Nurse ‘systematically neglected residents’

Tanglewood Care Home
Tanglewood Care Home

Dementia patients at a care home in Horncastle were left lying in their own urine by a senior registered nurse with 35 years’ experience.

Christine Downes was employed at the Tanglewood Care Home between June 2010 and February 2013.

She faced a catalogue of accusations at a disciplinary panel hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Conduct and Competence Committee. The panel heard that when a member of staff told Downes a patient was soaked in urine, she replied: “Leave her. She’ll be fine until the morning.”

Among the charges, it was alleged Downes also:

*forced medication into residents’ mouths;

*forced dentures into residents’ mouths and then held their mouths closed;

*verbally abused residents by describing one as a “fat lump” and saying another had “floppy boobs”;

*used inappropriate handing and moving techniques when administering personal/general care

*asked junior colleagues to countersign her records of dispensing drugs when they had not seen her administering the medication;

*left unattended medication in the rooms of residents and nurse’s station.

Jo Morris - for the Nursing and Midwifery Council - said Downes had “systematically neglected residents”.

Senior carer Jackie Martin told the hearing: “We would go into rooms after her and two or three of the residents in particular that she had a problem with, we’d fine wet and dirty.”

Several of the charges - including forcing residents’ mouths open and the verbal abuse - were not proven after the panel described the evidence of some of Downes’ co-workers as “muddled, exaggerated and unreliable.”

The panel said: “It became clear that what they had observed was often much less serious than their statements alleged.”

The panel served Downes with a six month suspension but members admitted they had considered permanently removing her from the nursing register.

It emerged that Downes - who was not present at the hearing - had indicated she had quit the profession.

In arriving at their verdict, the panel said: “In relation to the incidents found proved, Mrs Downes did not make the care of people her first concern.

”She did not provide a high standard of practice and care at all times.
“This failure was particularly marked in regard to leaving residents soaked in their own urine.

“Mrs Downes failed to act with honesty and integrity and did not uphold the reputation of the profession.”

The panel ruled Downes had left residents “soaked in urine” on six occasions.

However, they said they had taken several mitigating factors into account - including the longevity of Downes’ career, recent “personal difficulties” and two examples of when she used her nursing skills whole off duty to help others.

Panel chairman Elizabeth Burnley said they while they accepted Downes’ action could have had serious consequences for the care and safety of residents, they noted she was motivated by a desire to make things easier for her and her colleagues.

Ms Burnley said: “It was at the lower end of the spectrum and she had demonstrated sincere remorse.”

In a written statement, Downes stressed she was innocent of all abuse and neglect charges and claimed management had effectively conducted a witch hunt against her after she had challenged a decision regarding breaks for night staff.

She said changes in the continence pads used had led to problems.

She informed the panel she had been a nurse since 1978 and had never taken a single sick day.