Nurses demand lifetime ban on criminals

RCN congress: Overwhelming vote to exclude violent or sexual offenders for patients' safety
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The Royal College of Nursing yesterday demanded that nurses who have committed serious criminal offences - especially against patients - should not be re-admitted to work within the profession.

The resolution, passed by 437 votes to four, with four abstentions, follows a controversial decision last month by the United Kingdom Central Council on Nursing to reinstate Yuen How Choy, a 50-year-old convicted rapist.

Christine Hancock, general secretary of the college, said that while the RCN motion did not specify which offences should be covered by the ban, sexual and violent attacks on patients were clearly the "bottom line".

In 1972 Mr Choy, a former RCN member and a nurse specialising in mental health, drugged a patient in order to have sex with her and 11 years later raped a former patient in her home.

Without naming Mr Choy, Ms Hancock said: "There are some crimes where you can demonstrate that someone has been treated and cured. I know of no treatment for the assault and rape of patients."

She said the college had sent out a very strong message that nurses who had abused the trust of vulnerable people should not be allowed to practice.

Where offences did not involve patients, there might be, for instance, a case for excluding from the ban people who had been provoked into domestic violence, she said.

In the debate, Maria Nicholson, of Wycombe and Amersham trust, disclosed that a close friend had been raped at the age of four and again at nine by a health care worker. Ms Nicholson said the woman had never forgotten the experience. "She lives with it day after day after day." Ms Nicholson said the UKCC had abused its position of trust and she called for a far tougher approach.

Rod Thomson, a health visitor from Merseyside, said: "We cannot have a situation where rapists, murderers and paedophiles are still on the register, particularly paedophiles." Even when paedophiles were undergoing therapy it proved very difficult for them to stop abusing children, he said.

Proposing the motion, Jessica Cudmore, a students' representative, said the relationship of "extreme trust" between nurses and patients should not be abused, especially as nursing often involved "intimate and invasive" procedures.

Before they were trained, nurses were asked to guarantee that they were of good character. "What is the point in that if it is not maintained after registration?" she asked. College officials said they would apply next week for a judicial review of the decision by the UKCC to readmit Mr Choy.