A WARD matron at Ipswich Hospital has been struck off for five years after he made sexually suggestive comments to four colleagues and behaved inappropriately towards patients.

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Experienced nurse Keith Mitchell had overall responsibility for Haughley Ward between January 2009 and January 2011 when the incidents took place.

Haughley Ward provides care for older people with complex needs, including patients suffering with dementia.

A Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) Conduct & Competence Committee hearing held before Christmas was told that Mr Mitchell faced charges relating to his ward leadership and management, his conduct towards staff and his conduct to patients.

After hearing evidence, it was found that he had not held regular staff meetings, given colleague adequate training or appraisals and had not carried out audits and, in one case, an induction.

Colleagues had also said he had made sexually suggestive comments, sent text messages and asked one member of staff about her personal life – claims that were found proved by the panel, which accepted that his behaviour was “sexually motivated”.

He was also found to have made derogatory comments about patients and handled them roughly. He was cleared of one of two charges of failing to provide an adequate induction and was found not to have inappropriately made friends with colleagues on Facebook.

The panel concluded that Mr Mitchell’s conduct towards patients and staff “fell far below the standards expected of a registered nurse” and that his fitness to practise had been impaired.

“The panel found that Mr Mitchell conducted himself inappropriately towards patients in that he made derogatory comments about them and handled them roughly,” members said. “Registered nurses should always treat patients with respect and dignity. Mr Mitchell’s conduct is not acceptable under any circumstances.

“The panel also concluded that Mr Mitchell made sexually suggestive comments in relation to Colleagues, A, B, C and D, asked Colleague C questions about her personal life and sent text messages to Colleague B in relation to personal matters. The panel concluded that his conduct was sexually motivated.

“Mr Mitchell was the line manager of the ward and in a position of power and trust. He abused his position of trust and made his staff feel uncomfortable within the workplace. Further, the panel has found that Mr Mitchell failed to provide appropriate ward leadership and management.”

In concluding that only a striking-off order was appropriate, the panel added: “The panel notes that Mr Mitchell has an otherwise unblemished 22-year career as a nurse. However, the panel has no evidence to suggest that Mr Mitchell has taken steps to re-mediate his conduct, and the panel previously concluded that he had not shown any insight or remorse.

“As a result the panel has concluded that there is a real risk of repetition. Further, whilst there is no evidence of actual harm caused to patients in this case, the panel notes that there was a real potential for harm to patients and that Mr Mitchell caused his colleagues to feel uncomfortable within the workplace with his sexually motivated conduct.”

Mr Mitchell’s representative wrote to the NMC explaining that he did not intend to submit a “substantive response” to the committee or engage with the process, but that he “deeply regrets” his actions and believes that his behaviour came about as a result of his mental wellbeing at the time.”

A hospital spokesman said: “A disciplinary hearing was held in May 2011 and the nurse was dismissed, and we referred the nurse to the Nursing & Midwifery Council which has led to this outcome. This is in line with our policies.”

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