Shrewsbury nurse struck-off after medicine error and cover-up attempt

‘Just take it,’ pregnant woman allergic to specific medicine was told

Shaun Lintern
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 26 October 2021 15:32
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<p>Nurse Christine Speake has been struck off the nursing register </p>

Nurse Christine Speake has been struck off the nursing register

A nurse from scandal-hit Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital ordered a pregnant woman to take medication she was allergic to.

Christine Speake, who had worked in the NHS for almost 40 years as a midwife and nurse, has been struck-off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register after a tribunal heard she told the mother to “just take it” and then tried to cover-up her mistake after the woman suffered a reaction.

The NMC hearing was told the 11-week pregnant patient and her unborn child could have died after being prescribed the Buscopan by a junior doctor to treat severe nausea and vomiting in January 2019.

The woman – named only as 'Patient A' – was given the drug by Speake despite her allergy being included in her medical records.

Speake was employed as a sister on the gynaecology ward at the Princess Royal Hospital.

The trust is at the centre of a major inquiry into poor maternity care after dozens of babies died and were left brain damaged in the largest maternity scandal in NHS history.

When the mother questioned what she was being given, Speake, who has worked as a midwife and nurse since 1985, snapped "just take it".

The panel heard Patient A then had a violent reaction and broke out in a rash and started vomiting.

But Speake, who realised her mistake, then failed to tell her colleagues in a bid to “cover up” what she had done and later resigned, the Nursing and Midwifery Council tribunal heard.

The panel heard: "The potential consequences of this error could have been death to both the patient and her unborn baby.

"If a patient has an anaphylactic reaction to a drug, it can have fatal consequences.”

Speake faced 10 misconduct charges including that she failed to tell the patient what she was dispensing, that she failed to ask the patient if she had any allergies and that she failed to check medical records to see if the woman had any allergies.

After the patient had a reaction, Speake was accused of failing to request a doctor review her and that she failed to raise the alarm or document the reaction.

She did not tell other nurses what had happened and she didn’t fill out an incident form or include news of the reaction in her handover to staff taking over from her.

During an investigation by the trust Speake admitted to some of her actions but “did not provide an adequate explanation” and then resigned in May 2019 before the trust’s disciplinary process finished.

The NMC said: “The charges cover one incident in many years of clinical practice in which the registrant has been shown to be dishonest and placed a patient at unwarranted risk of harm. This has breached fundamental tenets of the nursing profession which in turn has brought the profession into disrepute.

“Whilst it is a lone incident in a long career, it is precisely because Ms Speake has accumulated decades of experience that this incident should not have occurred. As a qualified and experienced nurse, who was up to date with her training, there is no identifiable reason why Ms Speake should have failed to follow protocols and policies. Her initial failure to follow policies and protocols had resulted in harm to Patient A.

“After the initial medicine administration error, Ms Speake became more firmly entrenched in her position of ignoring her training and compounded the administration error by seeking to cover it up.”

The panel found that Miss Speake’s actions did fall seriously short of the conduct and standards expected of a nurse or midwife and amounted to serious misconduct.

Speake was struck off after the tribunal found she had “limited insight”, “no remorse” and was “dishonest”.

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