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Nurse struck off over documentary

A nurse who secretly filmed the "dreadful" conditions in a Brighton hospital for the BBC Panorama programme has been struck off.

Nurse Margaret Haywood recorded conditions at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton for the documentary aimed at exposing neglect of elderly patients.

Ms Haywood, 58, said she felt she was doing the right thing and that she "owed it to the people on the ward".

But the Liverpool nurse was found guilty of misconduct at a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council in central London.

Linda Read, chair of the panel, said: "A patient should be able to trust a nurse with his/her physical condition and psychological wellbeing without that confidential information being disclosed to others.

"Although the conditions on the ward were dreadful, it was not necessary to breach confidentiality to seek to improve them by the method chosen."

Speaking after the hearing, Ms Haywood, of Liverpool, said: "It is a serious issue and I knew it was a risk I was taking but I thought the filming was justified and it was in the public interest. I did voice my concerns through my immediate line manager and I also went to my ward manager but nothing was really taken on board."

A Royal College of Nursing spokesman said: "It is clear that there are parts of the health service which do not have robust systems in place which allow staff to voice their concerns or working environments in place.

"This can put staff in an extremely difficult position and when staff concerns are discouraged or ignored, it can often lead to poor patient care getting worse."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Royal College of Nursing

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Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I do not believe this nurse should have been struck off. However, other mediation with the registration board would have been appropriate to ensure compliance with patient confidentiality, and ongoing monitoring and assessment for a period of time. No person vulnerable to our care should be exposed without consent to millions of individuals witnessing an act of abuse towards them ... this in itself is a form of abuse" - Bronwyn Barratt, Australia

"She definitely didn't put the patients at risk. My Mum has just died in hospital, and I wish that a nurse like her had been about to film the appalling level of care that Mum recieved, despite the several complaints made by me and my sister." - Julie Jones, Anglesey

"The nurse is the patient's advocate and if this is the only way to show the failings on some wards then she did the right thing." - Richard, Leicester

"I agree that I would not want to be seen by millions myself, but if I was crying out as one of those patients, 'Get me out tof this ward', and another, 'Two hours and still no toilet, I am going to ...' I may very well not mind and may agree to it. It was shocking neglect by any standards, irrespective of the cause, and we as nurses must be allowed to advocate in
such circumstances. A caution, yes. Strike off, NO. NO human being in a peace era and first world context should have been allowed to get into such a state. When taking other incidents into account elsewhere such as vulnerable patients coming back home with bedsores, learning disability patients not monitored in our hospitals, it is a DESEASE among health staff not to raise issues beyond management when management refuse to see
and hear for themselves, as they say they can after being exposed!!" - Sharron Robertson, London

"Of course Margaret did not put patients at risk. Her silence would have though, her colleagues must be hanging their heads in shame. When I started my training in the 70s good nursing care was a basic standard - now it is an ideal. Shame on you NMC! You have missed yet another opportunity to support the very people who work to make sure you have a job, every single day." - M Armstrong, North Tyneside

"The breaking of confidentiality seems to be a strange reason to  deal so harshly with this nurse. Where patients are being put at risk of harm, then the breaking of this confidentiality is essential. Indeed it could be put that the staff not giving this information are failing in their duty" – Fedor Bunge, Highland

"Of course she did not put patients at risk. In this country you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. This is such an unfair decission. REINSTATE HER RIGHT AWAY" – Jill Gulliver, Hampshire

"I am a nurse in the United States and I must say that if I ever considered pursuing a position in your country that thought has now been erased from my mind forever! It is very disturbing and concerning that a nurse could be 'struck off' for being a patient advocate. This does not say a lot for your govering body and if anybody should be considered to be struck off maybe it should be Linda Reed" – V Costa, USA

"Just another reason why I no longer really want to practise as a nurse" – Jayne, Essex

"As a nurse, if she had not acted she would have been in breach of her code of conduct. However, by blowing the whistle she has lost her job! This nurse was in a no-win situation and the NMC should have recognised this. It was in the public's best interests to show the poor care these patients were receiving, confidentiality is not absolute" – Helen Chapman, Southend

"I agree with the comments. This nurse should not have been struck off, she was trying to be an advocate for her patients, protect them and patients of the future from disastrous managment. Again, the shop floor nurse is the scapegoat. Where are the managers who failed to act upon the concerns that must have been raised prior to this incident, and if staff where too afraid to raise the issues do these senior managers, some of them qualified nurses, walk around with their eyes closed? Much is said about modern nursing, etc, but although pooh poohed as old school, the way patients were cared for in the 70s and early 80s has a lot going for it. Bring back ward sisters who were afraid of no one and put their patients first!" – Janet Cunniffe, Wigan

"I am disgusted that this nurse was struck off. She was putting the patients' interests before her own and in this case was penalised for it. Is this a warning to other nurses that if we try to highlight what amounts to abuse committed by so-called professional nurses that WE will be struck off? What message does this give to the public about how seriously the nursing  bodies view patient abuse and for that matter what message does this give to the nurses about standards? If we don't do  something then who will?" – Lesley Williamson, Northumberland

"I think that the NMC should remove the nurses involved in the care of the patients at that hospital; they have broken the practice code. The nurses involved have a duty of care to those patients. The NMC should have not removed the nurse from the registar. Doctors make mistakes, they are given a supervision order – not struck off. The nurses in this country should stand up and be counted and support this nurse" – Ellen Kenworthy, South Wales

"Unfortunately, the culture within nursing is not to speak out for fear of the repercussion. The NMC may go on about patient confidentiality but what about dignity and respect for the patient? Those patients were someone's parents/grandparents." - Maria Dale, UK

"She may not have put patients at risk but this was done without their consent, at a time when I as a patient would not want myself or a relative to be seem by millions." - Olivia Neely, Coventry

"I don't agree that she should be struck off. I think any of us would expect to go before the NMC after the programme, but feel that they have dismissed the issues whilst striking off Margaret. The NMC have openly critised a whistleblower, I feel this is unfair. I wish Margaret well for the future, and hope that she gets support from nurses around her." - Jo O'Grady, Staffordshire