Mental health nurse disciplined by NMC for holding 'patient fight' vote

Steven Boyd also made a comment to a young patient that showed ‘a serious lack of empathy’

Steven Boyd also made a comment to a young patient that showed ‘a serious lack of empathy’

Picture: Barney Newman

A nurse who asked patients on a mental health ward to vote on whether they wanted to see fellow patients fight has been disciplined by the regulator.

Steven Boyd admitted using the ‘inappropriate de-escalation technique’ in July 2016 on the Churchill Ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, part of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Most patients on the ward are at high risk of self-harm or experiencing psychosis.

In a separate incident in another setting, Mr Boyd admitted asking a young patient with a history of self-harm and suicide attempts ‘are you dead?’.

‘Maverick’ move

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) imposed a conditions of practice order on the mental health nurse following a hearing, which concluded in March.

Mr Boyd told the regulator’s fitness to practice (FtP) panel that at the time of the voting incident the hospital was understaffed and he was experiencing difficult personal circumstances.

Describing the de-escalation method as ‘maverick’, he told the panel he believed it would diffuse a ‘dangerous situation which involved two volatile patients’.

But, in hindsight, Mr Boyd acknowledged that his action created a ‘clear risk’ to patients and staff, and he regretted the action.

Inappropriate question

Mr Boyd also admitted a separate charge of asking a patient ‘are you dead?’ on at least one occasion between 5 May 2017 and 30 July 2017.

He admitted to using the phrase while employed at the Cambian Group’s Cambian Willows, a 14-bed child and adolescent unit for young people in crisis.

A fellow staff member called as a witness said Mr Boyd claimed the statement was a joke or an icebreaker, but admitted it was inappropriate on reflection. 

‘Deplorable’ behaviour

NMC case presenter Sophie Quinton-Carter said the two charges ‘would be considered deplorable by members of the nursing profession’.

The FtP panel concluded that Mr Boyd, who has been a nurse since 1999, had put vulnerable patients at risk by holding the vote for a fight.

It also considered that Mr Boyd’s ‘are you dead?’ question demonstrated a ‘serious lack of empathy and professionalism’ and could have negatively affected the patient’s mental health.

Impulsive nature

The NMC documentation on the hearing reads: ‘The panel determined that these two incidents when viewed together demonstrated that Mr Boyd acts impulsively and fails to fully consider the potential risks posed for how he interacted with these patients – a failing that the panel consider is not yet remediated.’ 

It adds: 'Although Mr Boyd has demonstrated some insight into some of his failings, and he does recognise some of the implications of his actions on the nursing profession, colleagues and patients, the panel was not convinced he would not make an impulsive judgement again in the future if difficult circumstances arose.’

Specific conditions

The panel imposed a 12-month conditions of practice order, which includes being supervised at work, creating a plan to address areas of concern in his practice, and regular reporting of his performance to the NMC.

An interim 18-month conditions of practice order was also imposed on Mr Boyd to allow for the possibility of an appeal.

Response from trust

A spokesperson for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said it took issues regarding the professional conduct of staff ‘very seriously’. 

They added: ‘Mr Boyd was employed by the trust for approximately 18 months. He left employment following a disciplinary process and was referred to the NMC.’

The Cambian Group declined to comment. 

Further information

Read the NMC’s Substantive Hearing documentation for Steven Boyd

In other news

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.