Newly-qualified nurse oversaw care home chaos

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A NEWLY-QUALIFIED nurse was left to preside over a weekend of chaos at an upmarket £800-per-week care home.

Joanne Ruth Lithgow failed to give medication to residents or correctly complete key ­paperwork at Aaron House Care Home before handing a colleague heavy-duty painkiller tramadol without a ­prescription.

Her errors resulted in a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practice hearing, with a panel saying she had displayed a “cavalier approach to record-keeping and medication administration” and had been guilty of “deplorable conduct for a registered nurse”.

However, the home, run by New Century Care, was also criticised, with the panel finding that the nurse had not been given adequate support and training and that other registered nurses were making similar mistakes.

In total, 14 charges were found proven against Mrs Lithgow, who did not turn up at her hearing, and she was made the subject of a strict conditions of practice order.

After beginning work in September 2010 at the Penicuik home, which has room for up to 70 residents, Mrs Lithgow was given just a one-week supervisory period.

Vital medication was delivered at the beginning of the weekend of January 6 last year, when Mrs Lithgow was the only registered nurse on duty, but its arrival was not ­recorded.

Although she was aware a delivery had been made, she failed to search the bags it came in.

She then incorrectly ­recorded medication as not being available, while in other cases drugs that were in supply and were ready to be given out, including an antibiotic and a heart drug, were found untouched by other workers when they came in for work on the Monday. Mrs Lithgow then failed to record the fact that she had given out drugs on several occasions, before giving a colleague with a headache tramadol, saying it was stronger than the ­paracetamol she had already taken.

When quizzed three days later as part of an investigation, the nurse claimed to not be aware that she could not give prescribed drugs out freely. Following the launch of an internal probe, Mrs Lithgow resigned from the home.

The NMC panel found that Mrs Lithgow’s actions had put home residents and her colleague in danger and “brought the nursing profession into disrepute”.

In its findings, it said: “Mrs Lithgow was dealing with vulnerable patients who were not given medication they required for their health and comfort.

“Administering medication to another when it was not prescribed was deplorable conduct for a registered nurse.

“Taking all of the facts into account, over the weekend of 
January 6-8, 2012, Mrs Lithgow failed to provide a high standard of care to residents in the home, in addition to the unauthorised giving of prescribed medication to a ­colleague.”

A conditions of practice order, which will be reviewed before it expired, will remain in place for 12 months.

If she returns to nursing, Mrs Lithgow must initially remain under supervision, draw up a personal development plan and inform any potential employer of the order.

Jenny Carney, operations director for New Century Care, said Mrs Lithgow had followed “company induction procedures” and the incidents had occurred more than a year into her employment.

She added: “As a practising registered nurse, her registration requires her to request help or state she feels unable to perform the role requested if needed.

“The home has no record of Mrs Lithgow having made such a statement.

“All care homes are busy – Aaron House runs a full compliment of staff as required by the authorities.”