A senior nurse in a scandal-hit hospital told a seriously ill elderly woman patient she was a “naughty little monkey” and refused to help lift her from a wheelchair on to a bed, a tribunal heard today.
Sister Tracy White was rude to the woman, known only as Patient B, who died a day after being admitted to the accident and emergency department at Stafford General Hospital in May 2007, her misconduct hearing was told.
Helene Donnelly, a staff nurse in the emergency unit at the time told the Nursing and Midwifery Council tribunal she remembered the encounter because of White's rudeness to the patient, whom she greeted by saying “Oh no, it's you.”
She then allegedly said: “I'm not lifting her, she is just constipated and she hasn't taken her lactulose (laxative), the naughty little monkey.”
She is then accused of saying “I'm not doing this. I'm not hurting my back. We don't need to get her on a trolley anyway, she is going to breach (waiting time target) in a minute” before telling a junior doctor to discharge her.
Mrs Donnelly told the hearing the patient was not taking her laxative because she was immobile and frightened of soiling herself, adding: “I remember thinking how rude it was to address a patient in that way.”
She also accused White of pressuring the junior doctor examining the woman to hurry up and go to another patient without a full examination of her abdomen.
Patient B was later discharged to a nursing home but readmitted the next day, when she died.
She was later found to have died of a pulmonary oedema.
Mrs Donnelly said White was not blame for the patient's death.
But she added: “My feeling is that she was given a very uncared-for and undignified last 24 hours.
“I feel this is because of the pressure placed on nurses and junior doctors by the nurse in charge at the time, who was sister White.”
White and another senior nurse, Sharon Turner, who face a raft of misconduct charges relating to care at the hospital, denies saying any of the words to the patient.
Their barrister, James Townsend, suggested that Mrs Donnelly's memory of the incident was wrong.
“It is not accepted these words were used,” he said.
Mrs Donnelly gave evidence to the Francis Inquiry into care at the Mid-Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust.
She told the NMC hearing at the Old Bailey that patient records at the accident and emergency unit at the hospital at the centre of the Stafford care scandal were “routinely” doctored to hide the fact that they were breaching the four-hour treatment waiting time target.
She said it was “chaotic” and without permanent management in charge at the time thousands of patients were dying unnecessarily, with a culture of bullying by many senior managers.
A white board in the middle of A&E carrying patient details often had their admission time rubbed out to cover the fact that they had exceeded the four hour waiting time for treatment, something which would have been seen by management in the unit, she claimed.
“I feel sure that at least some management must have been aware, she said.
“Without the whiteboard it must have been apparent. I feel people must have been able to see an inaccuracy between the time when people left A&E and when they arrived on the ward.”
She added: “At that time it was difficult to raise concerns because we did not have an official line manager. I tried myself and others tried to raise these concerns to others.
“The feeling was at the time that it was in the Trust's interest (to ignore breaches) because they did not want to be seen not meeting times.
“That is just my personal feeling.”
She also said while that the hospital was trying to obtain Foundation Trust status in 2007, which it later achieved, concerns raised by the Monitor assessment group were brushed away as being a by-product of refurbishment work being carried out on the unit.
White faces five charges of misconduct relating to patient care and falsifying waiting times and Turner six, including falsifying waiting times, patient care and racist conduct.
Sister White allegedly said "she can wait if you can do that to your baby" when a woman came into A&E suffering from bleeding after an abortion, the tribunal heard.
Mr Townsend said White denied saying any such thing.
He questioned Mrs Donnelly's memory of events six or seven years ago and accused her of targeting the nurses because of "bad feeling" toward them.
This related to allegations that derogatory remarks were made about her mother-in-law, who also worked at the hospital, and a complaint made about Mrs Donnelly looking at photos with her mother-in-law when she should have been tending to patients. Mrs Donnelly denied doing this.
Mr Townsend pointed out she also made a similar allegation about another nurse making a similar comment about a woman who came in after an abortion.
"It is your case that two separate nurses gave very similar comments about two different patients?" he asked.
"Yes, it just illustrates the effect that they had on junior staff in the department," she replied.