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Practice nurse struck off for failures with smear test management

A practice nurse in Scotland has been struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) after a series of allegations relating to cervical smear tests were upheld by their fitness to practise committee.

Karen Boyle, a practice nurse at the Strathcalder Practice in East Kilbride, was found to have failed to manage the cervical samples of 16 different patients, with charges of failing to adequately label one or more of the tests and failing to record entries accurately on clinical notes all found to be proved.

An allegation that Mrs Boyle had phoned two different patients to report that their previous smear tests ‘had not obtained sufficient cells’, telling each of them that a new test was required, was also upheld by the NMC’s fitness to practise committee. This was despite no record of a result being found on the practice's system when it was checked by a colleague, meaning the samples had not been sent to the laboratory.

Mrs Boyle was also found to have attempted to conceal the fact that the smear test samples for these patients had not yet been received by the local laboratory, instead 'fabricating' a reason to mask the failure to send the samples.

The NMC brought a charge of dishonesty against Mrs Boyle relating to both her inaccurate reporting to patients and her attempts to conceal the mismanagement of the samples.

The report said: 'Mrs Boyle had given the misleading explanation that insufficient cells had been taken on the patients’ first smears and therefore the tests had to be repeated, giving the false impression that the patients’ first smear test had been received by the laboratory. The panel determined that the incorrect rationale given to the patients by Mrs Boyle was to conceal the fact that the first smear test for each patient had not been received by the laboratory.'

Mrs Boyle, who had been working as a practice nurse for 16 years, was determined to have an impaired fitness to practise, with her name removed from the NMC register.