Midwife who went for a cup of tea while patient gave birth is struck off medical register
Thursday 21 June 2012
A midwife who went for a cup of tea while a patient was giving birth has been struck off the medical register.
Helen Bannister, an experienced and once highly regarded delivery nurse at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, quit her post in 2010 before bosses could sack her.
Over a 10-year period she committed a series of serious errors, despite insisting she had learned her lesson.
As well as going for a tea-break while one patient was in the second stage of labour, Mrs Bannister also allowed a mother-to-be suffering with pre-eclampsia to be discharged.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing had also learned the former midwife tampered with medical records three times.
After ruling her fitness to practise had been impaired, panel chairman Matthew Fiander said Mrs Bannister would be a danger to the public were she ever to return to work.
He said: "Helen Bannister made a number of serious failures in carrying out her duty.
"While she has expressed remorse, she has expressed limited insight into her failings.
"These are long-standing and entrenched problems.
"The profession's reputation would be at great risk should she be allowed to continue to practise.
"She posed serious harm to her patients and as a result her name shall be removed from the medical register."
An NMC panel heard that in 2000 Mrs Bannister left a patient, who had had an epidural, to go for a tea-break.
Senior midwife Dawn Cooper, who used to look up to Mrs Bannister during the early stages of her career, described her former colleague's absence as dangerous.
"You may leave the room maybe to grab a piece of equipment for a couple of seconds, but never to go for a cup of tea," she added.
"Especially when a patient is in the second stage of labour and has had an epidural - because they may not be aware they are pushing."
It was later discovered she had tampered with entries on the woman's medical file made by one of her colleagues.
The mistake saw Mrs Bannister subject to disciplinary proceedings, and she underwent a six-month period of being supervised at work.
However, two years later she then adjusted a separate patient's medical records - over writing information that dated back to 1985.
Although the panel was told both "corrections" had not been done in an attempt to hide any wrongdoing, the entries had broken strict rules on medical records.
The two incidents were dealt with "in house", but were referred to the NMC when in 2010 Mrs Bannister had failed to recognise that a patient who was 25 weeks pregnant was suffering with pre-eclampsia.
The condition, which includes dangerously high blood pressure, can be fatal to mother and baby.
Mrs Bannister was suspended following an investigation by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, but retired shortly after.
Although she had told officials she had "no desire" to return to work ever again, they only had her word for it and a Fitness to Practise investigation got under way.
Had they not pursued the case, in theory Mrs Bannister could have worked in the nursing profession if she came out of retirement.
During a previous hearing Deborah Edwards, assistant head of midwifery, said Mrs Bannister's mistakes were so serious she would have been sacked for gross-misconduct had she not quit.
Mrs Bannister, who has not been present at any of the hearings and also chose not to be represented, has 28 days in which to appeal against today's verdict.
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