Inept nurses 'should be struck off'

Nurses who offer patients poor levels of care should face being struck off, the Government's chief nursing officer said yesterday. Christine Beasley said the stories of "cruel" and "demeaning" maltreatment highlighted in a report from the Patients Association were distressing and should make "sombre reading for the nursing profession".

It said some patients had been left lying in their own faeces and urine, having call bells taken away from them and being left without food or drink. One former nurse told of the substandard care she had as a patient herself, adding: "It's a scary world out in the wards."

Ms Beasley said the care offered to some of the patients was "clearly unacceptable." She said she had read the stories, adding: "They make not only very distressing reading for patients but very sombre reading for the nursing profession.

"I think any nurse who provides that sort of care - or in fact does not provide that sort of care, should be treated very, very seriously and if necessary, if it's at that level, should absolutely be struck off. We should absolutely not condone any levels of care that some of the examples the Patients Association have given have demonstrated."

A statement from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which maintains the nursing register and hold disciplinary hearings, said: "Poor care is never acceptable. The Nursing and Midwifery Council exists to improve standards of care and anyone who has concerns about the conduct of a nurse or midwife should speak to the person in charge or contact us."

"We recognise that most nurses and midwives are caring people and want to deliver high standards of care. Since its launch in March 2009 we've have requests for more than 200,000 copies of our guidance for the care of older people and the public leaflet, Care and Respect Every Time. By working in partnership with employers and members of the public we'll be able hold to account those whose practice puts people at risk."

In a foreword to today's report, Claire Rayner, who is president of the Patients Association, said: "For far too long now, the Patients Association has been receiving calls on our helpline from people wanting to talk about the dreadful, neglectful, demeaning, painful and sometimes downright cruel treatment their elderly relatives had experienced at the hands of NHS nurses."

The Patients Association holds a database of hundreds of stories from patients and their relatives who claim to have been badly treated by the NHS. Today's report presents 16 of those stories in detail.