Monday, 20 April 2009

Whistleblower's error

How tragic that a whistleblowing nurse who exposed the ill treatment of elderly patients has been struck off the nursing register for misconduct.

In a TV film, she showed patients at a Brighton hospital not getting help with eating, afraid to ask to go to the toilet, and screaming with agony without pain relief.

I say the outcome is tragic rather than outrageous because unfortunately the nurse, 58 year old Margaret Haywood, spoilt her case by not getting the patients' consent before she secretly filmed them.

That's why the Nursing and Midwifery Council decided, despite her shocking revelations about standards of care, to strike her off for misconduct.

Clearly if patients are going to be filmed they need to be asked for permission and told what the film will be about. They might well have eagerly consented, but she never asked.

What I would like to know however is, were the patients asked after the film was shown, whether they consented to appearing? If they did, then surely the NMC's decision is unnecessarily draconian and vindictive. The son of patient Hilda Burnham, who has now died, says he has no problem with the filming and has called for Ms Haywood's reinstatement.

The NMC also said she could have taken other actions to address the failings rather than making a TV film. But we all know what happens when you complain "through the usual channels". Often the complaint is ignored or trivialised and the organisation claims everything is just fine. In fact she did report the failings to hospital managers but nothing was done.

It's tragic indeed that someone who does care about how patients are treated is no longer able to nurse and will have to take a quite different job.

PS: I've now read several times that permission to use footage was given by either patients or relatives after filming and before the TV programme. In which case the NMC should reconsider their decision.

Margy was the subject of the Panorama TV programme on April 27 2009. Her absolute dedication to the best possible patient care was clear to see, but the NMC obviously took no account of that. She is now unemployed with big debts she can't pay off.

Photo: Margaret Haywood

A woman in the West Midlands has been forced to put T shirts on her naked garden gnomes after a neighbour complained they were not fit for her young children to look at. The gnomes' owner says the three gnomes (one male, two female) have been there for 15 years without causing offence and her own grandchildren love them. Nowt so queer as folk.


  1. So the NMC have decided to strike Margaret Hayward off for misconduct, I wonder... did they apologize to the filmed patients for neglecting them and make the necessary changes to provide better care in the future?

  2. Grannymar - A good question. I wouldn't be surprised if patients at the Royal Sussex Hospital are still being neglected and nurses are still complaining.

  3. I had exactly the same feelings about this case when I heard it on the radio the other day. Hopefully there may be a change of heart?

  4. See, it gives them a focus away from the real problem?
    How often do we see this happen?
    And those patients are still suffering. That's the real issue.

  5. Suburbia - I don't think there'll be a voluntary change of heart by the NMC. But Ms Haywood is considering an appeal against the decision, which may result in a climb-down.

    www - The patients may well still be suffering. The journalists don't seem to have revisited the hospital recently so nobody knows.

  6. If patients were 'afraid' to ask to go to the toilet they're never going to give her permission to appear on a film disparaging their treatment.! Outrageous and we all know that taking 'other actions' would have taken years to expose the mistreatment of such vulnerable people.

  7. she has been punished for the expose pure and simple. What's worrying is that it sends a message to anyone else thinking of doing the same.

  8. Baino - Too often, taking other action means making a complaint which just gets buried in a filing cabinet and forgotten about.

    Conor - Exactly, other concerned nurses will see what happened to her, keep their heads down and say nothing.

  9. I understood that some of the patients were not in a fit mental state to give consent, but that their relatives had all given consent prior to the programme being broadcast.

  10. Herschelian - That's very interesting, I hadn't heard that. If that's the case, what the f*** do the NMC think they're doing, striking off a nurse with 20 years' experience?

  11. Ooh, this is SO tit-for-tat. Can she sue them? It seems like she should be able to, especially if she did have some permissions.

  12. Liz D - A good question. It seems she can appeal against the ruling through the High Court. Whether she can sue the NMC under any category of employment law I'm not sure.