became concerned over the care he was receiving.

The 37-year-old was left paralysed from the neck down following a car accident in 2002.

Miss Aylward is seen in the footage touching the ventilator before a high pitched warning tone indicates it has been switched off.

Unable to restart the machine or to properly operate resuscitation equipment, the nurse panics. The machine was only switched on again by paramedics who rushed to the scene. It had been turned off for 21 minutes.

Mr Merrett suffered serious brain damage due to the machine being switched off.

Miss Aylward has been suspended while an investigation is carried out by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The agency that supplied her, Ambition 24hours, declined to comment while an internal investigation continues.

The Wiltshire Primary Care Trust, which was responsible for providing care for Mr Merrett, said it could not comment as legal action is pending.


Readers' comments (52)

  • OMG, why was she not trained in ventillator care? Even HCA's working with complex care patients in their own homes have the necessary training. So why didn't this nurse know what to do? Also, why didn't this nurse know how to use resus equipment?

    They'll be questions abounding on this case. I am very much in favour of complesx care in the community, but surely there should be evidence of competency before we allow anyone (RGN or HCA) to support such vulnerble people in an environment where they are on their own with no backup.

    What a screw up. This poor guy was already unhappy about his care, hence the camera in the first place. This'll make a lot of people feel even more vulnerable abaout care in the community.

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  • Apart from the obvious competence issues, surely there should be some kind of awareness of sub-judice and potential prejudice of deliberations either by the NMC or the Courts?

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  • Unfortunately for all involved this is a tragic situation.

    However I cannot express the importance of staff accepting responsibilities only for tasks which they have been adequately trained to undertake.

    There are numerous questions to be asked to include:

    1) Why did she accept the job if she did not have the correct skills and theoretical underpinning to support her practice.

    2) Did the agency check her competencies before assigning her to this job?

    Evidence of competency is not in place to be punitive but rather as a safeguard for all practitioners.

    Transforming Community Services will see more complex care within the community. I urge all practitioners become empowered and " Evidence your Practice!!!"

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  • A Horrendous story with consequences that this patient has to bear for the rest of his life
    THis nurse was wrong to accept this job
    when she was clearly not trained and competant, we are accountable for our actions, NO Thats the word if you can not do it, and asking for training i wouldnt go near a ventalator with out an up date
    The agency are at fault for not ensuring this nurse was trained
    The Trust invovled are also accountable this patient should of had handover from the tust to the community where were the checks? that this patient was safe to be looked after at home
    In this No Blame Culture !!! i am sure they are all falling over them selves to cover there backs
    It makes me So Angry Yet again the vunerable public are at the mercy of these idiots and it wont just be community nurses who will have to bear the public back lash
    Can you imagine how vunerable patients will feel when they are told they can have care in the community
    And the Biggest Loser The Poor Patient who was left Brain Damaged

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  • Before we judge this nurse, a thorough investigation should first take place, let not the media be the judge of this. For one thing CCTV footage is not clear whether she really switched off the ventilator or just merely touching it. Lets not react like readers in Daily Mail. Cheers.

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  • how stupid and arrogant some of these comments and typical of some nurses who think they always have the right to pass moral judgement on others even when they have no idea of the exact circumstances of how this tragic accident happened beyond what they have read in the press. please leave it to the experts at the NMC and when the press reports the details of the outcome then can one express one's opinion.

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  • If the proposed cuts to nursing staff go ahead we are going to see more tragic incidents like this with staff being shared between wards and the increased use of agency nurses. How many more patients have to suffer before the government realises the consequences of understaffing wards.

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  • I agree that we should not be passing judgement on this person without all the facts and it should be left to the proper agencies to investigate thoroughly. I feel nothing but compassion for everyone involved..... it is tragic for them all especially the patient and their family.

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  • Surely this is a system failure as much as anything. If I want to turn off my computer it asks if I really want to do this - if the machine was not faulty then surely it was too easy to turn it off. In community it is not only nurses that will be able to access these machines so it should not be possible to just turn it off by mistake and it does not seem as if the nurse was trying to turn it off. I also wonder why the patient had resorted to CCTV when he was unhappy with his care surely some action should have been taken when he complained [as I expect he did].

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  • Lots of people potentially to blame here.

    The agency who employed her (was she suitably qualified for working in such an envirinment and on such equipment?

    The nurse herself for not aknowledging her limitations.

    The trust for not safeguarding this patient adequately.

    A tragic incident for the patient and his family.

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