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Nurse who 'switched off life support' will not face charges

  • 16 Comments

The agency nurse that accidentally switched off a patient’s life support machine will not face criminal charges.

Violeta Aylward, 55, was caught on film turning off tetraplegic Jamie Merrett’s ventilator by mistake in January 2009. She is currently suspended, pending an investigation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

However, she will not face criminal charges of grievous bodily harm after the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to act on a police report.

A statement from Wiltshire Police said: “We had a report on it and our vulnerable adult unit investigated. We sent a file to the CPS for consideration, and they said they would take no further action.”

Yesterday, the Patients Association reacted angrily to the case, describing it as an “appalling lapse in care” and questioning why lessons from previous cases had not been learnt.

Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “Though the individual circumstances might differ, the failings are the same. The NHS has been warned repeatedly about ensuring the staff it hires, agency or otherwise, are suitably trained to look after their patients.

“Who will be held to account for this? Or will managers walk away unscathed yet again, even though a life has been ruined?”

  • 16 Comments

Readers' comments (16)

  • The million dollar question is.... how do you switch off 'accidently'. It is either lack of competence or malicious. I do not accuse this nurse of either, I am just asking the question.
    Agency staff? I worked with an agency until recently. Their basic training/mandatory training consisted of video training (yes, even moving and handling was a 35 minute video). The 'trainer' had never ever worked in the care industry. How bad is this? The same training for new staff. Great, and most of the shifts for this agency were in NHS hospitals or NHS contracts.
    It is absolutely the responsibility of the NHS to ensure the staff being used are in fact qualified at every level and in every discipline they are hired to work in.
    This poor guy and his loved one's suffered enough after his accident and to be left yet further damaged by the very system in place to support his very life, is just appalling.

    With nursing agencies being de-registered from the CQC, who is going to be watching over them?

    'Nuff said.

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  • is this nurse being adequately supported by the NMC so that she can return to work in some appropriate capacity?

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  • Steve Williams

    It's too early to call a judgement on this one, there are too many variables.

    Was the machinery defective perhaps? Was the agency nurse even a Registered Nurse? Why were the family using a CCTV to monitor the patient? What are the PA referring to when they say "lessons from previous cases" had not been learnt? Is this really such a common occurrence in the UK - or are they referring to something deeper? Why did the CPS not see fit to prosecute on a charge of GBH (let alone reckless endangerment.)

    Let's see some more facts come out before we start blaming agencies, nurses or even (god forbid) management.

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  • I have worked for various agencies, here in Uk & overseas (Australia). There are different standards in training and if the agencies are run by non-nurses..there is the lack of experience & knowledge about standards of training, and what is important & what is not as important. Looking after a vulnerable adult or child is such a huge responsibility and if the agency nurse is not competent, then should not be employed. Full stop. Watch this space. There are still a lot of gaps in information.

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  • I have recently been asked,by a nurse back, to nurse a young adult in the community, who is ventilated. When I stated to the bank, that I have no experience in ventilatiors the reply was " It will be ok, there shouldnt be any problems." I was shocked at this reply by a RN!! I replyed that I would not take the shift as it is public safety issue. I couldnt forgive my self if anything went wrong and i couldnt deal with it. I also feel that the nurse involved in this case will be punishing herself more that the NMC could ever do. This is such a sad event that has happened.

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  • There seems to be more questions than answers, as Steve has said (above), not least is it really that easy to switch off a ventilator?

    It is a reminder to all not to take on a task that you are not trained to do, not to be pressured by mangers whether those are NHS or agency.

    The horror that poor man must have felt when he saw the switch being pushed is awful. He was a vulnerable adult harmed by a series of failures - there should be a serious case review as in the case of children who are seriously injured or harmed.

