Fife nurse struck off for attack on frail Alzheimer’s sufferer

Phyllis Farley (left) and sister June Redpath with a picture of their mum, Betty Farley.
Phyllis Farley (left) and sister June Redpath with a picture of their mum, Betty Farley.

A mental health nurse who “abused her position of trust” has been struck off after a misconduct hearing found her guilty of assaulting a frail Alzheimer’s sufferer at a Fife hospital.

Vicki Anne Fenton, who was employed by NHS Fife, was found guilty of pushing 88-year-old widow Betty Farley against a wall and holding her there, and causing or allowing her to fall to the ground.

The nurse, who worked at Stratheden Hospital near Cupar, allegedly said words to the effect of “she’s not getting away with that, look at me”.

Fenton appeared before a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise hearing, which lasted six days.

The hearing found her guilty on all five charges, including failing to report to her bosses that the incident on September 30 2011 had led to her being charged with assault by Fife Constabulary.

The charges, which referred to Mrs Farley as Patient B, also said that Fenton’s conduct was dishonest when she failed to reveal the criminal charges.

She was originally suspended from work after five nursing colleagues reported her for an alleged serious assault on her victim.

Mrs Farley, of Methilhill, suffered severe bruising to her back after being banged against a wall.

The police case against Fenton was dropped last summer after the procurator fiscal concluded proceedings “would not be in the public interest”.

It is understood this was because Fenton had been sacked by the NHS after it emerged she had failed to report the incident although she later appealed the decision and won a job back.

Fenton, of Falkland, was warned at that stage that she could still face action from the NMC.

She was also found guilty of a charge which stated that while employed on Stratheden’s Radernie Ward, on August 29 2011, she administered a bisacodyl suppository to another patient referred to as Patient A when it had not been prescribed for the patient. She also failed to record the error in that patient’s notes.

Contacted by The Courier, Mrs Farley’s daughter June Redpath, 67, said it had been a “very difficult time”. Her mother died a fortnight ago and the hearing started just three days after the funeral.

Having sat through it with her sister Phyllis and husband Ronnie, she now hoped for closure.

She said: “My mum, who had been ill with Alzheimer’s for 10 years, died two weeks ago and this made it really sore.

“It was painful to listen to it all but I feel the NMC have ensured justice, if that’s the right word.

“The nurses in the ward who reported the nurse were fantastic. But I still feel NHS Fife have let my mum down because, technicality or not, I don’t think she should ever have been allowed back into a hospital.

“I’m also disappointed that the Crown Office didn’t pursue the charge of assault. They didn’t pursue it because at that time she had been sacked, shortly before she got her job back on appeal.

“So I think thank God for the NMC. For me it’s about closure and we can get on and grieve for mum properly.

“It’s just a great pity that it hadn’t concluded earlier. Mum might not have remembered what I was telling her but I could have whispered the outcome to her.”

In her defence submission to the hearing, Ms Fenton said she had reflected on the ‘mismanagement’ of the situation regarding Mrs Farley.

She felt “bad” at what had happened and stated that if she was unable to practise as a nurse she would be ‘devastated’.

The hearing panel concluded: “The seriousness of your misconduct is incompatible with ongoing registration and that you abused your position of trust.

“It also concludes that you continue to show lack of real or genuine insight into the seriousness of your actions and there remains a real risk of repetition.”

NHS Fife executive director of nursing Dr Scott McLean said: “NHS Fife does not comment on members of staff past or present. However, we would reassure the public that this individual is not now in a patient-facing role.”

Vicki Fenton was unavailable for comment.