Nurse who lied over killing reinstated

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT is under pressure to review the regulation of the nursing profession after the reinstatement of a nurse who lied about events surrounding the unlawful killing of an elderly patient in her care.

Feroza Leeming was restored to the nursing register last week, 16 months after being struck off for professional misconduct by the United Kingdom Central Council (UKCC), which regulates nursing.

The case involves the death of Bridget Brosnan, 70, on a psychiatric ward at Lister Hospital, in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, in January 1990. A post-mortem examination showed she had been suffocated. After an eight-month Hertfordshire police inquiry, the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence for murder or manslaughter charges.

However, Mrs Leeming, the ward sister, and Merlie Walker, a nursing assistant, two of three nurses on duty on the fatal night, were convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by St Albans Crown Court in December 1990 for lying about the circumstances of the death.

At first, Mrs Leeming and her assistant said they had found Mrs Brosnan dead of a heart attack in her bed on Ward 14.

However, police launched a murder hunt when a mortuary attendant reported seeing unusual marks on the body. During the investigation, the two nurses changed their stories. They claimed Mrs Brosnan, a practising Roman Catholic with no history of suicide attempts, had hanged herself with tights from the bedhead.

The nurses received jail sentences of nine and three months respectively, suspended for two years. In May 1991, an inquest jury returned a verdict that Mrs Brosnan was unlawfully killed by gross neglect. Forensic science experts said she had been asphyxiated by being pressed into bedding, and overdosed with tranquillisers and anti-depressant drugs. The police file is still open.

David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, is preparing parliamentary questions to clarify rules governing the UKCC.

The Department of Health last night declined to comment on Mrs Leeming's case.

Family to fight, page 4