A psychiatric nurse who was found to be dishonest about a colleague punching and breaking the nose of a seriously ill mental health patient has been struck off.
John Thomas Kelly was previously acquitted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, ill treatment of a mental health patient and the wilful neglect of the patient at Craigavon Crown Court.
However, the Nursing Midwifery Council (NMC) has now found him guilty of a series of charges, including failing to administer first aid to a patient after a colleague, Patrick Maguire, punched him in the face. The patient’s injuries were so severe that he required surgery to repair his broken nose.
Kelly was working a night shift in a psychiatric intensive care unit at the Bluestone Unit at Craigavon Area Hospital in October 2017 when a patient was assaulted by Maguire — referred to as Colleague A during an NMC ‘fitness to practise’ hearing.
In a subsequent witness statement, Kelly said: “Patient A was brought to the ground by myself and Colleague A. Colleague A said to me that Patient A’s nose had hit his knee as he was being brought to the ground. I accepted what he told me as I had no reason not to believe it.”
The hearing was told Kelly repeated the claim multiple times throughout the interview.
However, the NMC fitness to practise panel did not accept Kelly’s account.
It said: “The panel was of the view upon seeing the CCTV footage, that Mr Kelly was in very close proximity and would have seen Colleague A punch Patient A on two occasions. So it was of the view that to say otherwise would be incorrect.”
The NMC found that Kelly’s assertion in his witness statement that his colleague had not assaulted the patient was “dishonest” as he knew he had punched him in the face. The panel further found that Kelly had breached his duty of candour.
The findings continued: “The panel was of the view that a nurse punching a patient is very serious. The panel was of the view that witnessing such an act and not reporting, escalating or taking any steps to provide first aid was also very serious.
“It was of the view that having witnessed such an event, Mr Kelly had a responsibility to take action. The panel bore in mind the evidence it had received that Mr Kelly and Colleague A had worked together for ‘many years’.
“Mr Kelly was an experienced nurse and should have known how to respond to the situation appropriately. The panel determined there was no excuse for Mr Kelly to have behaved as he did.
“The panel noted that whilst this was a single incident, Patient A suffered serious injury to his nose, which required manipulation under general anaesthetic.”
Kelly, who was 66 when he appeared at Craigavon Crown Court in August 2018 and whose address was given as Newtownhamilton Road in Armagh, denied all charges in relation to the incident.
While Kelly was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, Maguire was handed a nine-month prison sentence by Judge Patrick Lynch QC in December 2018.
Maguire, whose address was given as Tollymore Brae in Newcastle, admitted causing actual bodily harm to the patient, wilfully neglecting him by failing to get immediate medical attention and attempting to pervert the course of justice on October 27, 2017.
The court was told the patient, who had bipolar disorder, was standing against a wall in the corridor when Maguire took him by the elbow to guide him back to bed. The patient threw a punch at Maguire, who “punched him three times, full blows” to the face, causing his nose to bleed profusely, the court heard.
Examining the case last week, the NMC panel found Kelly guilty of misconduct, stating he had put Patient A at risk of harm, which “breached the fundamental tenets of the nursing profession”.
The panel said it had not received any evidence of insight, remorse or remediation by Kelly, leading it to find his fitness to practise was impaired. It further found a striking off order was the only “appropriate” sanction given what Kelly had witnessed and the fact he had been dishonest about what happened.