A former nurse at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust has been struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council after she failed to ensure a diabetic patient received vital insulin medication.
Senior staff nurse Ann King was struck off the register by an NMC fitness to practise panel on Friday while ward manager Jeannette Coulson was handed a three year caution order. Both were found guilty of errors that contributed to the death of 66-year-old Gillian Astbury in April 2007.
Ms Astbury was admitted to Stafford Hospital after a fall which fractured her pelvis. Despite her need for insulin being documented and prescribed, both nurses did not check her notes or ensure observations were taken and that the insulin was given. Ms Astbury went for 48 hours without insulin and ultimately slipped into a coma and died.
The NMC panel found the fitness to practise of both was impaired and their behaviour amounted to misconduct.
Ms Coulson and Ms King, who have both now retired from nursing, were also found guilty of a series of failures between 2005 and 2010, including swearing at patients and lying about putting fresh dressings on wounds.
In a letter to the NMC, Ms King blamed “systemic issues including poor staffing levels” at the trust, along with a poor ward layout and the failure of management to listen to staff concerns.
She said she and her colleagues “did their best under difficult conditions where staff who left were not replaced and the trust was concerned only with balancing the books”.
She accepted mistakes had been made in the care of Ms Astbury and claimed better staffing levels would have given her time to read Ms Astbury’s notes.
But the panel found Ms Astbury died “following a lack of care”. It said: “The panel is concerned that Mrs King, whilst admitting mistakes and expressing remorse, appeared keen to shift responsibility to others. The panel is clear that, during her shift, she was the nurse in charge of the team, with responsibility for [Ms Astbury].”
The panel accepted there were wider problems at the trust and that Ms King was not “solely responsible”, but added: “The failings of others cannot detract from the personal responsibility and accountability of Ms King for her own practice.”
Confirming the striking off order the panel said it was “the only sanction sufficient to protect the public and to maintain proper standards of conduct so as to maintain trust and confidence in the profession and in the NMC as a regulator.”
In relation to Ms Coulson, the panel said “the failings of others were of greater significance in contributing to [Ms Astbury’s] death than those of Ms Coulson.”
It concluded striking her off the nursing register would be “disproportionate” and instead chose a three year suspension.
This it said would “meet the public interest in conveying a message to the public and the profession about the importance of effective management and leadership in promoting and sustaining good clinical practice”.
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