UK authority suspends Nigerian nurse over dishonesty

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170419 17th April 2019 NMC POrtland Place

A Nigerian nurse, identified as Elizabeth Offier, who was suspended over misconduct by the UK Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) now risks being struck off from the agency’s register.

A panel of the Fitness to Practice Committee of the NMC had earlier suspended Ms Offier for six months for “impairment of her fitness to practice arising from misconduct”, but this was questioned by the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care (PSA).

PSA filed an appeal in March 2023 because it said the penalty imposed by the panel was not sufficient for the “protection of the public.” It asked the court to quash the decision and substitute a striking-off order.

This was revealed in a 21-page judgement exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, which Justice Sheldon approved on 26 March 2024 after a hearing held on 6 March at the Royal Court of Justice, London.

Another panel review hearing held on 23 August 2023 which Ms Offier failed to attend decided to impose a further period of suspension for 12 months, with a further review to be held at the end of the new punishment period.

The NMC’s panel found that Ms Offier was dishonest on different occasions with her employers, and she admitted to having breached the order due to financial reasons.

Ms Offier was admitted to the NMC register in March 2004, having worked as a nurse in Nigeria for several years. In November 2018, she registered with Pulse Healthcare Limited – a nursing agency and worked through them at two Foundation Trusts.

On 11 April 2019, the registrant worked a night shift at a hospital that was part of South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. During this shift, it was alleged that she signed a patient’s chart with another nurse’s initials to indicate that both she and her colleague had attended to the patient.

On 22 and 23 April 2019, she also worked the night shift at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, where it is alleged that she failed to give three patients intravenous antibiotic medication and failed to give insulin to two other patients.

She is alleged to have signed patient records indicating that she had administered medication when she had not.

Ms Offier failed to attend any of the meetings scheduled by Pulse to discuss whether she had been in “breach of contract”, after which her contract was terminated.

However, on 11 October 2019, Pulse made a referral to NMC and on 27 August 2019, the registrant applied for employment with another agency- First Call Healthcare Agency, and refused to disclose in the application form that she had worked for Pulse or Standby Agency – another agency with whom she had been registered.

She confirmed that the information provided was accurate and completed a Qualified Staff Questionnaire, where she indicated “No” that she had never been the subject of a disciplinary or investigation by an employer, or had been referred to NMC.

The NMC Investigating Committee imposed some conditions in relation to the administration of medications and imposed an interim condition of practice order on the registrant for 18 months.

The conditions imposed by the committee were that the registrant should ensure that she was supervised by another registered nurse at any time that she was working and that she had to give a copy of these conditions to any agency with whom she was registered to work.

However, Ms Offier did not notify First Call of the conditions and in December 2019, through a routine check of NMC records, First Call discovered that the registrant was subject to conditions imposed by NMC.

On learning of the conditions imposed by the agency, First Call examined its records and realised that the registrant had worked one-night shift on 7 December 2019 as the only nurse in charge at a care home.

In reaction, Ms Offier explained that she had “never intended to hide anything as such conditions of practice are all made public by NMC. I am sorry if it has caused inconvenience”.

Ms Offier was eventually dismissed by First Call and a referral was made to NMC, leading to her being subjected to an interim suspension order by NMC. This continued to be in force until the hearing before the panel.

As of 3 May 2020, Ms Offier reached out to an investigator at NMC stating that she had not intended to breach the terms of the order when she worked a night shift alone.

She explained “I was in such a financial difficulty that I went to do a shift in a nursing home where a senior carer was also on duty. I sincerely apologise for having done this out of financial desperation and I strongly state here that I will never do such a thing again”.

Ms Offier failed to appear and was not represented at a hearing before the panel on 9 March 2023.

Appeal, panel findings
According to the court document highlighting the panel findings and Ms Offier’s work history and “proven” misconduct, NMC, as the first respondent in the case, has conceded the appeal.

While Ms Offier, the second respondent did not appear before the Court, Mr Sheldon noted that she indicated that she was not prepared to consent to being struck off the register and that she made no representations as to why the appeal should be dismissed.

However, the appeal proceeded in the absence of the registrant after the counsel for the PSA, David Hopkins, “indicated that he would seek to put before the court the arguments that the registrant might have put had she attended.”

The NMC’s panel found that Ms Offier had dishonestly failed to disclose information to a future employer about the existence of two previous employers and that she was subject to investigation by that previous employer.

It also found that she had dishonestly failed to disclose information to her employer that conditions had been imposed on her by NMC.

The panel also found that the registrant had worked one shift for the employer in breach of the condition that she should be supervised by a registered nurse.

Court disposal
Mr Sheldon in his comments admitted that the panel “fell into error by finding that none of the six forms of dishonesty that are most likely to call into question whether a nurse should be allowed to remain on the register were met.”

While PSA contends that any sanction less than one of striking off was not sufficient for the protection of the public, it also argued that the panel failed to give adequate reasons that striking off was disproportionate.

“I do not need to reach a final view on this ground, as I have already found that the panel made several errors and so its decision was wrong,” the judge said.

In his conclusion, Mr Sheldon said: “Accordingly, I will allow the appeal but remit the decision so that the question of sanction can be looked at in light of the findings that the panel made, but also the findings that the panel should have made. I shall consider further submissions from the parties as to the appropriate form of the order for remittal and on any other consequential matter.”Exclusive: UK authority suspends Nigerian nurse over dishonesty, may strike name off register.

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