A taxpayer-owned staffing agency has admitted that lessons need to be learned after claims its staff may have misled a court about a man’s heroin overdose.
Concerns were raised about the evidence given by three employees of the NHS Professionals agency in court over the death of Alex Blake on June 24, 2018.
Mr Blake had died of a heroin overdose, with a jury finding inadequate observations at Lambeth Hospital, run by South London and Maudsley Trust, had contributed to his death.
A damning report released after his death stated there were discrepancies in the evidence given in court by nurses and a healthcare assistant about observations and the timing of when Mr Blake’s body was found.
“The evidence of these three witnesses cannot be said to be reliable,” said senior coroner Andrew Harris.
“The evidence of the two nurses would seem to go beyond that of poorly conducted observations.
“It would be reasonable to suspect that either the two nurses did not perform the observations at all, or that they have provided false evidence to the Trust and to the court.”
In a response to the coroner, released months behind schedule and only after multiple requests by the News, NHS Professionals said “there are lessons to be learned” particularly around sharing information with hospital Trusts.
The agency is wholly owned by the Department of Health, and provides temporary staff to hospitals across the country.
“I can confirm that the concerns raised were acted upon immediately and are currently the subject of ongoing investigations,” said its CEO, Nicola McQueen.
“I would therefore wish to assure all concerned that action will be taken to remedy any identified organisational or individual deficits arising from this process in the interests of patient safety.”
The nurses were referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which regulates the profession, by the coroner last year.
In its latest update, the NMC said it could not comment on cases before they reached a public hearing stage.