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Nurse struck off for failings in care of Stephen Hawking

A nurse has been struck off the register for multiple charges of misconduct in relation to her care of renowned scientist Professor Stephen Hawking.

An independent panel from the Nursing and Midwifery Council today determined that Patricia Dowdy was no longer fit to practise as a nurse.

Among the charges faced by Ms Dowdy were financial misconduct; dishonesty; not providing appropriate care; failing to cooperate with the NMC; and not having the correct qualifications.

The investigation was launched after the NMC received a complaint from Professor Hawking’s family.

This resulted in Ms Dowdy being suspended for a period of 18 months in March 2016.

The wrongdoing took place in Cambridge, where the famed physicist worked and where he died in March 2018 from a form of motor neurone disease.

The trial to determine her fate started on 11 February and was concluded today.

Commenting on the conclusion of the case, Matthew McClelland, director of fitness to practise at the NMC, said: “The panel has found Mrs Dowdy failed to provide the standards of good, professional care that we expect and Professor Hawking deserved.

“As a result, Mrs Dowdy will no longer be able to practise as a nurse,” he added.

“As the public rightly expects, in serious cases such as this – where a nurse has failed in their duty of care and has not been able to evidence to the panel that they have learned from their mistakes and be fit to practise – we will take action,” Mr McClelland said.

The case hit the headlines this weekend after the Mail on Sunday revealed that media and the public had been banned from attending the hearing due to confidentiality issues in relation to the health of individuals involved.

Concerns were raised about transparency but NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe hit back to say she “stands by” the decision to hold the proceedings behind closed doors, as reported by Nursing Times.

A spokesman for the Hawking family said they had “complete confidence” in the NMC to come to an independent conclusion based on the facts of the case.

The NMC will publish the reasons for Ms Dowdy’s striking off order on the hearings section of its website this month.

But Vasanta Suddock, a former matron and care home manager, who has previously challenged the NMC, said she was “perplexed” about the case.

She highlighted that 10 of Mr Hawking’s nurses and his family complained of abuse by his second wife in 2003-04, which was later dropped due to lack of evidence and the whistleblowing nurses were told by the physicist’s lawyer to sign a confidentiality agreement.

“I can only presume that Patricia Dowdy was one of those nurses who whistleblew but unsure due to the level of secrecy. I am cautious about this outcome and wonder if Patricia Dowdy has been used as a scapegoat as close associates spoke very highly of her,” she said.

Ms Ruddock herself attempted to sue the regulator, claiming her professional reputation was “ruined” by the way it handled a previous fitness to practise case against her, as reported by Nursing Times.