It’s shocking enough that a nurse who was working at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford was convicted last month of 27 counts of rape, sexual assault and voyeurism.
Even more shocking to think that if the words of a student nurse had been heeded five years ago, his victims may not have suffered that fate.
A student nurse made a complaint of voyeurism against A&E staff nurse Andrew Hutchinson in 2009, and it seems that the ensuing investigation did not lead to any action being taken.
Why didn’t it result in him being referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council - or being investigated by the police? Oxford University Hospitals Trust said it did not have enough evidence to uphold the complaint, but is now reviewing its policies and procedures.
Although we don’t know what happened in 2009, it makes you wonder if complaints from students are treated with the same gravitas as those from qualified staff. Hopefully, new employment legislation introduced last week, which gives student nurses and midwives the same level of protection as registered staff, will encourage students to raise issues around poor care (see page 5). Sir Robert Francis QC’s Freedom to Speak Up Review states students should be trained in how to raise concerns - but will that really be effective if they aren’t listened to? When publicising Nursing Times Speak Out Safely campaign, I heard many students talking of how they felt ignored or ostracised or bullied when talking to their supervisors about poor practice.
Students are a gift to many trusts and organisations. They bring fresh eyes and ears, and may notice things staff are too busy to see or simply don’t challenge. It is vital that they feel able to question qualified staff or raise concerns.
Andrew Hutchinson was a criminal rather than a poor practitioner. But someone noticed something wasn’t right and spoke up. It may be that even a system more open to addressing concerns in the John Radcliffe wouldn’t have saved his victims. We’ll never know, but isn’t it worth finding out if a culture change could stop others like him in the future?
Nursing Times Speak Out Safely wants every student and staff member to feel safe in raising concerns.
Check whether your university, trust or organisation is signed up at nursingtimes.net/sos
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed