Guilty nurses go unpunished

INCIDENTS of professional misconduct by nurses - including sexual assaults, violent attacks and ill-treatment of patients - have doubled since the mid-1980s, figures made available to the Independent on Sunday reveal.

But despite the increase, an analysis of statistics compiled by the profession's disciplinary body shows that hundreds of culprits are continuing to work unpunished, or being allowed to return to the wards relatively soon after committing their offences.

Between 1986 and 1992, the annual number of misconduct offences accepted by the professional conduct committee of the UK Central Council for Nursing Midwifery and Health Visiting rose from 291 to 586.

Of the 650 nurses accused of misconduct last year only about one-quarter appeared before a disciplinary tribunal. Half were struck off but most of the others - although found guilty - remained on the register.

UKCC figures also show that the majority of appeals for restoration to the register, lodged by those struck off for misconduct, have been granted in each of the past seven years.

Nurses caring for the most vulnerable patients - the elderly, mentally handicapped and mentally ill - make up the bulk of those found guilty. Although only one in 10 of Britain's 660,000 registered nurses is a man, most complaints involve male nurses.

Critics of the disciplinary system say that the official figures are merely the tip of an iceberg. They argue that many more complaints do not get past the UKCC's preliminary screening procedures.

The emergence of the figures comes as the longwinded procedures for dealing with nursing's 'rotten apples' come under increasing scrutiny.

Graham Pink, the NHS 'whistleblower' who last week won his case for unfair dismissal against Stockport health authority, was elected to the UKCC earlier this year. Last week he joined calls for a wide-ranging reform of its complaints investigation machinery and described the body as 'completely useless'.

Two case histories illustrate Mr Pink's criticisms.

In October 1988, Philip Donnelly was jailed for two years for sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys while he was nursing director at Booth Hall Children's Hospital, Manchester. It took the UKCC nearly two years to find him guilty of misconduct. He was not struck off.

Last month, the UKCC restored Feroza Leeming to the nursing register after 16 months, much to the anguish of the family of an elderly patient unlawfully killed while in her care. Mrs Leeming lied to police about the circumstances surrounding the death by suffocation of Bridget Brosnan, 70, at Lister Hospital, Stevenage.

She later lied about a conviction for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice when applying for a nursing job with Bloomsbury and Islington health authority. Mrs Brosnan's children are trying to raise funds for a High Court challenge of the decision to re- register Mrs Leeming.

The Prevention of Professional Abuse Network (Popan), which advises victims of malpractice by health workers, detects growing public dismay at the apparent leniency of disciplinary tribunals and the slow pace of investigation by profesional bodies such as the General Medical Council and the UKCC. Jenny Fasal, one of Popan's founders, says it receives 100 letters a month from people asking for help.

'It can take years to pursue a complaint, only to find the offender is allowed to go on practising,' she said. 'Many people are so ground down by the whole business, and the way in which professionals and managers close ranks, that the complaints never get properly investigated or resolved.'

Graham Pink, 63, was sacked two years ago from his job as a charge nurse at Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport, after complaining about dangerously low staffing levels on geriatric wards and poor standards of care.

The UKCC has not acted on his detailed complaints about the conduct of individual members of nursing staff at Stepping Hill, nor explained its inactivity.

'The UKCC is completely useless as it is,' said Mr Pink. 'In the view of many nurses, it is accountable to no one. It would appear to me they are failing in their duties to protect the public.'

The UKCC's 60-strong ruling council is dominated by the nursing establishment with only two members appointed to represent consumer interests. Nurses' misconduct cases tend to be heard almost exclusively by their peers.

Some changes are, however, under way. Under legislation passed last year, disciplinary tribunals are able to caution offenders as an alternative to removing them from the register.

Tariq Hassain, a UKCC assistant registrar, said that the complaints that were screened out before formal hearings tended to arise from minor shoplifting, damage to property, or domestic disputes. Cases involving serious allegations sometimes failed because of insufficient evidence.

'The professional conduct committee has to operate rather like a criminal court with the same kind of burden of proof required. Its decisions are open to appeal to the High Court.'

Mr Hassain said the council would shortly consider proposals for increasing lay representation on disciplinary hearings.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sales Representative, Leicester

£25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

Sales Representative, Birmingham

£25-£30k Plus Car: Charter Selection: Major well established nationwide market...

C# .NET Developer (SQL, ASP.NET, JS, MVC) London - Finance

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Develo...

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment