Former nurse at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital admits twice recording dead patient as 'asleep'
Charlotte Philby is a writer at The Independent with a weekly column on motherhood in The Independent Magazine. She was shortlisted for the 2013 Cudlipp award for excellence in popular journalism for her undercover investigative work, and writes for various cultural magazines.
Monday 18 March 2013
A nurse has admitted twice recording a deceased patient as ‘asleep’ in the opening of a hearing into the conduct of two staff nurses at scandal-ridden Mid Staffordshire Hospital.
Evelyn Agbeko was the nurse in charge of the gastroenterology ward during the night-shift of 16 April 2010, a fitness-to-practise panel at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NCM) heard.
At 9.25am an 81-year-old woman on dialysis, referred to as Patient A, was admitted to A&E complaining of shortness of breath.
Agbeko and staff nurse Theresia Van Der Knaap, who was also working on the ward that night, stand accused of a range of charges including failing to log any observations for Patient A in the 12 hours before her death.
Having found Patient A unresponsive, Van Der Knaap admitted failing to press the emergency alarm, alert the resuscitation team or start basic life support, as is standard procedure.
Just one nurse has been struck off since the beginning of an investigation into the troubled hospital by the Healthcare Commission as a result of “apparently high mortality rates in patients admitted as emergencies”.
56 referrals have been made relating either to misconduct or health cases since the publication of the first Francis report in February 2010.
In a separate hearing the hospital’s Chief Nurse, Janice Harry, denied a litany of offences between 1998 and 2006, including calling a member of staff a “waste of space”, and telling another “don’t bring me problems, bring the answer” and failing to ensuring adequate nursing services were provided at Mid-Staffordshire.
At the opening trial of Agbeko and Van Der Knaap, the NMC heard that three witnesses would testify to the “appalling” events surrounding the death of an elderly woman who developed severe bilateral bronchial pneumonia with elements of left ventricular failure at around 2.30am.
In her witness statement, healthcare support worker Samantha Adams who had been moved to Ward 11 from another part of the hospital due to staff shortages that night, said she completed checks on behalf of other nurses that night, and confirms that despite protocol there was no modified early warning score [MEWS] issued, which helps medical staff quickly determine the degree of illness of a patient.
The NCM heard that Adams was “shocked” to learn from Theresia Van Der Knaap at around 3am that Patient A had died and no call had been made for a resuscitation team nor had the emergency alarm button activated.
Adams also claims she told the nurse to make a “2222” internal emergency call, but was told the woman was already dead.
The panel was also informed that Agbeko had been caught up in the “stress and confusion” of the situation when she marked the patient as A for ‘asleep’ an hour later, at 4am, and again at 6am.
Van Der Knaap, who was not present at the trial, admits failing to ‘escalate Patient A to a MEWS chart’ and a separate charge of failing to raise the alarm upon finding the patient dead.
Agbeko admitted twice marking the deceased patient as asleep in her medical notes but denies failing to carry out adequate observations or making adequate entries in Patient A’s medical notes.
Both deny their fitness to practise was impaired by reason of their misconduct.
The hearing continues.
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