Mum 'devastated' head nurse at scandal-hit children's service in Swansea re-employed by health board

  • Report from Dean Thomas-Welch

An investigation by ITV Cymru Wales has found a senior nurse at the centre of a damning review into the treatment of families with severely disabled children in Swansea has been re-employed by Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB), to help roll out its Covid-19 vaccine delivery.

The head of the Children’s Community Nursing Services (CCNS) was in post when families made claims of bullying and harassment by senior nurses within the care team.

The head nurse then retired from their role in April last year, a month after it was revealed an independent review would look into the conduct of management at the CCNS.

The review published in November 2021 found a number of significant failings which the health board described as “completely unacceptable”. That led the health board to refer the review findings and family's complaints to South Wales Police. 

ITV Wales has been shown documents that confirm the former head of the CCNS is now the subject of regulatory action by the Nursing and Midwifery Council which has begun a formal investigation into their fitness to continue practising. 

These documents have also confirmed their new role as a Senior Nurse at Swansea Bay University Health Board vaccination centres.

Swansea Bay University Health Board say they take complaints against its staff or services very seriously and fully investigate complaints.

Bethan Germon and her husband David relied on the CCNS to help care for their daughter Lydia who suffered from a number of complex issues due partly, the family claim, to failed surgeries. 

Lydia passed away in July 2020. Shortly after, Bethan and David provided evidence to an external review panel tasked with investigating claims of poor care, bullying and harassment by CCNS staff at SBUHB.

Bethan told ITV Wales “We were devastated. That investigation brought my mental health down, it plummeted.”

In May last year, Bethan went for her Covid vaccination at the Swansea Bay vaccination centre on Fabian Way. She says she was left questioning her sanity after coming face to face with the senior nurse she had given evidence against just months before. 

Lydia passed away in July 2020.

“It was the first time I had been alone in a clinical setting since we lost Lydia.” Bethan said.

“It was almost Holywood-like, everything slowed down, I completely froze as she walked past. I could feel the colour draining out of me. I thought to myself, I’ve lost my sanity. 

“I’ve had severe flashbacks and bad night's sleep, but this is starting to impact my day-to-day living where I can't leave the house without seeing them.

“They had to sit me down on a bed. It was complete and utter shock, the heavy punch you feel in your gut.

“To find out they had employment back, makes you question who is making these decisions. It makes you question everything, someone at the height of an investigation is allowed to retire, that's one thing, but to regain employment is unbelievable.”

Documents seen by ITV Wales show SBUHB supplied the NMC with a written reference for the former head of the CCNS which described her as ‘hard-working and professional in their role’ as well as the health board having ‘no concerns regarding their fitness to practice’.

ITV Wales exclusively revealed the outcome of the external review into the CCNS at SBUHB which found:

  • Families receiving care reported sanctions being imposed on them if they complained. This lead to a lack of trust in the CCNS and in some cases a total breakdown in relationships.

  • 90% of families spoken to in the review complained of concerns that had not been addressed properly. 

  • The review discovered complaints about professional practice within the service.

  • Staff within CCNS reported feeling demoralised and frustrated with their workloads.

  • Decisions by CCNS management were made outside Welsh Government guidance. 

Speaking after the review, Chief Executive of SBUHB Mark Hackett said “Sadly, it is very clear from this independent report that there have been serious issues around care delivery and the leadership culture within our Children’s Community Nursing Services service for some time.

“This is hugely disappointing and completely unacceptable. On behalf of the health board, I sincerely apologise to the families affected.”

Bethan and her husband David now run a charity together in Swansea that supports families of children with life-limiting conditions and disabilities. 

David says the decision of SBUHB to re-employ the head nurse has significantly impacted his family's mental health. 

He told ITV Wales: “I thought Bethan must have been seeing things because I couldn't comprehend that they would be in there and working again for the NHS whilst the investigation was going on.”

“It does make you angry. What is going on, what are they doing there? It’s so unwise and foolish.

“We don't get to come home with Lydia, but they get to go on with their jobs. They get to move from causing a great deal of pain in that position to just move on to another position and carry on as if nothing had happened.”

He added, “It doesn't help with our mental health.

“I’m really happy living here in Swansea although I don’t want to be here when I’m older, I don't want to be here when I’m going to need health care a lot more.

"If a member of my family requires more health care we’ll probably move because at the moment I can't have any faith in the system locally.”

Another family from Swansea who gave evidence during the external review came forward to ITV Wales anonymously. 

In a statement provided to ITV News, they said: “Whilst the former head of the CCNS was in post, we lived under perpetual threat from their team, managers and staff. They have been repeatedly protected by the Health Board despite being disciplined.

“Despite being under active regulatory investigation by the NMC regarding fitness to practice, including serious accusations of dishonesty, horrifyingly, they were immediately re-employed by the Health Board as a Senior Nurse in charge of vaccinating the public against Covid.

“This includes the vulnerable families they were previously involved with. This continues to cast a shadow over nursing in Wales.”

Bethan says she feels Swansea Bay University Health Board have not learned the lesson from the outcome of the CCNS external review. 

“It makes a mockery of the system, it makes a mockery of the people who worked really hard on the investigation, it makes a mockery of the families who have been impacted by it, and it is also a mockery of the MNC.

"So, to say it's infuriating is a massive understatement.”

A spokesperson for SBUHB said “The health board takes any complaint against its staff or services very seriously. All such complaints are fully investigated.

“However, it would be inappropriate for the health board to comment until the Nursing and Midwifery Council process has concluded."