UK disciplinary body gives HSE nurse caution
Charges related to nursing home management
A British nurse who has been working in the Dublin Central Mental Hospital for the past five years has appeared before the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in London and was given a maximum caution of five years on February 17 last.
The charges he faced were serious, but the panel were so impressed by references given by colleagues at the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum, they stated in their official report that these references "tipped the balance" in favour of a less serious sanction.
John Mitchell-Whiteford, the nurse in question, was a registrant manager who shared management responsibility and was employed part-time at Drey House Nursing Home in Cambridgeshire, owned by Altruism Ltd, between March 2002 and May 2002.
The charges that the panel considered proved against Mitchell-Whiteford were that he firstly failed to "ensure that adequate levels of personal grooming were maintained for Patient A" in that clothes were not regularly changed and finger nails were not properly or regularly cleaned.
Secondly, he failed "to ensure that Resident B was respected as an individual" in that he "failed to intervene in the inappropriate handling of Resident B when two members of staff dragged her into the dining room against her will".
He also "shouted at Resident B 'from now on if you want anything to eat you will get up for it, you are just a lazy old woman and while you can walk you will not be staying in bed' or words to that effect".
He also "failed to ensure that Resident B was helped up from the floor for approximately one and-a-half hours".
Finally "on an unknown date between March and May 2002 [he] permitted the relocation of Resident D to another room within the home without firstly informing Resident D of intention to do so and secondly without informing her key worker, Colin Mullan, of intention to do so".
The nursing home closed down in mid-May 2002.
The investigating panel considered giving Mr Mitchell-Whiteford a more serious sanction.
The panel stated: "There are a number of relevant and appropriate testimonials from the National Forensic Service (also known as the Central Mental Hospital). All of the persons who have provided references are aware of the charges which were brought against the registrant.
"The most important of these are John Thompson, acting clinical facilitator, who worked with the registrant as a colleague; and as team leader Mr O'Sullivan, clinical nurse manager at the National Forensic Service. He refers to the director of nursing in the service who likewise had no concerns.
"Joseph May, clinical nurse manager, who has worked with the registrant on a daily basis and who likewise provides an excellent reference. Other excellent references came from Mr O'Byrne, his clinical nurse manager and Mr Carberry, a retired ward manager. Many of these express astonishment that the registrant has been involved in these matters of misconduct."
The panel then go on to state how it was most impressed by the quality of the references, stating these references "tipped the scale in favour of making a caution order". According to witnesses it is possible that Mitchell-Whiteford would have received a more severe sanction had it not been for this intervention on his behalf by HSE employees.
The panel state they find that the registrant was guilty of misconduct. "It has found that the registrant did assume the role of clinical manager when at Drey House Nursing Home. It behoved him, as indeed the panel has found, to manage effectively. That included discharging his obligations to provide a safe environment and ensuring proper personal hygiene. He did not accomplish this.
"The panel therefore find that the registrant was guilty of misconduct in respect of charges 1 and 2. The registrant breached the provisions of the UKCC Code of Professional Conduct (June 1992 edition), which obliged him to safeguard and promote the interests of individual clients and to justify public trust and confidence. He did not act in such a manner as to promote and safeguard the interests and well being of patients and clients. Nor did he ensure that any omission on his part was not detrimental to the interests, condition or safety of clients."
The Sunday Independent contacted Mary Gleeson of the National Press Office in the HSE in respect of Mr Mitchell-Whiteford on February 25, 2010. The paper was informed that Mr Mitchell-Whiteford began working in the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum in June 2005 and finished his employment there on the same day which this newspaper began to ask questions.
When asked if the ending of Mr Mitchell-Whiteford's employment had anything to do with enquiries being made by the Sunday Independent Ms Gleeson replied: "The HSE can categorically state that the conclusion of employment of Mr Mitchell-Whiteford has absolutely nothing to do with the line of questioning from the Sunday Independent. The HSE and Central Mental Hospital do not discuss the employment contract of any member of staff with any external party.
"The HSE has no knowledge of Mr Mitchell-Whiteford's current whereabouts as he is no longer employed by the HSE and no references have been requested."
The Sunday Independent requested interviews with several of the named individuals who gave references on behalf of Mr Mitchell-Whiteford at the NMC, including Dr Harry Kennedy, head of the National Forensic Mental Health Services. However, we were told "Dr Harry Kennedy is unavailable for interview. The HSE or Central Mental Hospital cannot give the contact details of any member or staff or a third party as this is in breach of the Data Protection Act."
Ms Gleeson emphasised in response to several questions concerning the references provided that these were given in a private capacity. "Any appearance by any employee of the hospital to provide Mr Mitchell-Whiteford with a reference was done in their personal capacity and not as an employee of the hospital or the HSE."
Ms Gleeson was not entirely certain whether or not Mr Mitchell-Whiteford had made the Central Mental Hospital aware of the charges pending against him upon applying for employment with the HSE although she suspected he had not done so. "Mr Mitchell-Whiteford did not identify such issues to our knowledge; however, the HSE will examine the issue further to ascertain same. He was appointed through the HSE employment services using the normal recruitment processes."