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Suspended: nurse who was 'out of his depth' at time of Connor Sparrowhawk’s death

Learning disabilities nurse Ben Morris said he was unsuited to his management role

A nurse involved in the death of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk has been suspended from practice for 12 months.


Connor Sparrowhawk

Learning disabilities nurse Ben Morris' fitness to practise was found to be ‘currently impaired by reason of misconduct’ by the Nursing and Midwifery Council this week.

Senior role

Mr Morris was the senior clinical nurse in the short-term assessment and treatment team unit at Slade House in Oxford at the time of Mr Sparrowhawk’s death in 2013. Mr Sparrowhawk, who had autism, Klinefelter syndrome and epilepsy, drowned following a seizure when he was left alone in a bath at Slade House.

The nurse admitted 17 charges relating to his handling of the care and subsequent death of Mr Sparrowhawk – referred to in the proceedings as Patient 1 – and for failing to take appropriate action to safeguard other patients.

In a statement provided to the hearing, Mr Morris said he accepted he would never be able to make amends for his patient's death.

'Guilt, regret and shame'

‘Patient 1 and his family could not have been let down in a more serious way and I deeply apologise for my actions,’ he said.

‘I feel immense guilt, regret and shame about his death and how I failed him and his family.’

'I can never make amends for the death of Patient 1'

Mr Morris said he now realises the management position had been too much for him.

‘I totally accept I was out of my depth in the role of Band 7 nurse,’ he said.

Limitations

‘I now have a greater understanding of my own limitations and skills, and see that a managerial role in an inpatient setting is outside my skill set.’

However, Mr Morris said he still felt he could contribute to people's care as a nurse.

‘Prior to the Band 7 role, and in my current role on Band 5, I have been effective as a nurse and feel I have something to offer away from management,’ he said.

‘However, I know I can never make amends for the death of Patient 1.’

'Genuine remorse'

In its suspension order ruling, the NMC panel found that Mr Morris had demonstrated genuine remorse and has undertaken further training in relation to epilepsy, care planning and mental capacity.

The panel heard he was now employed as a community learning disability nurse with Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust and was given a positive testimonial by his line manager.

The parent of a current patient of Mr Morris also offered praise for him.

‘I can say that Mr Morris has always put my son’s safety first and represented him in safeguarding meetings to ensure he has a safe environment,’ the testimonial  said.

Tragedy prompted review of care

The NMC panel concluded that striking Mr Morris from the register would be ‘disproportionate and punitive’. Instead, it issued him with a 12-month suspension order.

In addition, it issued an 18-month interim suspension order to cover any potential appeals.

Mr Sparrowhawk's death was one of a number of high-profile cases that sparked a review of the care of people with learning disabilities in the UK. 


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