Nurse at Northampton General Hospital suspended for 12 months after binning patient notes

Northampton General Hospital.
Northampton General Hospital.

A senior nurse at Northampton General Hospital has been suspended by a national watchdog after she threw her patient's notes in a bin, hearing papers say.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) received a referral from Northampton General Hospital about Victoria Susan Butcher who, between March and April 2015, is charged with destroying a patient's notes by putting them in the bin and attempting to conceal her errors in respect of the care she had given to a patient.

In tribunal papers, the panel said: "not only were Mrs Butcher’s actions dishonest by the standards of ordinary and 23 honest fellow members of the profession, they were also dishonest by the standards of ordinary and decent people."

In January 2015 an investigation was launched at NGH after a patient was diagnosed as having a pressure sore.

A report of the hearing said the sister in charge of the ward led the investigation and identified a number of nurses who had provided care to the patient 72 hours before the pressure sore was discovered.

It is alleged that Mrs Butcher, who currently works for Avery Care, was one of four nurses responsible for the patient’s care.

During the course of her investigation, the sister noted that a number of the patient’s clinical evaluation notes were missing.

After conducting enquiries, it was found that the notes that were missing from the patient's file related to two members of staff, one of whom was Mrs Butcher.

It is alleged that at a meeting in 2015 Mrs Butcher initially stated that she knew nothing about any missing notes - but the sister had photocopied the original notes and was therefore aware that pages had gone missing.

Butcher then admitted to having taken them and to putting them in the confidential waste bin.

It is alleged that during this meeting Mrs Butcher became emotional and when asked why she destroyed the notes she replied because she "did not want to get into trouble as a result of the patient having developed a pressure sore whilst in her care".

In a statement written in April 2015 by Butcher, she admitted removing and destroying the notes because she thought that she would get in trouble.

The papers went on to say in May Butcher had written a further statement, again admitting to destroying the notes but this time giving an alternative explanation.

This explanation was that, upon reviewing the patient’s care plan following the discovery of the pressure sore, she noticed that she had written up the details of a different patient in the care plan and so destroyed the notes so she could re-write them in the correct file.

In an investigation on 11 November 2015 Butcher allegedly admitted to destroying the patient’s notes and in this meeting, she reiterated her second account, namely that she had made an error on the patient’s notes and destroyed them as a result.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council allege that Mrs Butcher "deliberately destroyed the notes as a result of dishonesty, arising from a desire to cover up an error that she had made or thought that she had made in respect of the care given to the patient".

Mitigating, the panel concluded that this was a single and isolated incident and there is no previous or subsequent NMC referrals regarding Mrs Butcher.

The panel decided to make a suspension order for 12 months.