A NURSE who used donations to her ward to buy alcohol for patients and pay for staff parties has been allowed to keep her job.
Audrey Marshall, 43, was cleared of misconduct by the Nursing and Midwifery Council after admitting accepting money from four patients’ families but failing to record them. The hearing revealed it was regular and unexceptional for hospital workers to hold on to cash donations informally.
She was backed by the NMC who said any fair-minded observer would be unconcerned by her conduct.
Her colleagues also rallied round, saying she was a well-respected nurse.
Ms Marshall declined to comment after the hearing on Friday.
However, in a statement submitted to the NMC she said: “I’ve punished myself more than anyone else could and lost a huge part of who I am.”
The nurse worked at an unnamed hospital in the NHS Lothian area between 2009 and 2011 when her spending was discovered.
She was demoted and given a warning.
The case was also referred to the police but, in 2012 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Ms Marshall was acquitted of both theft and embezzlement in relation to her handling of the donations.
The sheriff said he had no hesitation in finding her not guilty and said it was clear that although she had broken hospital accounting rules she was not dishonest.
He concluded by describing Ms Marshall as a highly respected and dedicated professional.
An investigation by the NMC into her actions also found she had not acted dishonestly. However, the panel did warn that Ms Marshall had mismanaged funds.
It pointed out that spending donations on staff parties and nights out was something that could be serious enough to constitute misconduct.
At the hearing, NHS Lothian was said to have since changed its approach to donations and offered an amnesty to staff who held on to cash gifts without formally recording them.
A letter from the clinical director of gynaecology at NHS Lothian stated: “From 2007 to the beginning of 2013, I was aware of a number of similar funds held informally by ward and departmental staff within NHS Lothian, in a similar manner to those being managed by Ms Marshall.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw today voiced concerns over the case.
He said: “When money is donated to wards, the last thing families expect is for it to be blown on a staff night out. Now this case has come to light, there is no excuse for it to happen again.”
The board’s Jane Ferguson said all donations handed to staff in NHS Lothian must be passed to the foundation.
NHS Lothian was asked how much money staff had held informally, but said it could not provide this information.