Nurse suspended for abusing 'vulnerable' mental health patient

Atherleigh Park Hospital
Atherleigh Park Hospital

A borough nurse has been suspended for six months for verbally abusing a “vulnerable” mental health patient and encouraging another to punch her, saying “give her one from me”.

Alan Williams, a mental health nurse at Atherleigh Park Hospital in Leigh, has been temporarily banned from practice after calling a patient an “evil *****” and encouraging another patient to punch her.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council tribunal ruled that Williams’ practice was “impaired” due to the incident which occurred in April 2017.

In the hearing, which was held last week in London, the “fitness to practise” committee assessed evidence from two independent nurses, both colleagues of Williams at the time.

The report stated: “It is alleged that on 20 April 2017 between approximately 5pm and 7.30pm you verbally abused a vulnerable patient, Patient A.

“Your actions may have caused distress to Patient A.

“Furthermore, it is alleged that when Patient B made a fist gesture indicating a desire to hit Patient A, you did not defuse the situation, but verbally agreed with Patient B.

“You said to Patient B ‘give her one from me’ or words to that effect in response to a suggestion from Patient B that Patient A needed to be hit.

“You denied the allegations at the time during a local level investigation where the concerns were initially raised.

“Following the alleged incident you were instructed to go home, and were subsequently suspended from the Trust’s nursing bank.”

Three allegations, which were proven true during the course of the hearing, came from an incident which took place in the Golborne Unit of the mental health hospital.

It was also alleged that he shouted at Patient A but this was not proven.

Williams, who was a member of the North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Trust at the time, gave verbal evidence stating that his two colleagues and members of the management team were “in league and in cahoots” when reporting the behaviour, and that there was an “obvious bias” against him.

However, despite denying the allegations, the committee found that the witnesses were “credible and consistent” and that there was “no evidence” to suggest that the accusations were made with an “ulterior motive” towards Williams.

During the hearing, the panel concluded that Williams’ behaviour was “inappropriate and unprofessional” amounted to “serious misconduct”.

They added: “The panel was of the view that your mind-set towards vulnerable patients and your actions towards Patient A were deplorable.

“You did not respond compassionately and politely when Patient A was distressed and confused.

“The panel noted that aggressive behaviour is often a symptom of dementia, and furthermore, Patient A lacked mental 10 capacity.

“Regardless of Patient A’s behaviour, the panel considered that your conduct fell below that expected of a mental health nurse, especially with your skills and experience.

“The panel found that your actions did fall seriously short of the conduct and standards expected of a nurse and amounted to misconduct.“

Lorna Griffiths, assistant director of nursing at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Alan Williams worked on our nurse bank as a temporary worker and does not have a contract with the trust.

“The trust took action as soon as we were notified about the allegations against him in June 2017 and he was suspended with immediate effect.

“We carried out an internal investigation which resulted in him being referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council for further investigation.

“The trust is committed to delivering high-quality, safe and respectful care to all patients and fully supports the findings of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s fitness to practise hearing.”