Man left with brain damage after nurse's mistake

A tetraplegic Wiltshire man whose life-support machine was mistakenly turned off by an agency nurse working for the NHS has been left with severe brain damage, it has emerged.

Jamie Merrett, 37, of Devizes, was so worried about the care he had been receiving at his home that he alerted Wiltshire NHS and had a camera set up in his bedroom, which captured the incident in January 2009.

An investigation also found the company that employed the nurse did not have adequate systems in place to check the training staff had received. Only days after the camera was installed, Mr Merrett was left close to death after nurse Violetta Aylward, from Reading, turned off the life-support machine and struggled to resuscitate him.

Mr Merrett was aware of the mistake that had been made before he lost consciousness, unable to speak. He can be heard on the film urgently clicking his tongue as a warning. Nurse Aylward tried to resuscitate him but it took 21 minutes for the machine to be restarted by paramedics, leaving Mr Merrett with serious brain damage.

He had been nursed at home since 2002 after a road accident left him paralysed from the neck down.

Ambition 24hours, which supplied Nurse Aylward, said it could not comment as an internal investigation was being held.

The BBC said a confidential report by Wiltshire social services, leaked to them, concluded the agency was aware it was required to supply a nurse with training in the use of a ventilator, but the company did not have adequate systems in place to check what training their staff had received.

His sister Karren Reynolds told the BBC his level of understanding has now dropped to that of a young child. She said: "He has an existence but it's nowhere near what it was before. He is very brain-damaged compared to what he was before. He was a highly intelligent man and you could have long in-depth conversations with him and now it tends to be more simplistic."

In a statement the NHS Wiltshire Primary Care Trust said: "The PCT has investigated the incident in January 2009 when the patient's ventilator care was compromised. We have apologised to the patient and his family for this, and have put in place a series of actions to ensure that such an event will not occur again either for this patient or others."

A spokeswoman for the Nursing and Midwifery Council confirmed Ms Aylward has been suspended while it investigates the incident.