Saturday, 18 April 2009

Undercover Nurse Struck Off

A nurse who secretly filmed for the BBC to reveal the neglect of elderly patients at a hospital has been struck off for misconduct, reports the BBC news web site

This has been widely interpreted as an attack on whistle blowers - and I'm sure that was part of the thinking at the Nursing & Midwifery Council’s Conduct and Competence Committee. But the cited reason - a breach in the rules of confidentiality - seems to be enough.

While Margaret Haywood's supporters point out that her actions were a response to thousands of complaints, and would doubtless have lead to improvements in the service, the NMC noted that "The panel believed that the [undercover filming] was unlikely to benefit the patients that were on the ward at the time of filming". 

And that's the key. Undercover filming is, as Ms Haywood admitted, a high-risk form of journalism. In her case, she was being paid as a nurse, either as well as, or instead of, her work as a journalist - and her behaviour had to reflect that reality.

It is perfectly possible to use undercover filming while on duty as a nurse, without letting down the patients the journalist is being paid to care for - and it's certainly possible to gather evidence without - ever - compromising confidentiality.

I believe Ms Haywood was poorly advised before accpting the challnge, and the filming was edited with no thought for her future career. She should have been able to establish from the start that she - and she alone - had ultimate control over what was filmed, and what was used. previous films have had nurse approval of the final version, nurse involvement in every production meeting. And an on-off switch that could be used at any time.

This case should not be seen as threatening the future of undercover filming, even by nurses. But it will doubtless make future efforts even more risky.


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