‘Whistleblower’ nurse Margaret Haywood struck off over Panorama film

A nurse who became a “whistleblower” by secretly filming the neglect of elderly patients for a television documentary was yesterday struck off.

Margaret Haywood, 58, was found guilty of misconduct at a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) in central London. Yesterday it decided to remove her from the nursing register.

Ms Haywood admitted breaching patient confidentiality, but said that she had agreed to film undercover inside the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton to highlight the awful conditions on the wards. The footage from her hidden cameras was shown in a BBC Panorama programme ‘Undercover Nurses’, screened in July 2005.

The divorced mother of three, who has been a nurse for more than 20 years, agreed to work on the programme and took shifts at the Royal Sussex Hospital between November 2004 and May 2005.

The hospital, which at the time had the lowest rating of zero stars from the healthcare regulators and an £8 million deficit, had received a number of complaints before filming started.

The programme’s producer Elizabeth Bloor had told the tribunal that “there was an over-arching public interest” in the footage being broadcast.

She said: “We needed to see what was really happening so we felt our only option really was to ask somebody to go undercover on a ward and that person really should be a nurse.”

She added: “Given that most of the complaints we had were to do with medical care, we thought that would be an appropriate route.”

Concerns about standards of care were raised in the House of Commons after the programme was broadcast and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust issued a public apology admitting “serious lapses in the quality of care”.

But the NMC’s fitness to practise panel ruled yesterday that Ms Haywood had prioritised filming over her obligations as a nurse and had breached patient confidentiality.

Ms Haywood, a grandmother of seven, now works for a private care home. She admitted the charge of breaching confidentiality – even though all patients on the programme gave consent after they were filmed.

She had told reporters after Wednesday’s verdict that she would be “devastated” if she were struck off.

“I’ve worked so hard. Nursing is my life, I’m devoted to it and I’m passionate about what I do. I think it’s a case of shooting the messenger.

“I admitted breaching patient confidentiality, but I did not expect them to conclude that my fitness to practise had been impaired.”

Last week a supply teacher who secretly filmed shocking scenes of pupils misbehaving and school cover-ups for a 2005 Channel 4 Dispatches documentary was also found guilty of unprofessional conduct and suspended for a year.