Nurse struck off for ‘deliberate dishonesty’ in smear test records

NMC panel finds patients were put at risk due to delays and lack of transparency 

NMC panel finds patients were put at risk due to delays and lack of transparency

Picture: Alamy

An experienced practice nurse who put patients at risk by delaying smear tests and falsifying records has been struck off for her ‘deplorable’ actions.

Karen Boyle failed to properly manage smear test samples between 25 January 2016 and 7 February 2018, while working at the Strathcalder Practice Alison Lea Medical Centre in East Kilbride, near Glasgow.

Delayed results

Following a hearing earlier this month, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise panel found Ms Boyle’s actions ‘put patients at risk through the stress they could have endured in having to repeat smear tests and the delay in smear results’.

The panel also found there was a risk of harm in possibly failing to detect precancerous cells at an earlier date, which could have delayed patients' treatment. 

The panel heard that a review by Ms Boyle’s employer identified 16 women whose clinical records appeared to suggest that a smear test had been taken, but had no corresponding results. 

The review concluded these samples had either been incorrectly labelled and so could not be identified by a laboratory, or had not been received at all.

Patient records incorrect

The hearing papers highlight an incident in which a patient arrived for a smear test but left the surgery before it was undertaken, yet despite this Ms Boyle noted on the recording system that a test had been carried out.

On another occasion, a patient arrived for a postnatal smear but was told to return at the 12-week postpartum date. Again, Ms Boyle recorded on the system that a smear was taken, the panel heard.

The panel also heard how, in two cases, Ms Boyle telephoned patients to ask them to come back for repeat testing, telling them an initial test had obtained insufficient cells. Yet the initial tests had never arrived at the laboratory, the panel was told.

‘Ms Boyle sought to deflect from the fact that the tests never arrived at the laboratory,’ the panel found. ‘She would have realised that she had made a mistake and instead of being honest and transparent with the patients, she fabricated a reason for recalling the patients.’

‘Lack of insight and remorse’

The panel said Ms Boyle, who did not appear at the hearing and not provide any mitigation, had demonstrated a lack of insight and remorse and that fellow health professionals would consider her actions deplorable.

‘Ms Boyle was an experienced smear taker who would have been familiar with the correct procedures, guidance and policies...[her] dishonesty was deliberate and involved a repeated and systematic course of conduct over a period of time,’ the panel found.

Ms Boyle, who had previously worked at a practice in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board area for about 14 years, resigned from the East Kilbride practice in February 2018.

There will be an 18-month suspension order on Ms Boyle’s registration before the substantive order takes effect, allowing time for an appeal.

Further information

Read the NMC panel hearing notes

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