Health worker’s shocking failures left kids at risk

A Northern Ireland health visitor put vulnerable children at risk of harm after failing to act to protect them from violent and alcoholic parents, it has emerged.

Fionnula Geraldine Byrne is no longer allowed to work as a health visitor after she was found guilty of a series of shocking failures by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

Ms Byrne, who was employed as a health visitor by Craigavon and Southern Health and Social Care Trust between 2001 and 2005, admitted her fitness to practise had been impaired.

The NMC found that in October 2003 a mother told Ms Byrne she had difficulty managing her son’s behaviour and that she sometimes took out her frustrations on him.

Ms Byrne took no action and in March the following year a GP referred the family to social services after the son was treated for a non-accidental injury. The mother subsequently admitted she had caused the injury by beating her son. Ms Byrne did not report this to her line manager for another month.

On another occasion Ms Byrne failed to identify there was cause for concern when the father of a family was involved in downloading child pornography from the internet, the NMC found.

The panel also found Ms Byrne failed to respond appropriately to a family in which the mother drank heavily.

The police found the children were dirty and inappropriately dressed, and there had been a fight during a party at their home.

However, Ms Byrne failed to discuss this with her manager or report it to social services. It also found Ms Byrne guilty of changing dates on case notes and that her behaviour was dishonest as a result.

The NMC panel said Ms Byrne’s conduct “has fallen well below the expected standard of an average health visitor”.

It continued: “The registrant also failed to protect clients, especially vulnerable children in her care.”

The NMC was told Ms Byrne is currently on a career break and intends to return to work next March.

It imposed a series of conditions on Ms Byrne. These include only working for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust as a registered nurse and not work as a bank or agency nurse.

She is also not allowed to work as a health visitor and must undergo training and supervision.