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Stafford nurses struck off for falsifying waiting times

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 09/08/2013

Two nurses at Stafford Hospital have been struck off the nursing register for falsifying A&E discharge times.

The pair had "brought their profession into serious disrepute", said the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

They falsified discharge times to avoid breaching NHS standard waiting-time targets of 4 hours.

Maltreatment and neglect

Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was the subject of an inquiry after it was found that maltreatment and neglect might have led to the deaths of hundreds of patients.

In turn, this prompted a wide-ranging review under Sir Bruce Keogh, following which 11 trusts in England have been placed under "special measures".

Targets for A&E staff

In 2004, the Government introduced a maximum A&E target of 4 hours from the moment a patient was booked in. This was meant to create a rapid A&E service and prevent patients from remaining in the department longer than necessary.

The panel was told of "considerable pressure" on A&E staff to achieve the 4-hour target, in support of Stafford's application for Foundation Trust status.

If staff failed to meet targets, then this would result in an investigation by higher management. This could in turn leading to staff being reprimanded, often inappropriately.

Witnesses called on behalf of the NMC described constant pressure and a “bullying” culture at the hospital, while the A&E department was described as "understaffed with a poor skill mix".

Misconduct by nurses

The nurses, who both deny all allegations, faced a number of charges for alleged misconduct from December 2003 to October 2009 and July 2000 to July 2010 respectively.

The NMC's panel was told one nurse's fitness to practise was "impaired". She had persistently used abusive and obscene language about patients, often within earshot of the individuals and their visitors. She had also racially abused junior doctors.

The panel heard that the other nurse had refused to help a senior colleague undress an elderly patient. A witness stated that the nurse would instruct staff to transfer patients out of A&E, even if they had soiled sheets, insisting that the department "needed space" and that other wards could deal with them.

The witness said that while she would refuse such orders, some junior staff members would obey as they were "intimidated" by the nurse.

Poor patient care

Another nurse witness stated she had seen her 2 co-workers trying to "bully" other staff into falsifying records. She said she hoped more people would feel emboldened to "speak out" about poor care.

"I think that many nurses work extremely hard and it is sad that a few have given nursing a bad name," the nurse noted, adding that every patient is entitled to receive the highest standard of care.

"All staff should be able to feel they are truly listened to, supported and protected if they raise concerns."

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