Police nurse 'lied about cancer'
Monday 05 March 2012
A senior police custody nurse claimed she had throat cancer in a desperate effort to avoid disciplinary action over a high sickness absence rate, a panel has heard.
Workplace absence due to sickness was running so high at North Wales Police that bosses sent in a senior officer to sort it out.
A small team of 19 custody nurses had lost 200 days to sickness in a three-year period to August 2008, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel heard.
Worst among them was Anna Hulse, 49, from Angelsey, responsible for 69 days alone, 24 of those in less than a year.
When she was offered help improving her work attendance record she broke down and allegedly claimed it was all due to cancer.
When her boss later said he suspected that was not true she made a workplace bullying allegation, later rejected, in an apparent bid to discredit him.
Hulse's fitness to work as a result of her alleged dishonesty is under review by a Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing in Cardiff.
A professional panel today said that despite being invited, Hulse had declined to attend the hearing and had previously said: "I do not think that I could cope with the embarrassment."
Police chiefs brought in Chief Inspector Robert Adams to head the force's medical services division in summer 2008 to sort out a series of problems.
The experienced officer had previously worked in counter-terrorism and told the NMC hearing he was put in the job against his wishes.
Mr Adams, now retired, hit out at North Wales Police today, claiming bosses failed to believe him when he warned that Hulse was lying.
She eventually made a formal accusation of bullying against him, which was fully investigated before being rejected.
He told the hearing today that he thought her actions had been criminal and she should have been arrested.
He said the bullying accusation meant she was able to go on claiming her £40,000 a year salary package, including a car, for more than a year.
"She should have been arrested for a criminal offence which was obtaining a pecuniary advantage through deception," he said.
Initially he had been shocked by her claim of suffering from throat cancer and offered her his full support, he said.
Hulse broke down during a meeting with him in June 2008 to discuss her chronic absenteeism record, he told the hearing.
The meeting was called to set up an action plan to help her, and other staff members, improve their work attendance rate.
Mr Adams said it had been agreed with the human resources department to cut chronically high rates by 50% in six months.
"I asked her, 'Is there anything behind these sickness absences which would have an explanation?'," he said.
"With that she just burst out crying, which took me aback to be honest. It was a reaction I did not expect.
"I said, 'What is the matter, what has happened?', and she said, 'I have throat cancer', and then I felt just dreadful. I felt awful."
He said she explained she had a low white blood cell count because of her treatment, which meant she kept getting ill.
As a result the review process she was under was immediately stopped.
Hulse claimed she had hidden her illness because of a poor relationship with previous management, and had used up holiday leave to avoid telling the force she was ill.
Mr Adams intervened and got most of her sickness absence record wiped, he said.
Mr Adams said he wrote a statement detailing the conversation with Hulse in which she revealed she suffered from throat cancer.
It was shown to her and she signed a copy of the statement which was sent to the force's human resources department.
He said that there was no issue with absenteeism until the November, when Hulse took weeks off claiming to be suffering from shingles.
"She told me her GP had told her that the reason she picked up shingles was because her white cell count was low," he said.
He told the hearing: "That did not ring true with me. There was something about her."
Mr Adams said it was 18 months since she claimed to have had an operation for cancer.
"She could not look me in the face when she told me this. I felt that she was telling me untruths. I questioned her integrity, if you like," he said.
He said that he eventually sent an email to several senior colleagues warning them of what he suspected.
He said that Hulse made the bullying accusations against him after he had reviewed her work and deemed it "poor".
This was in part because she refused to carry out forensic rape services for the force because of a dispute over car tax, he said.
Later when she was approached about the alleged lie she said she had never made such a claim and had not read the statement she had signed.
The panel is expected to reach a decision in the case tomorrow.
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