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Camden News - by SIMON WROE and SARAH NEWMAN
Published: 29 May 2008
Hospital ‘unclear’ on criminal check

Tribunal cautions nurse with ‘diabolical’ past after she is dismissed from the Royal Free

CRIMINAL record checks on Royal Free staff are unclear and in some cases non-existent, it was revealed at a tribunal yesterday (Wednesday).
Nurse Susan McCabe, 41, from Athlone Street, in Camden Town, was sacked by the hospital in 2006 after a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check revealed previous convictions for drink driving and criminal damage – and a caution for being drunk while in charge of a child. But a conduct and competence committee at the Nurses and Midwifery Council in Westminster heard that McCabe had been treating Royal Free patients as an agency nurse since 2001 and that she was under no obligation to declare the child-related caution, the main reason for her dismissal.
Hillary Nightingale, the Royal Free’s assistant director for human resources, admitted to the hearing that none of the trust’s employees who began work before CRBs were enforced in 2002 had been subject to retrospective checks.
Ms McCabe’s criminal past was only discovered when she applied to become a full-time member of staff in September 2005.
Ms Nightingale told the board that a disciplinary hearing in October 2006 had found Ms McCabe to be “dishonest on her CRB”. That, combined with “the nature of her convictions”, had led to her dismissal, the inquest heard.
But the committee ruled that Ms McCabe was “under no obligation” to declare cautions according to the “unclear” employee guidance notes.
Committee chairman Laurence Peterken said: “She told the investigation hearing that she had not acted dishonestly.
“Neither the registrant nor the management were clear at the investigation meeting whether her convictions were relevant to her nursing career.”
In a letter to the panel, Ms McCabe wrote: “I wanted to be a nurse since I was a little girl.”
She added: “I’m a good nurse despite my diabolical social life in the past.”
The panel ruled that for the next three years Ms McCabe would be subject to a caution, which would be indicated on the register.
Mr Peterken added: “The registrant’s actions did not cause any patients’ harm. Her acceptance of a caution shows some acceptance into her failings.
“There’s no evidence of similar behaviour since 2004.”
A Royal Free spokeswoman said the NHS trust followed NHS policy, which expects new staff to be checked.
She said: “There is no legal requirement to carry out retrospective checking of staff who commenced employment before 2002.
“Ms McCabe was not checked in 2001 when she joined the trust nursing bank, as CRB checking procedures only commenced in 2002.
“When she applied for a permanent post with the trust in 2005, she was checked according to the CRB checking procedures and appropriate action was taken.”

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