Violeta Aylward struck off for switching off ventilator

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A nurse who was filmed accidentally switching off the ventilator of a paralysed man has been struck off.

Agency nurse Violeta Aylward was then filmed unsuccessfully trying to turn the machine back on. Jamie Merrett, 39, was left severely brain damaged.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing found Ms Aylward guilty of serious professional misconduct following the incident in January 2009.

Mr Merrett, from Wiltshire, had CCTV installed amid concerns about his care.

Ambition 24hours, the agency which supplied Ms Aylward, said it was unable to comment.

Image caption,
Mr Merrett was completely dependent on his ventilator to breathe

The conduct and competence panel was told Mr Merrett, named only as Patient A in the hearing, was "completely dependent" on a mechanical ventilator to breathe and needed 24-hour care following a road traffic accident in 2002.

Seamus Edney from SJ Edney Solicitors in Swindon said: "The family are very pleased with the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings against the nurse but they do feel that she's not the only person to blame for what happened.

"They feel that some of the blame must rest with Ambition 24hours who actually placed her in the first place with Jamie - why didn't they check her competence beforehand to ensure that she had ITU experience?

Night shift

"Why didn't they ensure that she was insured to cover her action when she was caring for Jamie? These are questions that still need to be answered."

During the hearing, Neil Moloney, for the Nursing and Midwifery Council, said that in early December 2008, Ambition 24hours Nursing Agency had been asked to provide a nurse to cover some shifts caring for Mr Merrett and had been aware of the requirement that the nurse must have either intensive care unit (ITU) training or experience.

Image caption,
Violeta Aylward was struck off for misconduct

When Ms Aylward went to care for Mr Merrett she was on the books of the agency as a registered learning disabilities nurse and had no ITU training or experience.

Mr Moloney said footage from the CCTV showed Ms Aylward switching off Mr Merrett's ventilator and then pushing buttons in an attempt to turn it back on at the start of a night shift on 8 January 2009.

The hearing was told a 999 call was made by a care assistant and Mr Merrett was transferred to hospital intensive care.

A police investigation was undertaken after the incident but when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considered the case it was decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Ms Aylward for the criminal offence of causing grievous bodily harm, Mr Moloney said.

'Misleading information'

Mr Merrett's family said they were considering taking legal action against Great Western Ambulance Trust because of concerns about a further delay in giving him oxygen.

In November 2011, paramedic Neil Crawford, who worked for GWAS, was suspended for a year by the Health Professions Council for failing to ventilate Mr Merrett after his life support was turned off by Ms Aylward.

Following the ruling, spokesman for GWAS, John Oliver, said: "The welfare and appropriate care of our patients is always our main priority.

"Following this incident in January 2009, the trust became aware that the paramedic who was first on scene failed to provide the level of care demanded of a professionally registered clinician and subsequently provided inaccurate and misleading information to the resulting investigation."

Mr Crawford was initially suspended by the trust and, following an internal investigation and disciplinary process, he was subsequently dismissed.

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