A practice nurse has been struck off after giving spare Covid-19 vaccinations to people who were not eligible, including her own husband and colleagues’ friends and family.
Diana Mary Morris was working as a lead practice nurse at Dockham Surgery in Gloucestershire in early 2021 when she helped administer doses of the jab to several people who were not eligible because she wanted to ‘avoid waste’, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise (FtP) panel was told.
However, the panel said her employer was ‘clear’ that any ‘spare’ vaccines should have been given to the next person on the list of eligibility.
An NMC FtP committee met during a virtual hearing on 26 October 2023 to decide if any sanctions should be taken against Ms Morris, who did not attend.
On 11 February 2021, during a national Covid-19 lockdown, Ms Morris assisted a healthcare assistant colleague in administering unauthorised vaccines to 11 ineligible patients ‘after normal practice hours’. This colleague – described as Colleague A in the subsequent FtP report – was ‘not qualified to administer vaccinations’.
Ms Morris, who has been registered as a nurse since 1986, was said to have contacted patients by telephone in the afternoon to ask them if they would like to receive the Covid vaccine that evening at Colleague A’s house, the report said.
‘Some of these people were not patients of the practice, but were family members or friends of staff at the practice,’ it added.
On 18 February, Ms Morris also administered a Covid vaccine to her husband who was also not eligible and was registered at a different practice.
Where there was ‘no evidence that Ms Morris’s actions actually caused harm to patients, she put the patients at unwarranted risk of harm’, the panel said.
For example, it identified two patients ‘particularly at the risk of harm’ – one who received a second Covid vaccine only after a four-week gap, rather than the required 12 weeks, and one who received the Oxford AstraZenaca vaccine, which the report said was considered ‘high risk’ due to their age and health risks.
The FtP report said Ms Morris ‘did not disclose’ that she had arranged for the jabs to be administered by Colleague A and that her workplace only found out after an anonymous letter was sent.
During the course of the investigation, the panel found that Ms Morris failed to record the administration of the vaccine to family and friends, to check patients’ medical records and to carry out risk assessments prior to the administration of the vaccine.
Noting her ‘poor record keeping’, the report said ‘her failure to review patient records before administration, or record on their records that they’d received the vaccine, put [these patients] at risk of harm from adverse reactions’.
‘Additionally, administering Covid-19 vaccine that was intended for eligible patients could place the eligible patients who might have been denied the vaccine at risk of harm,’ it said.
The criteria to be eligible for the vaccine at the time was that a patient had to be housebound and aged 70 and over, people in nursing homes, the clinically vulnerable and frontline health and social care workers.
The FtP committee acknowledged that ‘Ms Morris accepts that the failings are a serious departure from the professional standards and behaviour expected of a registered nurse’ and that ‘her conduct presented a risk of harm to patients’.
Ms Morris had said she was under ‘massive pressure’ to vaccinate as many people as possible and, if there was any surplus vaccine, she would try and use this up to ‘avoid waste’.
In an email to the NMC in January 2022, she said she ‘would certainly never knowingly put any patent at risk,’ adding: ‘I deeply regret not going back to the hub with [my colleague] to return the remaining full vial of Covid vaccination.
‘I now feel ruined [and] have lost everything – my home, my job, my reputation – and am now also struggling mentally.’
The FtP panel concluded: ‘Ms Morris failed to act with honesty and integrity by administering Covid-19 vaccine to ineligible patients of which she was aware, administering the vaccine to her colleagues’ friends and relatives, failing to record such administration of vaccine, to check patients’ medical records and to carry out risk assessments prior to Covid-19 vaccine administration.
‘Ms Morris breached the trust that was placed in her, which is particularly serious given the senior position she held.’
Ms Morris has been struck off, with an interim suspension order in place during the 28-day appeal period.