Nurse secures leave to halt misconduct inquiry

A nurse has secured High Court leave to seek orders preventing the holding of an inquiry by the Fitness to Practise Committee…

A nurse has secured High Court leave to seek orders preventing the holding of an inquiry by the Fitness to Practise Committee of An Bord Altranais into alleged professional misconduct by her.

Mr Justice White was told the inquiry arose after an 88-year-old female patient claimed she was force-fed her medication and had sustained bruising to her hands and wrists as a result of allegedly been restrained by two staff members at James Connolly Memorial Hospital on March 6th, 2001.

The application for leave to challenge the decision to proceed with the inquiry was moved by Mr Pat Butler SC, for Ms Valerie Hayde (44), a nurse, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath. Ms Hayde said in an affidavit she unequivocally denied any misconduct.

Mr Butler complained that the Fitness to Practise Committee was continuing with the inquiry although no evidence was to be given or adduced by the alleged victim of the alleged professional misconduct.


He said it was initially proposed that the patient would give evidence at the inquiry. However, a doctor had examined her and had recommended that she not give evidence. Despite this, it was still proposed the inquiry would proceed although his client would have no opportunity to cross-examine the patient.

He also complained the inquiry was proceeding despite a conclusion by an internal investigation committee of the Northern Area Health Board that it had been unable to substantiate what members of staff were involved in the alleged incident of professional misconduct.

The application for leave was made, following an earlier High Court direction, on notice to An Bord Altranais. Mr Nicholas Butler SC, for the board, yesterday opposed the application and urged Mr Justice White not to grant leave for the challenge. He said all the matters complained of by Ms Hayde would be addressed by the inquiry.

In an affidavit, Mr Eugene Donoghue, chief executive officer with An Bord Altranais, said it was initially envisaged that the patient would give evidence. However, in the course of preparations for the inquiry, a doctor was asked to establish her condition and whether she could give a clear account of the alleged incidents and whether she was fit or able to give evidence. The doctor concluded it was not in the patient's best interests to give evidence and that it would affect her negatively.

Mr Donoghue rejected the assertion that in the absence of evidence from the patient, the balance of the evidence would be hearsay.

It was intended that the inquiry would be conducted fully in accordance with the provisions of the Nurses Act and no inadmissible evidence would be adduced.

After hearing submissions from both sides, Mr Justice White said he would grant leave to bring the challenge.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times