Great Yarmouth nurse suspended following concerns from colleagues

A nurse who asked assistants to restrain vulnerable older people while she gave them medication without their consent has been suspended from practising.

Johanna Cowan, 72, was working at a nursing home in Great Yarmouth when her colleagues raised concerns about the way she was giving medication to some of its residents, many of whom suffered from dementia.

At a fitness to practice hearing this week, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) heard how the night shift worker had asked healthcare assistants to restrain a resident by holding their hands while she gave them medication, despite the fact that the resident had refused to take the medication.

One one occasion she held a resident's nose in an attempt to give her the oral medication.

On another occasion, she was seen by a colleague at the Eversley Nursing Home in North Denes Road to approach a resident connected to an oxygen machine and who was asleep and snoring with her mouth open.

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The NMC conduct panel heard how she was seen putting a tablet into the sleeping woman's mouth and then poured in some fluid as well.

In a statement, nurse Cowan said the resident had been half asleep and slightly opened her eyes, but the panel said this still did not mean that satisfactory consent had been obtained.

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In its findings, the panel said: 'The case concerns a number of incidents of the registrant administering medication to particularly vulnerable residents without their consent and using inappropriate methods of physical restraint. Her actions caused distress to the residents and had the potential to cause them harm. Her actions were deliberate and inexcusable.'

Nurse Cowan did not attend the hearing, but in statements to the council she indicated that she no longer wished to return to nursing.

The council imposed a suspension order for one year.

Mandy Masters, operational director for Kingsley Healthcare, which runs Eversley Nursing Home, said the company had a 'zero tolerance' approach to breaches of professional conduct and had dismissed Ms Cowan.

She said: 'We are a group that employs hundreds of staff and we have the highest ethical standards with regard to employment.

'This was picked up through our internal procedures and whistle-blowing policy and we passed it to the relevant agencies and dealt with it appropriately.'

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