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Whittington Hospital nurse accused of fabricating ‘groundbreaking’ research

Staff at the Whittington Hospital were said to be 'surprised' when they first learned of Mr Di Giacomo's research paper. Picture: Anthony Devlin Staff at the Whittington Hospital were said to be 'surprised' when they first learned of Mr Di Giacomo's research paper. Picture: Anthony Devlin

Thursday, April 17, 2014
1:00 PM

A Whittington Hospital nurse has been accused of publishing a medical paper, described as “one of the most comprehensive studies in its field”, based on research that never took place.

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Michele Di Giacomo claimed to have conducted a pilot study into the effectiveness of different catheters, testing 300 cancer patients over a period of six months.

The results from the research, which was said to have taken place in 2007, were published in the prestigious British Journal of Nursing in 2009.

The study has since been cited 35 times by other research publications and is thought to have gathered global influence among the international medical community.

But questions surrounding the legitimacy of the paper emerged after staff at the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, claimed to be completely unaware of the study ever taking place.

Following an internal investigation at The Whittington, Mr Di Giacomo has this week faced a Nurse and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing investigating the claims.

Presenting the case against the nurse, who left the Whittington in 2009, barrister Timothy Hogman claimed the number of patients quoted in the study was impossible, given the size and scope of The Whittington Hospital.

He also alleged that there was “no record [or] paper trail” of patient consent or approval from seniors.

He also noted Mr Di Giacomo worked for the company which manufactured one of the catheters promoted in the study at the time of publication, yet made “no declaration of conflict” within the article.

Dr Richard Parker, a former colleague at The Whittington, told the panel: “There’s no possibility Mr Di Giacomo could have [tested] as many patients as he claimed. It’s an impossible number for the hospital. A lot of these patients would have been under my care and I was not aware of any study taking place.”

The published paper also claims the study was done with the consent of the “oncology haematology team leader” which Dr Parker said at the time was himself.

The now retired doctor, who used to teach a fraud module for pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, said the figures quoted in the study were “too neat to be realistic”.

While challenging claims the study did not take place, Mr Di Giacomo’s defence said there was “no dispute that this study ought to have gone through the ethics committee”.

The defence did not disagree “that colleagues should have been informed”.

Should the case against Mr Di Giacomo be found to be proved, the nurse could be suspended or struck off. The hearing continues and the case is expected to conclude this week.

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