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Winterbourne nurse who punched patient is struck off by nursing regulator

9 years on - Winterbourne nurse who punched patient is struck off by nursing regulator 

A nurse who punched a patient in the face at Winterbourne View hospital, breaking his jaw leading to the loss of teeth, has been struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, following a Fitness to Practice Hearing. 

The assault took place in 2009. A previous NMC hearing in 2017 found that the nurse had committed the assault, but that the physical force used was proportionate. This shocking conclusion was overturned in the High Court and the NMC was ordered to hold a further hearing.

Emma, Ben’s sister, said “This case followed an incident that should simply never have happened, the impact of which will likely be felt for the rest of Ben’s life.  Whilst we can take no joy in an outcome that takes the livelihood of a practising professional, we welcome the justice afforded to Ben, and the protection that this decision provides for other vulnerable patients now and in the future.  We hope that this sends the necessary message to professionals who abuse their positions of power, that the voices of vulnerable people can and will be heard, and that there can be no excuses for abuse and neglect in our health or social care systems, or in our society. “ 

The Winterbourne View hospital scandal shone a light on the widespread misuse of assessment and treatment units, with patients staying for years in settings that are not homes and should only be used for short periods of assessment and treatment. The government’s Transforming Care programme was meant to change this, delivering high quality local community support and reducing the number of people in inpatient units. However, the programme has not delivered the level of change required and is due to end in March, despite the Health Secretary saying he is “not happy with the level of progress so far and absolutely determined to deal with this”. 

Vivien Cooper OBE, Chief Executive of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, said:  “Ben’s case is shocking on a range of levels – that a trained nurse could inflict such a violent assault on a patient, and that “the system” to protect him and hold people to account should be so slow and difficult to navigate. People with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges continue to experience unacceptable treatment in in-patient units, where they are vulnerable to assault, overmedication, seclusion and restraint, and experience trauma with long term consequences. Concerns raised by families, advocates and whistle-blowers must be taken seriously and be swiftly acted on.” 

 

Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive of Royal Mencap Society, said:  “It is unacceptable for anyone to be treated in this way and it is only due to the determination of Ben’s family that there has now been long overdue recognition of what happened. Winterbourne View shone a light on the widespread misuse of assessment and treatment units, with people like Ben staying for years in settings which are only meant for short periods. The government’s Transforming Care programme was meant to deliver the high quality local community support needed to significantly reduce in-patient bed numbers. But, despite a commitment from the Health Secretary to deal with this problem, we have not seen nearly enough progress to give us confidence that the right support will be available to all who need it.”

 

Alison Millar, head of the abuse team at Leigh Day, and solicitor for Ben, said: “We, and the family, are very relieved that the NMC has finally believed our client’s account and ensured that the nurse is no longer able to work with vulnerable patients. His actions constituted a horrendous assault on a vulnerable adult who should have been cared for with dignity and respect. This NMC decision is an important reminder of the need for adults with learning disabilities to be listened to and properly supported through regulatory and police investigations, so that poor care and abuse can be stamped out.”

You can read the judgement here.

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