Stephen Hawking’s former nurse struck off for ‘failing to provide care physicist deserved’

Decision by Nursing and Midwifery Council means Patricia Dowdy will no longer be able to work as health professional in UK

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 12 March 2019 13:15 GMT

The former nurse of physicist Professor Stephen Hawking has been struck off the nursing register by regulators for misconduct and failures of care.

Patricia Dowdy faced charges including financial misconduct, dishonesty, failing to provide appropriate care and lacking appropriate qualifications by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

The regulator said she had failed in her duty of care and had not been able to show evidence that she had learnt from these mistakes. As a result, Ms Dowdy will no longer be able to work as a nurse in the UK.

Matthew McClelland, director of fitness to practise at the NMC, thanked Hawking’s family, saying: “I am grateful to them – as they approach the anniversary of Professor Hawking’s death – and others for sharing their concerns with us. My thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.”

Ms Dowdy, 61, helped look after Hawking for around eight years in two periods of employment between 1999 and 2016. She was suspended in March 2016, two years before his death last year, aged 76.

The hearing began last month after a complaint was lodged by the late physicists’ family and, in an uncommon move, was held in secret.

Details released after the hearing’s conclusion show it was held in private as Hawking would be too easily identifiable in discussion of his medical condition, care and personal needs.

It would also involve discussing elements of his private life which might affect family members who are still alive.

“The panel has found Ms Dowdy failed to provide the standards of good, professional care that we expect and Professor Hawking deserved,” Mr McClelland said.

“As a result, Ms Dowdy will no longer be able to practice as a nurse.”

Hawking, who was one of the world’s great scientists, was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease at the age of 22 and was given just a few years to live.

The father-of-three, who lived in Cambridge, defied that prediction but was eventually confined to a wheelchair and became dependent on round-the-clock care.

A spokesperson for his relatives thanked the NMC for its investigation and said: “The Hawking family are relieved this traumatic ordeal has now concluded and that as a result of the verdict, others will not have to go through what they suffered from this individual.”

Representatives for Ms Dowdy have been approached for comment.

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