Nurse suspended from profession after slapping a dementia patient at Huntingdon care home

Man jailed by judge at Peterborough Crown Court

Man jailed by judge at Peterborough Crown Court - Credit: Archant

A care home nurse who slapped a dementia patient in her 70s and called her the exorcist has been suspended for 12 months.

Sylvia Barnes was attending a resident in the dementia unit of Ringshill Care home, in Sallowbush Road, Huntingdon, in August 2013 when she attempted to cut the woman’s fingernails.

While doing this, Ms Barnes is said to have struck the patient, who suffered from dementia and was bed-ridden, and pretended to bite her. The frail resident was left with a red mark on her hand.

A conduct and competence committee of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which met in October and again last week, also heard Ms Barnes also told another nurse in the room: “You should get a priest in here, she is the exorcist.”

The second nurse reported the incident to the care home’s deputy manager immediately.

Ms Barnes, who had only worked at Ringshill for a month and on the dementia unit for three days, made a statement in August 2013 saying: “I lost myself and I slap her.”

She also demonstrated to the deputy manager how she pretended to bite the patient.

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The nurse, who works in a surgical ward in a hospital in Spain, provided evidence to the committee over the phone. Ms Barnes said she made reference to the Exorcist film to the second staff member in a low voice.

The panel said Ms Barnes was in breach of being respectful for patients – a fundamental tenet of nursing.

Ms Barnes, who qualified as a nurse in 2006 and came to England in 2012, told the committee she “had been unfairly treated and discriminated against because she was Spanish”.

The panel concluded: “The public would be rightly appalled at learning of Ms Barnes’s behaviour towards a vulnerable lady who was placed in her care, regardless of whether that lady could become aggressive at times, by reason of her dementia and physical impairment.”

They added: “In the absence of significant insight and without any real evidence of remediation, the panel had no confidence that Ms Barnes would not repeat her misconduct.”

When suspending Ms Barnes’s registration for 12 months, the committee noted she had little experience in caring for people with dementia and was a person of otherwise good character.

A spokesman for Four Seasons, which runs Ringshill, said: “When a member of our care staff raised concerns about the care provided by a nurse, the nurse was immediately suspended and the home manager notified the authorities and safeguarding team, which then led to the hearing by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

“The wellbeing of the people in our care is our priority and we have an active whistle-blowing policy that encourages our staff, or residents and relatives, to report any concerns they have about any aspect of care. We are grateful to our caring staff for their vigilance in notifying us of their concerns.”