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Reprimand for Facebook nurse whistleblower

  • 5 Comments

A nurse who expressed concerns in this magazine and on the social networking website Facebook about standards at his hospital has been reprimanded by the nursing regulator.

Colin Stewart Toseland warned that wards at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in north Wales were unsafe.

He also told Facebook friends the hospital had asbestos in it and bosses did not have enough money to pay nurses’ wages before “threatening” to go public.

The posts came two years after he wrote an article in the Nursing Times in 2008 about a day in the life of a bed manager, which claimed the hospital had a “lack of medical capacity”.

Following the publication of the article and his posts on Facebook, Mr Toseland was the subject of a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise hearing.

A three-person panel decided to throw out allegations the registrant had acted unprofessionally with his Nursing Times piece.

However, it found Mr Toseland’s online complaints had impaired his fitness to practise.

Panel chair Tessa King said she had a range of sanctions at her disposal - including suspending the registrant as well as striking him off.

However, she viewed his errors as being at the lower end of the scale - and imposed a 12 month caution instead.

She said: “The purpose of sanctions is not to be punitive, but to maintain high standards and public confidence in the nursing profession.

“Taking no action would have been inappropriate given the registrant’s mistakes were deliberate, inappropriate and repeated.

“However, a caution order is sufficient. While his remarks had the potential for public harm there was no evidence any actual harm taking place.

“Mr Toseland has a passion for the nursing profession, and clinically he is very good at his job, but on these occasions he overstepped the mark.”

During an earlier hearing, the panel was told by case presenter Miranda Stotesbury that the NMC had clear guidelines on whistleblowing - and that Facebook was not an appropriate way of raising concerns.

Mr Toseland used the site in February 2010 to vent his spleen about wards being unsafe and there being asbestos in surgical theatres at the hospital.

Although the health board later carried out an asbestos removal programme, Mr Toseland still wrote to hospital chiefs admitting his conduct had been “unacceptable” and promised not to do it again.

But six months later, he used the site again to admonish his employers - this time for allegedly not supporting workers properly and also saying there was not enough money to pay nurses’ wages before “threatening” to go public.

“The issue of whistleblowing has been well documented in the media,” said Ms Stotesbury.

“But there were plenty of mechanisms in place for the registrant to raise any concerns that he had.

“As a senior nurse he would have known this. He did not escalate his concerns through the proper and appropriate channels.”

“And by not raising his concerns in the proper way the registrant has damaged the reputation of the profession. And the public may lose faith in the nursing profession if no action was taken.”

Mr Toseland was not present at the hearing in Cardiff, although he had previously written to the panel expressing regret about his online posts.

Following the panel’s verdict, Ms King said: “We hope this matter can now be put to bed and I would like to wish Mr Toseland well in his career in the future.”

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  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • Why, why, why do normally intelligent people lose their sense of right and wrong and common sense when it comes to social media sites? It IS inappropriate, it ISN'T okay, and it stays there forever thus not necessarily seeing what happens in the end. These lapses of judgement worry me that someone who does it can lapse in other areas for example confidentiality. I appreciate none of us are perfect but this is clearly out of order - and he did it again! How old is he - 12? All professionals know there is a hierarchy procedure re. complaints and grievances so anyone who thinks it's okay to bypass that has something missing in their way of thinking I'm afraid. Frustration is one thing, but foolishness is another.

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  • What about the serious lapse in standards and patient safety issues that Mr Roseland reported?

    It is inappropriate and it isn’t okay for the Health Authority not to respond to serious concerns raised.

    The NHS is littered with staff who have tried raising concerns in the correct way and ended up with their career in tatters.

    I wonder how many staff tried to raise concerns in Staffordshire and were ignored ?

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  • ........and just to be clear - I am not advocating use Facebook as a forum for things like this.

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  • I agree with you Felicity about standards and patient safety being addressed. However, two wrongs don't make a right. I once nearly went to the paper about concerns I had that were not being looked at as they should. Had I done so though my career would have been in tatters anyway and I have mouths to feed. You are damned if you do, and you are damned if you don't.

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  • Where his remarrks checked out? I worked for a short while at Glan Clwyd-they were so short of cash that no leaving health worker could be replaced and Bank Nurses temp employed instead, but the nurses were the best I had ever worked with and did their very best to give care, even though so understaffed. Patients were fed and kept clean, even on the most hectic acute wards. Their bedside manners and respect for patients AND one anopther was note worthy

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