Panorama's nurse whistle-blower is reinstated

A whistleblower nurse who was struck off after raising concerns about poor standards of care for BBC Panorama has been reinstated.

Margaret Haywood was struck off the nursing register for misconduct in April after secretly filming the neglect of elderly patients for a television documentary.

She had admitted breaching patient confidentiality but said she had agreed to film at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton to highlight terrible conditions there.

Yesterday the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said a High Court decision had been reached on an appropriate sanction for the nurse, who is from Liverpool.

The court has replaced the striking off order with a one-year caution.

“All parties agree that the sanction decided by the court represents a fair outcome to this case,” a joint statement said.

Kathy George, chief executive and registrar at the NMC, said: “Raising concerns about poor standards of care is a difficult and brave step for any nurse or midwife to take and is vitally important in driving improvements in patient care.

“One of the lessons of Margaret Haywood’s case is that nurses and midwives need clearer information about how to appropriately raise and escalate concerns in a way that is safe for patients and in a way that will not bring them into conflict with their code of conduct.”

She said guidance was currently being developed on how nurses and midwifes should appropriately raise and escalate concerns, to be published next year.

“We are also taking steps to remind employers and managers of the need to establish clearer reporting procedures and to ensure that these are widely promoted amongst staff, so that nurses and midwives can feel confident that employers will listen to and respond appropriately to their concerns.”

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN, said: “We are pleased with today’s outcome which means that Margaret will be able to continue practising as a nurse.

“In reaching this conclusion it has been recognised that, while the case raised complex questions about competing duties, Margaret had an unblemished career as a nurse and contributed significantly to the care of patients.

“We would like to thank patients and the public for the vast support they have given her.

“We consider the matter satisfactorily resolved and all parties can now move on.”

The Panorama programme, which aired in 2005, was the result of a three-month investigation.

In one scene, a patient was left to die alone while another had to wait hours to go to the toilet.

Haywood, who has more than 20 years’ experience, wore a hidden camera during 28 shifts on an acute medical ward.

BBC journalist Shabnam Grewal also got a job on the ward with a private company which had the contract to clean the hospital and serve food.

Ms Haywood said at the time: “Seeing this kind of care makes me feel angry, it makes me ashamed of my profession.

“We’re talking about basic human needs here, basic nursing care.”

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