Ashgrove Care Home nurse struck off after lying about resident’s fall

June 6, 2016

A nurse who lied about a fall taken by a resident in a Newry care home 2 years ago has been struck off the nursing register after 36 years of practice.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing held last week found nurse Mary Ellen Donnelly guilty of misconduct and issued a striking off order after considering details surrounding the incident which occurred in Ashgrove Care Home in Newry in April 2014.

The NMC said her fitness to practise had been impaired as a result of her actions which they said had put the resident “at real risk of unwarranted harm.”

The fitness to practise hearing was told that Ms Donnelly, who first registered as a nurse in 1978, was working a night shift at the Belfast Road care home in Newry on April 13th 2014 when a Healthcare Assistant alerted her that a resident had fallen whilst Ms Donnelly had been on a sleep break at about 2am.

The Health Care Assistant told her she had heard a loud cry from a resident and subsequently found the woman lying face down on the floor. Ms Donnelly and another colleague helped the woman off the floor and noticed a bruise beginning to appear on her arm.

The NMC panel heard that Nurse Donnelly had advised  the Health Care Assistant to write a false statement regarding the incident, stating that the patient had fallen out of bed and bumped into a locker during the fall, causing the bruising.  The long serving nurse then recorded the false information about the incident and the injury into the resident’s medical notes.  In addition, she did not hand over the true circumstances of the incident to the morning staff at the start of their shift or notify the patient’s next of kin of the fall.

The truth behind the incident was revealed the following night when the Health Care Assistant who discovered the resident informed senior staff what had happened, claiming that Nurse Donnelly had “pressured her into making a false statement”.

Management at Ashgrove Nursing Home launched an investigation into the allegations and Ms Donnelly was subsequently sacked after she admitted lying about the incident.

An appeal against the decision to dismiss her was upheld by the home and she was referred to the NMC in May last by the care home manager.

The fitness to practise panel was told Ms Donnelly had applied for voluntary removal from the NMC register in March of this year, stating in her application that she was no longer working as a nurse and would not be returning to the profession due to ill health.  The application was refused and Ms Donnelly admitted the five charges against her.

Following last week’s hearing in Belfast, the NMC panel said “Ms Donnelly’s actions were significant departures from the standards expected of a registered nurse” and were “fundamentally incompatible with her remaining on the register”.

“The registrant’s position at the home meant that she was dealing with vulnerable patients who required the maximum degree of professional conduct.

“Her behaviour in failing to disclose and record the patient’s fall put the patient at unwarranted risk of harm.

“Her failure to recognise the serious nature of the incident at the time, and her failure to demonstrate any insight, remorse or remediation since that time, suggests a risk of repetition of such behaviour.

The panel added that they believed Ms Donnelly would not have come forward with the truth about the circumstances of the fall had her junior colleague not whistle-blown.