A NURSE has been struck off today after being caught snooping on the confidential medical records of a builder to whom she owed more than £20,000.
Fife nurse Kay Frances Ovens was unhappy with the work the builder had carried out on her house, so refused to pay him the money, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing heard.
The builder, named only as Mr A in the hearing, was in a legal dispute with Ovens, and a court had increased the payout to £55,000.
Frustrated that Mr A was not turning up to court because he said he was ill, she then looked up his medical records, using a computer at the mental health unit where she worked.
Ovens, who worked at Hill View Day Hospital in Fife, also looked up the records of her friends and family.
She faced charges of inappropriately accessing four people’s records on 13 separate days, including the family member of a colleague.
She made no admission to any of the charges the NMC.
The hearing was told how Ovens had to be stopped by colleagues from accessing the records on November 25, 2009.
She was tearful in work after receiving a call from her solicitor saying the builder would not be attending a court date as he said he was ill.
John Gillon, senior charge nurse at Hill View Day Hospital, part ofQueenMargaretHospitalin Dunfermline,Fife, described how he initially stopped her from accessing the records.
Mr Gillon told the hearing: “I saw Kay was very upset. She was sitting at her computer. It was clear she was trying to log in to SCI [the patient record system].
“I asked, what are you doing? She said she was attempting to access results for her builder.
“She said, ‘I want to see what’s wrong with him.'”
Mr Gillon warned her she could lose her job if she inappropriately accessed records.
But computer records showed just two days later she used another nurses account to access Mr A’s records.
They showed she had looked at results of fertility tests and wound swab results, and that she had also accessed Mr A’s results in October 2009.
The accesses came to light after Mr Gillon checked his own computer records and found a name he did not recognise in his search history.
Mr Gillon continued: “I knew she had some building work done but she was not happy with the quality of the work.”
“She had £20,000 outstanding to pay.
“She said she was prepared to pay £20,000 but the court increased this to around £55,000. She did not think that the builder was entitled to this.”
John Short, a manager at NHS Fife who investigated the case, said “I felt there was a significant lack of openness [from Ovens] from the outset.
He said the work of the builder was done on Oven’s house.
Ovens, who had been in the dispute for several years, told a previous disciplinary hearing: “In the case of Mr A, I admitted it but I have no memory. I became very tearful and emotional.
“I realised I was allowing the situation to engulf me again.”
Ovens said she accessed blood test records of her friends and family because she was worried they had contracted Lyme disease.
She said: “We had all been shooting and hunting and we had been bitten by ticks.
“My friend’s husband has now been diagnosed with Lyme disease.”
She also admitted accessing the records of a colleague’s relative, who was in hospital with cancer, at the previous hearing.
She admitted she had accessed the builder’s medical records, but said she had no memory of doing so.
She was dismissed from NHS Fife in 2010, after an investigation conducted by Mr Short and other managers.
The hearing heard it was ‘common practice’ for nurses in the unit to use each others accounts to access records of friend and family.
But managers cracked down on this practice after Ovens’ conduct was uncovered, and one other nurse was temporarily suspended.
Case presenter for the NMC Chloe Binding said: “Accessing of the medical records was deeply inappropriate.”
The NMC panel chaired by Michael Cann said the misconduct meant Ms Oven fitness to practice was impaired.
They said: “The panel heard evidence from Mr Gillon and Mr Short that Ms Ovens was not open and honest when confronted with the allegations.
“The panel is particularly concerned that despite a warning she again improperly accessed records.
“Ms Ovens has broken one of the fundamental tenets of the profession, that is maintaining confidentiality of patient records.
“She repeatedly accessed records of four people. She did so despite being told not to do so.”
The panel said she had committed a ‘gross breach’ of the NMC and the NHS’s rules.
Announcing its decision to strike off Ovens, the panel said her conduct was “fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the register.”