Two nurses were suspended after shocking incompetence left one patient covered in faeces and another without life saving medication for nearly five hours.
Arrowe Park Hospital has defended its recruitment, training and monitoring processes after the two nurses faced disciplinary panels within the space of a month.
One, Polish national Malgorzata Haleks, was found to have a “limited use of the English language” while the second, Linda Hughes, displayed “wide ranging and basic competence issues.”
In separate cases, an independent panel appointed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), suspended Ms Haleks and Ms Hughes from practise for 12 months.
In Ms Hughes's case, the panel heard she regularly made “basic nursing errors” and “put patients at risk of harm” despite receiving support from colleagues.
Within two months, she was responsible for two serious incidents, including failing to administer food to a patient via a feeding tube.
The final straw came in January 11, 2018, when a patient became increasingly unwell and was identified as having possible sepsis.
The patient was urgently prescribed antibiotics and was supposed to have received them within 30 minutes, but they not were administered until 9.30pm – four and a half hours later.
According to a fellow nurse who provided a witness statement: “There was another serious incident which occurred with Linda at around the same time.
“This was in relation to [Patient B] who was on the Ward and was extremely ill with sepsis. [Patient B] had been prescribed antibiotic medication… by the doctors, which needed to be given to him straight away.
“Linda was the nurse on duty on that shift who was responsible for giving patients B the medication.
“During my shift, which started at 19:45, I got a phone call from my Ward Manager, who called to ask me whether Patient B had been given the antibiotics he required by Linda.
“I believe the phone call would have been at some point after 20:15, as that was when the handover to start my shift finished.”
Ms Hughes was removed from clinical duties after that incident.
In Ms Haleks case, she admitted that between November 2015 and October 2018 she “failed to demonstrate the standards of knowledge, skill and judgement required of a Band 5 nurse.”
The charges included failing to take blood pressure readings and other observations correctly, failing to record important information and failing to perform basic procedures correctly.
But perhaps the most serious incident involved Ms Haleks misunderstanding the instructions of a colleague and removing a stoma bag from a patient.
She had been asked to simply empty the bag, which catches faeces when a section of a patient's bowel has been removed, but instead simply disposed of it.
According to the charges: “There was no other stoma bag on the unit, which meant that the patient was producing faeces with no bag attached.
“[A witness] stated that this would have caused distress to the patient and that the patient may have been open to infection.
“This is basic nursing skill which all registered nurses should be able to perform.”
The NMC panel heard Ms Haleks had been appointed by Wirral University Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in November 2015, after an overseas recruitment event in Poland.
The event was designed to find nurses to ease the huge winter pressures that have caused enormous strain on the NHS in recent years – and Ms Haleks was moved to an Older Persons Assessment Unit.
When concerns about her ability to speak and understand English became clear, she was placed on an action plan with supervision from other more experienced staff.
She later asked to be moved down from a Band 5 nurse to a Care Support Worker, which was accepted and no concerns were raised about her abilities in that position.
The ECHO asked the trust running Arrowe Park how these incidents reflected on its processes and training procedures.
A spokeswoman said: “Clearly these incidents took place some time ago and we fully accept the NMC findings.
“We check the professional credentials of our staff on appointment and monitor their work constantly. Since April 2016, nurses are also required to complete NMC revalidation and English language tests for healthcare professionals have been strengthened.
“We reported our concerns about these nurses to the NMC and the disciplinary panel noted the high level of support given by senior staff to seek performance improvement with Ms Hughes and that the Trust paid for English language training for Ms Haleks.
“However, despite our support, these interventions did not deliver the required improvements in performance.
“We expect our nurses to be professionally competent when carrying out their duties and we provide them with extensive training.
“These cases were promptly and correctly raised with the NMC as the regulator for the nursing profession and we provided evidence at the hearings.
“The findings in the cases of these individual nurses do not reflect the high standards of care we seek to provide to patients in our hospitals.”