Nurse Margaret Haywood was struck off the register with immediate effect today after secretly filming for a BBC Panorama programme exposing neglect of elderly patients in a hospital.

Ms Haywood, 58, recorded appalling conditions at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton for a BBC documentary screened in July 2005.

She said: "I was convinced that it was the right thing to do at the time as, in fact, I had reported the issues and nothing had been done.

"I felt I owed it to the people on the ward."

Ms Haywood, of Liverpool, was found guilty of misconduct yesterday at a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council in central London.

The panel said that given the seriousness of her misconduct, "it would not be in the public interest for her to be able to practise as a nurse".

Linda Read, chair of the panel, said: "In the view of the panel, this was a major breach of the code of conduct. A patient should be able to trust a nurse with his/her physical condition and psychological wellbeing without that confidential information being disclosed to others.

"Although the conditions on the ward were dreadful, it was not necessary to breach confidentiality to seek to improve them by the method chosen.

"The panel is of the view that the misconduct found is fundamentally incompatible with being a nurse.

"The registrant embarked upon filming many vulnerable, elderly patients in the last stages of their lives, knowing that it was unlikely that they would be able to give any meaningful consent to that process, in circumstances where their dignity was most compromised.

"The registrant could have attempted to address shortcomings by other means. But this was never a course of action which she fully considered."

Ms Haywood, who had worked as a nurse for more than 20 years, told the hearing earlier she would be "devastated" if she was prevented from continuing to work as a nurse.

Dr Karen Johnson, representing Ms Haywood, told the tribunal that the documentary had "immense" impact.

She said: "It is through programmes like Panorama that awareness is raised.

"The results were local and throughout the country, and there has since been an ongoing campaign to improve the conditions She was an exceedingly good nurse who always put patients first and filming second."

After the hearing, Ms Haywood said: "I am absolutely devastated and upset by it all.

"I think I have been treated very harshly. It is a serious issue and I knew it was a risk I was taking but I thought the filming was justified and it was in the public interest.

"I always made it clear to the BBC that patients would come first at all times. I did voice my concerns through my immediate line manager and I also went to my ward manager but nothing was really taken on board. There was no other way of getting the full picture."

Asked about what the result meant for other whistleblowers within the NHS, Ms Haywood said the procedure needed to be reviewed.

She said: "Clearly, looking at recent things that have been happening, especially with the South Staffordshire hospital, nurses are afraid to speak out about what is happening and the whole process needs to be reviewed so nurses can make it easier to voice their concerns."