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Exclusive: Nurse cleared by NMC highlights 'shame' of being suspended

  • 30 Comments

A bank nurse who was referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for misconduct and later cleared says her life and 30-year career have been left in tatters.

Linda Ellingham has not worked since being suspended three years ago and contacted Nursing Times because she said she wanted to highlight the “traumatic” consequences for nurses found not guilty in NMC cases.

“There are so many cases in the paper and on the web concerning nurses who have been found guilty by the NMC. However, there are very few about those where no misconduct has been found,” she said.

“It is now over three years since the allegations were made, my reputation has been destroyed, I have become de-skilled”

Linda Ellingham

Speaking on her own experience of being referred to the NMC, she said: “I was devastated and totally unprepared. I could not believe they were saying I was a danger to the public.”

Ms Ellingham had worked as a bank nurse for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust for more than 15 years when she was accused of turning up to work drunk. She was referred to the NMC by her employer – NHS Professionals – for that and a previous medication error, which she had reported immediately.

She then faced a near two-year wait before her case came before the NMC. Not long after her suspension she was removed from NHS Professionals’ register for another matter – cancelling numerous shifts at short notice – something she denies.

Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

Linda Ellingham

At an NMC hearing in January, she was cleared of misconduct relating to the drug error and the NMC panel found no proof she had come to work intoxicated, concluding she was fit to continue working as nurse.

But Ms Ellingham, who has since been diagnosed with depression and is now claiming benefits, said she had now given up hope of returning to the profession. “I had spent so long suspended and put all my energy into the hearing that when it was over I was totally lost,” she said.

“It is now over three years since the allegations were made, my reputation has been destroyed, I have become de-skilled,” she said. “I have nursed since 1979, it was my life and defined me as a person. The shame that is associated with being suspended is enormous.”

Ms Ellingham, who believes she was “disposed of” for speaking up about staffing issues, initially attempted to sue the trust for malicious prosecution, breach of contract and other charges but dropped the case for fear of the huge legal costs if she was unsuccessful.

Her case has subsequently been investigated by Ed Balls, her local MP and Labour’s shadow chancellor, who recently invited her to meet him in person to discuss her concerns.

Ed Balls

However, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust strongly denied Ms Ellingham was referred to the NMC for reporting staffing issues and said it actively encouraged staff to speak out about concerns.

“While the trust does not comment on individual cases, we should make it clear that any suggestion Linda Ellingham was referred to the NMC because she was outspoken about staffing issues is simply incorrect,” said a spokesman.

“We should also make it clear she was working for the trust through an agency and had her registration with that agency discontinued for reasons completely unrelated to the NMC referral some months earlier,” he added.

NHS Professionals said it could not comment individual cases but it said it was obliged to investigate complaints about flexible workers and refer any concerns to the NMC.

“NHS Professionals has a robust governance process that ensures each case is reviewed thoroughly using the evidence provided by the trust before making a referral to the NMC,” said a spokeswoman.

Flexible workers who have their registration with NHS Professionals terminated for any reason have the right to appeal that decision.

“This would result in an objective review of the case and an opportunity for the worker to present their case of appeal. NHS Professionals can confirm it fully adhered to this process,” added the spokeswoman.

The NMC said it advised nurses going through fitness to practise cases of the support available and had recently introduced a witness liaison team to help anyone taking part.

A spokeswoman said the regulator also worked to encourage the media to follow through cases and report the outcome where nurses were found not guilty.

  • 30 Comments

Readers' comments (30)

  • michael stone

    'She then faced a near two-year wait before her case came before the NMC.'

    That is the biggest problem here - things should not be dragged out for years, if at all possible: and it isn't obvious why this one was !

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  • The former UKCC and the NMC has always taken a long time to deal with issues referred to them. And now the NMC want all nurses on the register to pay an extra £20 per year for their registration. The NMC should be required by the regulator to justify what they do with the money. Nurses who have been referred to the NMC & found not to be in breach of any professional standards. In the case reported the Mid Yorkshire Trust are just trying to cover their back and appear to have no interest in staff

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  • I thought that the NMC had Interim Suspension Orders that are either applied or not at the outset of a case where a risk assessment is carried out. If I am reading this article correctly then that is what happened and the NMC suspended her registration. Given that the subsequent panel found the case not proven then the question should be directed to the NMC about what they did wrong. Did they get it wrong at the Interim Suspension stage in which case what have they done since to make sure it doesn't happen again, or was the ball dropped at the Panel stage where paperwork was lost for example so that the case could not be proven?

    Either way it looks like the NMC are the guilty party here for either acting expeditiously at the Interim suspension stage or shoddy admin/investigative work to the Panel stage, and if this is the case should the NMC be brought to book by the Professional Standards Authority?

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  • Felicity Somerville

    This does appear to be a problem with the current system. Cases are taking far too long to be heard which causes huge pressure and strain on individuals.

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  • Good God this is a first
    THE NMC HAS CLEARED A NURSE
    The trust should pay damages and the NMC who prevented her working should be made to pay her damages.
    It is disgusting that she has been made to go through this hell when she is innocent.
    Where is the EU Human Rights in all this?
    The NMC is not fit for purpose

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  • As an informed observer, as opposed to an NMC registrant, I think one of the issues here is that it's hit and miss whether the media (and local newspapers, in particular) go on to report the outcome of fitness to practise panel hearings when, earlier, they have reported the allegation and opening of the case. I can understand how frustrated registrants must feel if they are cleared but accounts of their case that are on the internet forever read as if the allegation is true. I'm afraid I don't know of an easy solution to this.

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  • I think this lady may have been used as scapegoat. whenever someone is seen to voice up they are often ostracized. Where is compassion in all of this especially if someone has been of service to you for all that time. The matter should have been investigated properly before causing the poor lady as well the NMC unnecessary work of having to find her not guilty. Nurses need to learn to be compassionate and supportive in order to raise care rather than be vindictive. Lessons should be learnt here. How can you care in uncaring setting/NHS.

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  • The whole NMC is not fit for purpose in my opinion. If a nurse/midwife is guilty or innocent of misconduct, the process is so utterly devastating that it is almost impossible for most people ever to return to practice. Given that very few people become part of the care community for the money one must assume they are doing it because they want to make a positive contribution to society - and they second they go wrong their lives are completely destroyed, they are publicly humiliated, de-skilled and often ostracised by their co-workers.

    The NMC (or its replacement) needs to be supporting the front line against "public outrage" every time something goes wrong but encouraging an environment in which mistakes are openly discussed and learned from rather than individuals being scapegoated for systemic failings which lead to individual issues - be they medical or behavioral. The start point of any investigation that does take place should be "how can we help this individual perform better" not "lets prove how bad he/she is".

    Sanctions need to be completely reconsidered as I fail to understand how suspension can benefit anyone: Time will not change anything except someone feeling of isolation and lack of up to date skills.

    I don't believe having a fearful and demoralised workforce is "Protecting the public" - instead its creating a death spiral of loosing clinicians, and increasing the pressure on those that are left until they either quit or make a mistake...

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  • NT I think you should have an agree/disagree tick tox for those who dont want to write

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  • She should claim damages from the NMC and the organisation she worked for, she has lost earnings because of an unsubstantiated allegation.
    I wonder if she was in a union, because if so she would be entitled to free representation.

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