A NORTH Ayrshire nurse has been handed a suspension for leaving an at risk patient unattended and failing to provide CPR.

Sharon Strain Duncan was handed a six week suspension order following a hearing held by industry watchdogs the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

It follows an incident which took place on May 13, 2017, when Ms Duncan was employed by the North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership at Woodlands View Hospital in Irvine where she was a registered nurse.

Ms Duncan, who has practiced as a nurse for 40 years, was found to have left an at risk patient - referred to as patient A - unattended for around 45 minutes.

The patient was later found collapsed and in an unresponsive state by another nurse.

Ms Duncan then made the decision not to commence CPR, before the patient was later declared to be deceased.

NMC documents describing the incident explained how Patient A had been transferred to Woodlands View in April of 2017 for ongoing physiotherapy to achieve their mobility baseline after sustaining a fractured neck during a fall.

Ms Duncan was a staff nurse on the hospital unit they had been transferred to and on the day of the incident was working on the ward as the nurse in charge on day shift.

At around 6.30pm, she assisted Patient A to the bathroom without any other assistance. 

At around 7:15pm Patient A was found still sitting on the toilet in a collapsed and unresponsive state by a newly qualified nurse. That nurse called for help and a number of people responded, including Ms Duncan and they were moved from the toilet to their bed.

Ms Duncan then made a decision not to commence CPR. It is alleged that when it was suggested by other members of staff to get the resuscitation trolley she had said not to as Patient A had passed away. It was confirmed at this time that a 'do not attempt CPR' was not in place.

The nurse said at this time that there was a new instructional procedure which said that nurses could make decisions that if someone had passed away, it would not be mandatory to commence CPR.

Ms Duncan then contacted the Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) on duty to request verification of the death. When the arrive on the ward it is alleged that the ANP questioned why CPR had not been commenced and a 2222 - cardiac arrest - call not made.

It is alleged Ms Duncan said that she had decided not to start CPR as she was told at a recent study day that it was a decision that a nurse could make.

She was also asked for her rationale as to why she did not start CPR but did not provide any reasons.

A second ANP then examined Patient A and reported that Patient A had no pulse. They believed that Patient A had passed away and the doctor was notified. Subsequently, Patient A was certified to be deceased.

Patient A's son was then called to inform them of their passing. The son said that he spoke to Ms Duncan on the ward and recalled them saying that “they did everything they could".

The NMC's case was that by saying this Ms Duncan was dishonest and in breach of her duty of candour as she had not conducted CPR or followed the correct resuscitation guidance.

After hearing evidence from all witnesses in the case, the NMC hearing then found Ms Duncan proven of five charges of misconduct.

These included leaving the at risk patient unattended, failing to act accordingly when they were found unresponsive, failing to initiate and continue CPR resuscitation until cessation was agreed, misleading Patient A's son and acting in a dishonest way which was a breach of her duty of candour.

Having reached its determination on the facts of this case, the panel then moved on to consider whether Ms Duncan's fitness to practice as a nurse had been impaired.

The NMC has defined fitness to practice as a registrant’s ability to practice kindly, safely and professionally.

In all the circumstances, it was determined that Ms Duncan's fitness to practice is currently impaired as a result of her misconduct.

The NMC panel then looked to impose a sanction on Ms Duncan - deciding to make a suspension order for a period of six weeks.

The sanction was decided after considering the dishonesty of her actions which "caused emotional distress to recently bereaved family".

However, mitigating factors were also considered which included Ms Duncan's expressions of remorse, that this was an isolated incident and that seven years had passed since the incident and no further regulatory concerns have been identified as she worked as a nurse through most of this period.

NMC documents explained: "Balancing all of these factors the panel has concluded that a suspension order would be the appropriate and proportionate sanction.

"The panel noted the hardship such an order will inevitably cause you. However this is outweighed by the public interest in this case.

"The panel was satisfied that six weeks would provide you with time to reflect and further develop your insight."

The suspension order will come into place following the 28-day appeal period following the conclusion of this hearing on January 24.

The North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership have been contacted for comment.