Care home scandal nurse struck off
Friday 30th August 2013, 4:00PM BST.
A nurse jailed for his part in the Winterbourne View care home scandal has been struck off the nursing register.
Sookalingum Appoo was previously sentenced to six months in prison for wilfully neglecting patient Simone Blake at the private mental health hospital in Hambrook, south Gloucestershire.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise hearing found there remained a “substantial risk” of Appoo carrying out similar offences and causing further damage to the profession.
Finding him impaired to practise, the hearing panel said: “The panel considered that the convictions and in particular the facts surrounding them, which were directly related to his practice as a registered nurse and treatment of residents, brought the reputation of the profession to disrepute.
“The panel also considered Mr Appoo’s convictions breached the fundamental tenets of the profession.
“The panel considered that the protection of the public and the importance of upholding proper standards of conduct in the profession and in the Nursing and Midwifery Council as regulator is such that it has no hesitation in finding that Mr Appoo’s fitness to practise is currently impaired by reason of his conviction.”
Striking him off, the panel said it had found several aggravating factors in his case, including that Miss Blake was “extremely vulnerable” and that Appoo was in “gross breach” of his position of trust and had not appeared to show any remorse for his actions.
Appoo, who worked as a nurse for 37 years before the scandal, did not attend the hearing in central London.
The 60-year-old, from Bristol, was already subject to an interim suspension order which meant he was not allowed to work while the fitness to practise panel investigated the allegations of misconduct against him.
Appoo was jailed at Bristol Crown Court in October last year having previously pleaded guilty to three counts of neglect.
The charges were brought against him after nine support workers were caught abusing patients in a sting by a BBC Panorama reporter with a hidden camera posing as a carer during February and March of 2011.
Appoo and another nurse were filmed condoning the abuse at the home by failing to stop it.
Their behaviour came to light after journalist Joseph Casey got a job at Winterbourne View after whistleblower Terry Bryan, a former nurse at the home, went to the BBC after his complaints to owners Castlebeck and care watchdogs were ignored.
A total of five residents suffered at the hands of the defendants, with Mr Casey’s shocking footage showing them being slapped, soaked in water, trapped under chairs, taunted, sworn at and having their hair pulled, eyes poked and being illegally restrained.
Barry Dooley, presenting the case for the NMC, said Miss Blake, referred to as “Patient A” during the hearing, had “significant physical problems as well as profound learning difficulties”.
Aged 20 at the time, she was subjected to “degrading, cruel” treatment at the hands of Appoo, he said.
Outlining the three incidents that Appoo’s offences related to, he said the first to be caught on camera showed Appoo laughing when, after discovering Miss Blake soaking wet, he was told by support workers who had poured water over her that she had wet herself.
He then continued to laugh as soaking wet Miss Blake asked staff not to point an electric fan at her.
The second count referred to footage of three support workers holding Miss Blake down on the floor while Appoo forced paracetamol into her mouth, Mr Dooley said.
The third incident concerned another support worker placing a chair over Miss Blake as Appoo walked past saying nothing, he added.
Mr Dooley read out a statement from Joanna Putson, group deputy HR manager at Castlebeck, which said Appoo had started working at the home as a Grade 5 Charge Nurse in September 2010.
She said that after the Panorama programme was broadcast in May 2011 he was called in for a disciplinary meeting in which footage concerning him was shown to him.
When asked to confirm it was him, he answered that it was, she said.
There was no record of any other concerns about Appoo during his employment, the statement added.
Mr Dooley said: “Resident A suffered appalling treatment at the hands of several people including the registered nurses who were there to ensure she was safe and well looked after.
“The public quite rightly expects, amongst other things, nurses to be kind, compassionate and caring.
“The damage to public confidence of the profession cannot be exaggerated.”
Appoo represents a “clear risk to the safety of the public if the register permits him to continue to practise,” Mr Dooley added.
He also said that Appoo’s failure to engage with the NMC process or to attend today’s hearing meant there was “no evidence of remorse or insight into his behaviour”.
Judge Neil Ford told Appoo as he was sentenced last year: “You laughed at ludicrous explanations given as to why Simone was wet. You took no steps to prevent the fan being directed at her and found the situation amusing.”
He told Appoo that he “failed” to ensure proper care for Miss Blake when she was forced to take her medication.
With regards to her being restrained under a chair, the judge added: “You did nothing to prevent this inappropriate and degrading procedure.
“Later as she was being held in a wrestling hold you failed to protect her.”
He concluded: “Your failure to protect Simone Blake constituted a gross breach of your responsibility for her care.”
The images of Appoo were among many hours of graphic footage played to the court during the trial, which led to four support workers and a second nurse being jailed for between six months and two years.
Five other members of staff were given suspended prison sentences for their roles in the abuse, with Judge Ford condemning the “culture of ill-treatment” at the home and saying it had “corrupted and debased”.
Care Services Minister Norman Lamb noted in a report into the scandal that he felt “shock, anger, dismay and deep regret” that vulnerable people had been treated in such a way.
He said the Government would introduce tougher regulation including possible new criminal legislation to strengthen corporate accountability in the wake of the scandal.
The report, released late last year, said it had revealed weaknesses in the system’s ability to hold the leaders of care organisations to account.