A NURSE, cleared of misconduct after the death of an elderly patient at a troubled South Tyneside care home, says she feels “vindicated” after fighting to save her reputation.
Jackie Collins was sacked from the problem-hit St Michael’s View Care Home, in Westoe, South Shields, and faced being struck off by national nursing chiefs after being charged with failing to provide adequate care for a resident.
But a nursing and Midwifery Council misconduct hearing in London proved her innocence, and the five charges against the 57-year-old were thrown out.
Mrs Collins, of Lawe Road, South Shields, who has worked for more than 20 care homes since qualifying as a nurse in 1978, said she was stunned by the allegation and refused to let it lie.
She said: “When the charge was put to me that I left her in pain, I knew I couldn’t live with that and was going to have to fight it.
“I have always looked after people by thinking ‘how would I want my own mum to be treated’. I would never leave anyone in pain.”
She added: “I do feel vindicated that there was no case to answer.
“I travelled down to London and was prepared to give evidence but was happy when the case was dismissed by the panel before that.”
Mrs Collins says the case has cost her thousands of pounds in lost earnings and legal fees.
The allegation was that Mrs Collins left a frail pensioner – referred to only as Resident A – in pain in the days leading up to her death on August 28, 2012.
The resident was under the care of Mrs Collins on August 26 and 27, and she faced charges that she did not attempt to provide any pain medication to her, did not carry out or record adequate clinical observations – including blood pressure tests – did not seek advice from a GP, emergency services or the home manager, did not record sufficient information about the woman’s condition in her medical records and did not properly identify that there was no “end of life” care plan in place for her.
Resident A had been under the care of another nurse on the day of her death.
The misconduct panel was due to sit for three days but said there was no case to answer on all five charges on the second day of the hearing.
Mrs Collins was dismissed following an investigation by South Tyneside Council in October 2012. She launched a subsequent appeal against her sacking, but it was rejected.
Mrs Collins says she feels that the care home’s troubled reputation may have played a part in the case not being dismissed earlier.
She said: “Because of what has happened at the care home in the past, I think it was felt the case had to go all the way to a hearing.
“I was only at the home for four months but I never found any problems. The carers were very hard-working.
“I’m lucky that I have my nursing qualifications, but many will find it hard to get new jobs because employers will see the name of St Michael’s View.”
Mrs Collins says she is grateful to her husband Michael, 58, and her teenage son and daughter and teenage stepson for their unstinting support.
She added: “I was disappointed that some people were so quick to see me as guilty before seeing the facts.
“This has been very hard for my family but Michael has been a rock, both financially and emotionally.
“I couldn’t have got through it without him or the support of all of my family. I have three teenage children, a son, a daughter and a stepson.
“They have all said to me separately ‘are you going to go to prison?’.
“There will be some people who will always say there is no smoke without fire, and I’ll have to live with that.”
Mrs Collins says she is now ready to get back into work but is unsure of whether she will return to employment at a care home.
THE Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing verdicts:
* In relation to charge 1, that Mrs Collins didn’t properly identify there was no ‘End of Life’ plan, the panel stated: “The panel noted that there was no policy in force at the home at the time in relation to ‘End of Life’ care plans.
“The panel found that there was mo evidence of any significant change in the condition of Resident A which might have been a catalyst for a review of any End of Life care plan.”
* In relation to charge 2, that Mrs Collins did not carry out or record adequate clinical observations, including blood pressure and or pulse, the panel stated: “The panel found that there was no evidence in any significant change in the condition of Resident A that might have been a catalyst for you to take Resident A’s observations.
“The panel also took into account evidence that this would have been a matter for your own clinical judgement.”
* In relation to charge 3, that Mrs Collins did not seek advice or assistance from a GP or the emergency services or the home Mmanager, the panel stated: “The panel determined that there was no evidence of any significant change in the condition of Resident A which might have been a catalyst for you to call the GP, the emergency services or the Home Manager.
* In relation to charge 4, that Mrs Collins did not attempt to provide any pain relief medication, the panel
stated: “The panel noted that it was your assessment that Resident A was not in pain. The panel noted that it is supported by the recorded fact that the hospital did not administer any medication, including pain killers, to resident A when she was admitted shortly afterwards. The panel determined that there was no evidence before it that Resident A was in any pain.
* In relation to charge 5, that Mrs Collins did not record sufficiently full and detailed information about the resident’s condition and care provided and decisions taken in her medical records, the panel stated: “The panel noted that the notes were full and detailed and that you had written more than the other nurses.
“The panel did not consider that there was sufficient evidence to support the allegation that the records made by you in respect of Resident A were not adequate.
The panel concluded: “The panel accepts that the allegations relate to an isolated incident in the course of your otherwise unblemished and lengthy nursing career.”