Thursday 18 October 2018

Nurses watchdog told of 'financial abuse and thefts from patients'

Allegations emerge in report carried out by regulatory body

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Complaints alleging nurses have engaged in financial abuse of patients - including theft - have been made to their watchdog, it emerged yesterday.

It was claimed some nurses asked patients and residents they were caring for to give them loans, according to a report by their regulatory body.

Complaints were also lodged stating some nurses borrowed money from patients, which is a breach of conduct rules.

The breaches were most likely to happen where older people or those with a disability were resident, according to the annual report of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland.

The allegations follow a HSE audit showing money belonging to long-term residents cared for in some nursing homes and other facilities was withdrawn by staff without producing all the records required, creating the potential for fraud.

Separately, a number of high-profile cases involving nurses who were caught stealing from people they were looking after have come to public light in recent years.

These cases were part of fitness-to-practise inquiries or court cases where a nurse faced a criminal charge.

The nurses' watchdog cited a range of grievances which was brought to its attention in 2016.

It revealed the most common complaint linked to a health issue was drug abuse by a nurse.

"This was frequently linked to the theft of drugs, forging of prescriptions or being on duty in an unfit state.

"The most common drugs involved were those that are usually available on prescription."

It pointed out that other allegations related to verbal of physical abuse of a patient.

In the category of clinical practice and competence, complaints about "medication management" was the most frequent area of concern.

This was followed by a failure to "adequately assess a patient's condition".

Nurses were also accused of not identifying a "deterioration in a patient's condition".

Some allegations also referred to a nurse not taking action when a patient deteriorated.

The report revealed the majority of complaints came from the nurses' employers.

However, the number of grievances from the public has risen in recent years and accounted for 8pc in 2016.

"Members of the public may be patients or their families," the report notes.

The nursing board said it brought the case against a nurse in a minority of allegations. The cases came before its preliminary proceedings committee to assess if they go to a full inquiry.

The report said at the end of the year it has made decisions on 69 of the 127 cases before it. In 49 cases, no further action was warranted.

One-third went forward to full, sworn inquiries.

Four nurses were struck off and nine others were sanctioned but continued to be allowed to practise.

Since 2011, the law governing the regulation of nurses says all inquiries into their conduct should be in public. However, an application can be made by parties for all or some of the investigation to be held in private.

It meant that out of 23 inquiries held in the course of the year, 12 were held in private.

Conduct

Nurses' representative organisations pointed out that a number of nurses who breach the rules of good conduct are still in a small minority.

There were 67,559 active nurses registered in 2016.

Most of them work in the public health system while others are in a range of facilities including nursing homes and GP surgeries.

Nurses recruited to work in the health system were trained in India, the Philippines, Nigeria, USA, Australia and 30 other countries.

Nurses working here were also EU-trained - from the UK, Romania, Poland, Spain, Italy and 21 other countries.

The report said that key management personnel in the watchdog is made up of the chief executive and members of the board.

The total payments to these managers including board members amounted to €272,080.

Nurses are required to pay a €100 registration fee in order to be allowed to continue to practise.

Irish Independent

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