A care home nurse who performed an intimate examination on a elderly man who did not have the mental capacity to consent has been allowed to keep her job.
Ruth Preston insisted she had been trying to help the patient, who was suffering from severe bowel problems, at a failing Blackpool care home.
She admitted failing to record the examination and a further allegation that she had received a caution from the police for her actions on the night shift of January 16 to 17 last year.
And she told a Nursing and Midwifery Tribunal in London there was widespread neglect at the Abbeydale Care Home, which was closed following a Care and Quality Commission inspection – reported by The Gazette – that uncovered residents suffering from ringworm and scabies.
“I started at Abbeydale Care Home as a bank nurse and when I started there, the morning I stood in the lounge and looked around me I thought then what the hell was I doing there?” she told the tribunal.
“It was quite a difficult home to run and to nurse in because it was very poorly run by the management.
“The residents weren’t getting the 100 per cent care that they wanted.
“I felt at the time over a number of nights I had done there, this man was literally dying from the inside out.”
She told the hearing the patient, named as Resident A, was not given a drink all day, until the night staff came on at 9pm.
“I had nursed him for quite a while and I went to walk him to bed at night and we used to have a bit of banter,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have said his capacity was severe dementia. I would say he had limited consent.
“On the night of the 16 and 17 of January, when I was on duty, I was on with a young care assistant who was standing over him actually commenting on his bowel. I think that was what really infuriated me.’
“On the night I actually bent my head down to Mr A when he was in bed and he was facing me and I said, ‘Would it be OK if I took a look at you’?
“He nodded which I took to mean yes.”
She said she was “mortified” and “dumbstruck” when police handed her a caution for her actions.
“Nobody really gave a damn about those patients in Abbeydale, hence three ambulances came and closed the place down there and then,” she said.
Preston, who has been in the profession for 40 years, said pensioners were wheeled into an empty room for 12 hours each day, with blank walls and nothing to do, and then wheeled back to bed for the remaining 12 hours.
Jacqueline Alexander, chairman of the NMC panel, said : “The panel considered the action which led to your receiving a police caution for wilfully ill-treating or neglecting a resident in your care who lacked mental capacity was unacceptable.
“However, the panel considered that, in the context of a challenging working environment, this case was at the lower end of the spectrum of impaired fitness to practise and concluded that a caution order would mark the behaviour must not happen again and would also uphold public confidence in the profession.
“The panel determined the risk to patients and the public through a repetition of your behaviour was minimal and as such did not require the panel to impose a sanction to restrict your clinical practise.”
Preston, who is currently working night shifts in another care home, was handed a 12-month caution order.
In June, Blackpool Council and NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group terminated their contract with Abbeydale owners Ribble Valley Care over major concerns over the quality of care.
The home has now closed.