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Agency nurse struck off for switching off ventilator

An agency nurse who was caught on film switching off the ventilator in the home of a man needing round-the-clock care, and then attempting to switch it back on, has been struck off.

Violeta Aylward was on the books of an agency as a registered learning disabilities nurse and had no intensive care unit (ITU) training or experience when she went in December 2008 to care for Jamie Merrett, a man paralysed from the neck downwards, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) was told.

The 39 year-old from Devizes was “completely dependent” on a mechanical ventilator to breathe and needed 24-hour care following a road traffic accident in 2002, the NMC was told.

He had become so concerned about “significant failings” in his nursing care in relation to his ventilator on two previous occasions that he had installed CCTV in his room.

Footage later showed Ms Aylward, who was on the books of Ambition 24hours Nursing Agency, switching off his ventilator and then pushing buttons in an attempt to turn it back on at the start of a night shift on January 8 2009.

Neil Moloney, for the NMC, said in early December 2008 the agency had been asked to provide a nurse to cover some shifts caring for Mr Merrett and had been aware of the requirement that the nurse must have either ITU training or experience. Ms Aylward was on the agency’s books as a registered learning disabilities nurse which was “not the same” as a registered general nurse, he said.

He said the CCTV footage was viewed following the incident, showing Ms Aylward going into his room at around 8.05pm to undertake observations. She had left and then returned shortly afterwards to check the ventilator settings.

“She is seen to have pushed several buttons and after a moments, a red light appeared on the ventilator and the alarm was activated,” he said. “The registrant continued to push more buttons on the ventilator in an attempt to turn it back on.”

Ms Aylward worked a shift despite knowing that she was not competent to do so and that she provided inadequate care to Mr Merrett. A BBC report said Mr Merrett was left brain damaged after the incident.