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  • AS AN OCCASSIONAL AGENCY NURSE IN SOUTH WALES , THE LAST 20 YEARS NURSING CLIENTS ON LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS IN THEIR OWN HOMES I AM NOT SURPRISED THIS HAS OCCURRED. HERE IN S. WALES THEY NOW EMPLOY NVQ 3 CARERS TO LOOK AFTER THESE CLIENTS NEVER MIND A QUALIFIED NURSE. AS FOR THE AGENCY ALL ARE GUILTY OF GIVING WORK OUT TO STAFF WHO ARE TOTALLY INEXPERIENCED OR SUITABLY QUALIFIED. I AM NOT ICU TRAINED BUT DO HAVE A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE IN THIS FIELD AND YET HAVE NO WORK NOW THROUGH THE AGENCY WHO ARE NOW INSTRUCTED TO PROVIDE UNQUALIFIED CARERS. I THINK THE WHOLE MANAGEMENT NEEDS TO BE REMOVED AND EMPLOY PEOPLE WHO REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. AS FOR THIS "NURSE" SHE IS NOT TO BLAME BUT THE AGENCY ARE AND ABOUT TIME TOO,THEY DO NOT AS SAID ABOVE PROVIDE PROPER COURSES/UPDATES/TRAINING DUE TO FINANCIAL LIMITATIONS YET THEY CHARGE EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS FOR A DECENT SERVICE THEY RARELY PROVIDE. IT IS AFTER ALL THE NURSES THAT PROVIDE AT THE FRONT LINE. ALL THE AGENCY WANT IT THEIR CUT AND PROFITS BECAUSE IF/WHEN THINGS GO WRONG YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN TO SORT IT OUT.

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  • AS AN OCCASIONAL AGENCY NURSE IN SOUTH WALES , THE LAST 20 YEARS NURSING CLIENTS ON LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEMS IN THEIR OWN HOMES I AM NOT SURPRISED THIS HAS OCCURRED. HERE IN S. WALES THEY NOW EMPLOY NVQ 3 CARERS TO LOOK AFTER THESE CLIENTS NEVER MIND A QUALIFIED NURSE. AS FOR THE AGENCY ALL ARE GUILTY OF GIVING WORK OUT TO STAFF WHO ARE TOTALLY INEXPERIENCED OR SUITABLY QUALIFIED. I AM NOT ICU TRAINED BUT DO HAVE A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE IN THIS FIELD AND YET HAVE NO WORK NOW THROUGH THE AGENCY WHO ARE NOW INSTRUCTED TO PROVIDE UNQUALIFIED CARERS. I THINK THE WHOLE MANAGEMENT NEEDS TO BE REMOVED AND EMPLOY PEOPLE WHO REALLY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. AS FOR THIS "NURSE" SHE IS NOT TO BLAME BUT THE AGENCY ARE AND ABOUT TIME TOO,THEY DO NOT AS SAID ABOVE PROVIDE PROPER COURSES/UPDATES/TRAINING DUE TO FINANCIAL LIMITATIONS YET THEY CHARGE EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS FOR A DECENT SERVICE THEY RARELY PROVIDE. IT IS AFTER ALL THE NURSES THAT PROVIDE AT THE FRONT LINE. ALL THE AGENCY WANT IT THEIR CUT AND PROFITS BECAUSE IF/WHEN THINGS GO WRONG YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN TO SORT IT OUT.

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  • It is appaling that professionally qualified nurses responsible for, and entrusted with, the care of the sick of the nation speculate and pass judgement on those involved in this tragic case without being in full possession of the facts. Then they complain that the public, patients, doctors and other healthcare professionals don't show them the respect they feel they deserve.

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  • I think it is right that an open forum is here for anyone (I am not a nurse) to express their views.
    We may not all agree on whether those opinions are correct or valid, but it's good that there is a debate about this. I feel it's very helpful to gain better understanding from the point of view of healthcare professionals and others.
    I have every respect for those professionals who do a good job.
    We are losing a lot of things in our society right now, let's not let freedom of speech be one of them.
    KR

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