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Temporary suspension order imposed on Mid Staffs former director of nursing

Follows appeal lodged by overarching regulator that nursing regulator’s sanctions were not tough enough

Caroline White

Thursday, 05 December 2013

The High Court has imposed a temporary suspension order on the former Director of Nursing at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust following an appeal lodged by the Professional Standards Authority last week.

The Authority lodged an appeal in the High Court at the end of last week against the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) panel’s decision to caution Janice Harry, on the grounds that this was too lenient.

The Authority, which oversees the work of the nine health and care professional regulators, including the NMC, reviews the decisions of their fitness to practise panels. It has the power to appeal to the High Court any decision it thinks is unduly lenient.

It is asking the High Court to either substitute its own judgment on the case or to return it to a new NMC panel to be considered again.

Rosalyn Hayles, Director of Scrutiny and Quality at the Authority said: “The public have a right to expect that senior managers will be held to account for their actions when these place patients at risk of harm, just as much as staff on the front line. We think the NMC panel’s decision to caution Ms Harry is too lenient and not in the public’s interest. “

But Ms Harry was due to come off the NMC’s register today, before the outcome of the appeal had been decided. The Authority wanted the High Court to take urgent action to prevent this happening.

At a hearing yesterday, the High Court made an order that will ensure that Ms Harry remains on the NMC’s register, but  is prevented from practising as a nurse until the appeal outcome is known.

Early last month the NMC Conduct and Competence Committee found that Ms Harry had failed to ensure: adequate staffing levels and skills mix; proper nutrition and fluids on the emergency admissions unit; that patients’ dignity and privacy were maintained on the unit; and that she had allowed a situation to arise in which patients were exposed to risk of harm and, on one ward, to danger.

The Committee imposed a five-year caution order against her for misconduct in relation to serious failings as the Chief Nurse and Director responsible for nursing at Mid Staffs during the period considered by the Francis Inquiry. Ms Harry was a board member between 1998 and 2006.

The NMC subsequently asked the Authority to review the panel’s decision.

“We are pleased that the High Court has taken the action we asked for to ensure that Ms Harry remains on the NMC’s register until our appeal has been heard,” commented Harry Cayton, Chief Executive of the Authority. “This will ensure that our power to challenge fitness to practise panel decisions is not frustrated in this case.”

But he added: “This is the second time in three months that we have had to ask the High Court to intervene to take this type of action in relation to an NMC panel decision, and we will be writing to the Secretary of State (as the Judge asked us to) to ask for urgent action to amend the NMC’s legislation so that this does not keep happening.”

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