A SENIOR NURSE who grabbed an elderly dementia patient by the scruff of her neck and forced her into a chair has been suspended for a year.
Mary Reid Easton had 13 charges of misconduct against her found proven, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing in Edinburgh said this week.
A former deputy manager of the scandal-hit Hilton Gardens Care Home in South Lanarkshire, also failed to update the care plans of ten residents, and changed residents’ care plans while on holiday or days off.
An earlier charge the 48-year-old nurse had forced spoonful of food into her mouth was dropped after the NMC panel found there was no case to answer.
But charges she “grabbed her by the scruff of her neck” and “pushed her back to her chair” in January 2010 were found proved.
The NMC panel, chaired by Sue Wittaker, said: “You were the deputy manager at the time and Patient N was an elderly dementia patient in her 80 or 90’s.
“You were in a position of trust, and used unnecessary force towards Patient N.”
Another nurse at the home, Dianne Lynn Connelly, told the panel she had seen Ms Easton drag the dementia patient, named only as Patient N, and force her into a chair as other residents were having diner.
She said: “Whilst still having dinner Resident N, who is an elderly frail dementia patient, got up to go to the bathroom.
“At that point, Mary Easton grabbed Resident N by the scruff of the neck, almost knocking her over with the chair.
“Resident N looked distressed at that point. She then pushed Resident N back to her chair”
The Panel said it accepted Ms Connelly’s version of events, saying: “Ms Connelly gave an compelling account and demonstration of the incident, and recalled the incident with clarity.
“This was not a situation where you provided a competing account but was instead a situation where your answer was a flat denial.”
The panel said: “Ms Johnston submitted that there is no evidence to support [the charge of force-feeding] and that it has not been proved on the balance of probabilities.
“She referred the panel to the statement of Ms Connelly and submitted that it indicates that it was another staff member who forced the spoon full of food into Resident N’s mouth.
“She submitted that Ms Connelly confirmed this in her evidence.”
Ms Easton’s solicitor, Leslie Johnston, said the nurse had showed insight into her actions.
The panel said: “She submitted that Charge 6 was an isolated incident and the first incident in an otherwise unblemished 13-14 year career.
“Ms Johnston told the panel that you now have an understanding about the care that needs to be take when moving and handling patients, and recognise that a heavy handed approach is unacceptable.”
Ms Johnston had earlier argued Ms Connelly’s evidence was “extremely vague”.
Announcing its decision to suspend the nurse for 12 months, the panel said: “It was an extremely serious incident where you used unnecessary force towards Patient N by grabbing her by the scruff of the neck and pushing her back to her chair.
“The panel did give consideration to a Striking Off Order but determined that, whilst your misconduct is serious, it is not fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the register.”
The 62-bed home Hilton Gardens care home has been the subject of critical reports from inspectors.
In March 2011, four members of staff, one nurse and three care assistants, were sacked pending an investigation into patient abuse.
It was alleged that members of staff physically assaulted residents, forced them to take cold showers and eat food from bins.
In March this year, two staff were sacked and two more resigned voluntarily after managers found them sleeping during a nightshift.
Care home watchdogs have said the home has improved since new managers took over last year.