Care home manger found guilty of misconduct

A CARE home manager left staff’s national insurance contributions unpaid while running up a £2,000 bill on the home’s credit card, a Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing has been told.

Mental health nurse Deborah Higley, 45, from Cwmbran, was found guilty of nine charges of misconduct while working as home manager at Sandringham Villa Nursing Home, Weston-super-Mare, for Knightwood Care Ltd.

She admitted that in June 2007, she did not provide Revenue and Customs with a month’s PAYE cash relating to staff wages that totalled £1,041.66.

In the same month – between June 6 and July 5, 2007 – £754.80 of National Insurance payments were not paid.

But despite not paying those bills Higley arranged for £660 to be paid to husband Phillip Higley for 60 hours of overtime on August 28, 2007 – despite the home’s policy of not paying overtime.

Jillian Alderwick, chairwoman of the NMC

Conduct and Competence Committee panel said: “We heard evidence from the home owner Ms Phillips that overtime was not to be paid.

“The panel heard from the registrant that she made such payments to a number of staff, including to her husband, despite having been specifically told that overtime should be given as time off in lieu and not payment.”

Of the charges Higley denied, another seven were proved.

They included withdrawal of £6,920, and the use of a care home credit card – for which more than £2,000 had no receipts.

Higley was responsible for the safeguarding of the credit card in her role as home manager.

But she used the home’s money to buy items that were not agreed on, or to the benefit of residents, one of which was said to be providing tradesmen who were working on the home with refreshments.

It was also proved that Higley did not keep the care home credit card secure, handing out the card pin to five staff for another nine transactions.

The committee said that in her dealings, Higley had been shown to be “dishonest” while her financial management was “less than rigorous”.

The chairwoman said: “The range and quantity of items purchased were not for use within the care home and would not have been authorised.

“The panel find it is beyond all common sense that such a volume of purchases could be anything other than inappropriate.

“We do not accept that such expenditure could have been as a result of providing refreshments for tradesmen on the premises.

“Even if this were the case, this level of expenditure should have ceased once the building work was completed

“The panel cannot accept that any reasonable person in this position of responsibility would think it appropriate to behave in this way.”

The final charge proved against Higley was of assisting in the forging the signature of patient Marjorie Mubvumbi on a Confidentiality Agreement with another staff member.

The document was later destroyed and could not be located by an inspector.

The panel chairwoman said: “We also accept the evidence that the registrant persuaded her (the other staff member) to assist in forging a number of signatures including, that of Ms Mbvumbi.

“The panel also heard from Ms Williams that the documents containing the forged signatures were to be destroyed as and when the documents containing genuine signatures were obtained.

“The honest approach would have been to outline which documents were missing and provide the inspector with the evidence that these missing documents were being sought.

“The course of action taken by the registrant was dishonest and she must have realised this was so.”

Among the patients under Higley’s care at Sandringham were those suffering with dementia, paranoid schizophrenia, depression, autism and post traumatic stress disorde

The case was adjourned until October 29, where the committee will determine the question of misconduct and whether Higley – a registered nurse – can to continue practise.

The panel said this would be defined by Higley’s “suitability to remain on the register without restriction.”