Nurses disciplined at misconduct hearings

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

Five nurses working at Wigan Infirmary have been disciplined after a misconduct hearing found their fitness to practice had been impaired.

Disciplinary proceedings had taken place against six NHS employees from the borough’s hospitals over several weeks by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in London.

I’m disgusted. It has taken seven years for this to happen and these nurses have continued to practice without hindrance or caution all this time

Michael McDermott

All of the half dozen nurses were found to have acted wrongly in the care of a man at Wigan Infirmary in December 2010, although not all of the charges were proved. Five of them were hit with one-year cautions but the panel found Denise Bentley’s fitness to practice was not impaired as she had since retired from the profession.

However, the other five Caroline Wellington, Deborah Travis, Joanne Thomas, Karen Conroy and Laura Bradbury were all rapped.

The nurses had faced a litany of charges in relation to poor quality of care for the man, who the Wigan Observer understands to be Paul Clegg from Platt Bridge who died in hospital.

Mr Clegg’s family and a close friend both questioned why it had taken so long for action to be brought against the nurses and criticised the health authorities.

The hearings against the six nurses have taken four weeks to complete, because of the number involved and the complexity of the charges.

The proceedings began on June 26 and only finished last Friday.

Ms Bentley, who did not attend the hearing and was unrepresented, was found to have failed to have taken a sample of blood from the man, described in the documents as Patient A, and have it tested between December 13 and 17, 2010.

She was also found to have failed to take observations from the man, read his records, examine him or seek details of his condition from a colleague following the shift handover at around 8am on December 17.

The panel found Ms Bradbury had similarly failed to examine Patient A and check his observation chart and also did not get a doctor to review him between around 8.45pm on December 16 and 2am on December 17.

She also failed to take observations between 2am and 8am and did not question giving him oramorph, despite him showing signs of breathing problems.

However, the NMC was forced to concede there was no evidence that she had acted incorrectly at the morning handover and not informed colleagues properly of the situation.

The disciplinary proceedings also heard she had stopped working in the health service in 2015 and was now a carer for an elderly relative.

Ms Conroy also failed to carry out the same checks and observations on Patient A during the evening shift and she admitted she had not done observations through the early hours of the morning.

She also admitted, and the panel proved, that she had given Patient A Tramadol despite having low oxygen levels and given him diazepam or oramorph during the night even though he was showing signs of respiratory issues.

The NMC once again could not produce evidence that the morning handover was not done correctly but Ms Conroy admitted she had not told staff taking over that regular observations needed to be taken.

The hearing found Ms Thomas instructed another colleague to give Patient A oramorph at around 12.20 on December 17.

This was done even though Ms Thomas had not read his observations chart and was showing signs of breathing issues.

The panel then found even more mistakes made in Patient A’s care on the morning of December 17 as his condition worsened.

At around 10.10am Ms Travis did not carry out a review of his condition even though he told her he could no longer move his arm or was in pain.

The hearing decided she knew he required urgent medical assistance and yet did not inform a doctor or the shift co-ordinator.

She was also involved in giving him tramadol, even though she had been indicated not to do so.

Ms Wellington was also found to have been made aware of Patient A’s pain or problems moving his arm and not acted and to have given him oramorph wrongly.

The panel also found that she had not informed the shift co-ordinator of the increasing severity of the situation but did not conclude that she had failed to tell a doctor.

She was also found to have no case to answer in relation to Patient A being given tramadol.

The quality of care given to Mr Clegg at Wigan Infirmary was blasted by a coroner at his inquest back in 2013, with medical and nursing staff also coming in for severe criticism over defensive attitudes and poor-quality evidence and statements.

Mr Clegg’s father-in-law Len Wallwork questioned why the nurses had not been brought to book sooner.

He said: “I’m disappointed it has taken so long seeing as Paul died in 2010. I just think it’s like kicking the ball around until you lose it.

“The people of Wigan should have known what was going on. Apart from a couple of nurses there was no compassion at the inquest at all and I was very bitter about that.

“The Trust was never seen to reprimand them, they’ve never come out and said anything.

“If they had followed their own systems Paul would be here today.

“If they had done the observations, taken the blood tests and given him antibiotics they would have saved him.”

Michael McDermott, a friend of Mr Clegg, said the NMC’s punishments were too lenient and the nurses should also have faced serious consequences for misconduct much sooner.

He said: “I’m disgusted. It has taken seven years for this to happen and these nurses have continued to practice without hindrance or caution all this time.

“It’s just not right and basically they’ve got away with it. They didn’t do the job they were paid to do.

“I worked in the NHS and if I had done something like that I would have been sacked or at the very least suspended.

“They should have been taken down a few pay grades.

“If you punish people financially they know they are being punished, if you slap them on the wrist they don’t bother.”

A spokesman for Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh NHS Trust said: “The Trust wishes to again express its sincere condolences to the family of Mr Clegg, and we acknowledge that the hearing must have been a very difficult time for them.

“The nurses involved in this investigation have co-operated fully with the local investigation, HM Coroner and the NMC.

“Following on from this incident, all the nurses involved took immediate remedial action to address areas of their practice that were subsequently criticised by the NMC.

“There have been no concerns raised with respect to any of their practice prior to, or following, Mr Clegg’s unfortunate death.

“This is reflected by the sanction applied by the NMC.”