Suspended from the register: the health visitor who decided not to act on child sex abuse claim

Emily Whitelaw suspected allegation against a step-grandfather was false

Emily Whitelaw suspected allegation against a step-grandfather was false

Picture: Charles Milligan

A health visitor has been suspended from the register after failing to report an allegation of child sexual abuse.

Emily Whitelaw will be struck off if she chooses not to appeal against the NMC ruling.

A fitness to practise hearing had heard Emily Whitelaw, who has retired from her job, told a family support worker to take no action in relation to a child sexual abuse claim. 

Mother claimed her daughter had been abused within the extended family

The incident occurred in June 2015 when Ms Whitelaw was employed by NHS Forth Valley in central Scotland.

A mother raised concerns with Ms Whitelaw that her three-year-old daughter had been sexually abused by the child’s paternal step-grandfather.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said Ms Whitelaw, who had 40 years’ experience, did not take further action because she suspected the parents might be lying as a result of having a difficult relationship with the grandparents. 

The NMC said at a Fitness to Practise (FtP) hearing Ms Whitelaw had not acted in accordance with child protection guidelines, meaning the matter was not be investigated by the police and social services.  

Health visitor admitted seven charges

Ms Whitelaw admitted to the seven charges brought against her, which included failing to carry out the correct number of home visits, and inadequately managing her caseload.

An audit of 226 of Ms Whitelaw's patient records revealed 91.8% of cases were only partially completed, with eight cases of vulnerable children not conducted appropriately. 

In its ruling, the NMC acknowledged Ms Whitelaw accepted the charges and had shown remorse in reflective pieces.

However, it stated Ms Whitelaw still did not understand how she had placed the child at risk of harm, and there was risk of repetition.

Ms Whitelaw was given 28 days to appeal against removal from the register. 

NHS Forth Valley carried out its own internal investigation.

Related material

Read the NMC's Substantive Hearing document for Emily Whitelaw

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