A nurse who was struck off after she secretly filmed the neglect of patients has called for a review of how the NHS deals with whistleblowers, claiming nurses were afraid to speak out.
Margaret Haywood, who broke down in tears as she was struck off after a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said she was “absolutely devastated” by the decision.
She insisted that recording the appalling conditions at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton for the BBC’s Panorama programme in July 2005 was the right thing to do.
But the NMC panel told the 58-year-old, who has worked as a nurse for more than 20 years, that her misconduct was a “major breach” of the profession’s code and “it would not be in the public interest for her to be able to practise as a nurse”.
Speaking after the hearing yesterday, Ms Haywood, of Liverpool, said: “There was no other way of getting the full picture.
“I am absolutely devastated and upset by it all. I think I have been treated very harshly.
“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.”
Ms Haywood, who was found guilty of misconduct, said she had “owed it to the people on the ward” to expose the neglect.
Referring to a Healthcare Commission report into the “shocking” state of affairs at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust last month that found “appalling conditions” at Stafford Hospital, Ms Haywood called for a review of the system for NHS whistleblowers.
A Royal College of Nursing spokesman said: “It is absolutely vital that healthcare staff at all levels feel they can raise concerns about poor patient care with their managers.
“Those in charge must put robust systems in place which allow staff to voice their concerns. Just as important is the need for trusts to ensure that every member of staff is fully aware of such systems and know that they will be supported when raising genuine concerns.
“However, it is clear that there are parts of the health service which do not have such systems 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.”
Earlier at the hearing, Linda Read, the panel’s chairman, told Ms Haywood: “In the view of the panel, this was a major breach of the code of conduct.
“A patient should be able to trust a nurse with his/her physical condition and psychological well-being 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.
“The panel is of the view that the misconduct found is fundamentally incompatible with being a nurse.”