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Armagh mental health nurse struck off after series of concerning incidents at specialist unit

Gillis Memory Unit Armagh

A mental health nurse working in a specialist unit in Armagh has been struck because it was the “only sanction sufficient to protect patients, colleagues and the public”.

Conor Deeney was employed by the Southern Health Trust as a Band 5 staff nurse at the Gillis Memory Centre at St Luke’s Hospital when a series of concerning incidents occurred.

The nurse, who was described as having “a deep-seated attitudinal issue” was struck off following a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) earlier this month.

The disciplinary panel heard that on October 26, 2021, the NMC received a referral from the Southern Trust relating to concerns about Deeney’s attitude, patient care and his treatment of colleagues.

The referral detailed that on October 8, 2020, when Deeney was asked by ‘Ms 4’ to complete his Future Nurse, Future Midwife (FNFM) mentorship training he refused to complete it.

It was found that he sent an email to ‘Ms 4, stating: “I will not be completing the FNFM training because over this past number of years I have come to the opinion that I cannot in my right conscious mind encourage anyone to waste their lives in this profession. Indeed my intentions would be to discourage potential students from wasting their energy and efforts in this rhetorical inactive pseudo supportive environment. Sincerely Conor.”

On March 29, 2021, Deeney administered an incorrect dose of lithium to Patient D. Following the incorrect dose of lithium being administered to Patient D, Deeney failed to adequately reflect on and address the medication error.

In June 2021, Patient A was admitted into Gillis. Following admission to Gillis, patients were required to be kept in isolation for a two week period to minimise the spread of COVID-19 to other patients and staff.

Patient A was a vulnerable patient who was detained under the Mental Health Act and there was a risk of him absconding. Patient A was also subject to police and safeguarding investigations following reports of him sexually assaulting females in the community. Given the potential risk to female patients and staff, one-to-one care and observation was assigned to Patient A.

On June 30, 2021, Deeney allowed Patient A to leave the isolation area, taking him through a communal area and outside to sit on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Deeney took this course of action without carrying out a risk assessment and without prior agreement and/or authorisation from the multidisciplinary (MDT) team.

A witness statement to the panel, outlined how “Conor’s response did not grasp the seriousness of the situation….Conor was initially indignant that his conduct had been challenged. Conor was only able to say in hindsight that he should not have done this and that he should have sought a risk assessment.”

The panel found that by taking him out of isolation, “this placed patients and staff at a risk of harm, and
if he absconded, members of the community would have been at risk of harm”.

A separate patient in the unit – Patient B – who had cerebral palsy and therefore had poor mobility and was prone to falls. Patient B was also known to be aggressive towards staff and had punched female staff in the face. It was recorded that Patient B would often respond better to de-escalation carried out by male staff.

In Patient B’s care plan as of June 18, 2021, the following was recorded: ‘Where immediate danger exists or situations warrant immediate action, ensure any necessary medical assistance is sought’.

During the nightshift of July 5-6, 2021, Patient B became aggressive towards two Healthcare Assistants (HCA) and started shouting at them. Patient B was incontinent and was reported as slipping off the bed.

It is alleged that Patient B was punching, spitting and shouting at the two HCAs and Ms 3 while they were trying to stop him from falling from the bed.

Deeney, although he came to the door of the room, did not go to assist with Patient B or try to deescalate the situation. Deeney shouted “what are you all doing? Just leave him alone and walk away” and when told that would result in him falling, he replied, “So what if he falls. Let him fall onto the floor.”

The panel heard how Deeney acted in an intimidating manner towards the junior colleagues who were trying to de-escalate the situation.

The panel found that Deeney’s treatment of his colleagues during this incident was “inappropriate and unprofessional and fell seriously short of what is expected of a registered nurse”.

In concluding, the panel suggested Deeney had “a deep-seated attitudinal issue, [and] that there is real risk of repetition of the misconduct and a consequent risk of serious harm to patients, colleagues and the public, the panel determined that a striking off order is the only sanction sufficient to protect patients, colleagues and the public”.

Deeney, who did not attend the hearing, has 28 days to appeal the decision, however, the panel noted that in an email dated June 28, 2023 – in response to receiving hearing files from the NMC – Deeney wrote: “I will not be opening any more files. I’ve had enough…”

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