Royal Free nurse blames colleagues for patient death at hearing

The Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead

The Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A Royal Free nurse accused of contributing to a patient’s death has said he cannot remember what happened and has blamed other hospital staff for not checking.

Nurse Charles Opuku-Badu is facing charges of not administering the epilepsy drug levetiracetam during his shifts on March 14, 15 and 16 and not informing staff of this, leading to seizures and ultimately the death of the patient on March 27.

The 87-year-old patient was admitted to hospital with a foot ulcer in 2013 but died after an epileptic seizure caused her to inhale vomit.

Opuku-Badu denies the charges and told the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) hearing that he did administer the medication by borrowing it off a different patient.

He said he initially could not access the drug as, due to discharge preparations, it was not immediately available to administer. As a result, he made a note on the medication chart, using the code D4 for “drug not available”.

He then contradicted this in the daily patient evaluation notes where he wrote an entry saying “all due medication given.”

Opuku-Badu explained he had “borrowed” a supply of the medication from another patient later during his shift, something that was confirmed by witnesses as being common practice in these circumstances.

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In an interview two weeks after the patient’s death, however, Opuku-Badu said that he had gone to a specific ward to get the drugs and during an inquest into the death he contradicted his story again telling the coroner he had got the medication from a different ward.

Opuku-Badu said: “It could have been any one of them. I cannot remember exactly what I did but I sourced the drug from somewhere, I have problems with how the first investigation went because I don’t think they understood me.”

He added: “What I said and whether I said it or not is an issue.”

John Dowlman, for the NMC, said: “On both the 13th and the 14th he had entered ‘all due medications given’ as prescribed in his notes. There is no evidence if this anywhere else including the drug chart which we have heard from other witnesses is the most important evidence.”

The senior junior sister on the ward said she noticed the D4 note in the medication records but at this point the patient was already suffering from her first seizure.

She said: “Charles did not inform me that he was unable to obtain the medication at any stage during the shift. If this had been reported to me earlier in the shift, I may have been able to obtain the medication from a different ward and may have prevented her condition from deteriorating.”

The matron of the acute ward for the elderly informed the panel that the medication was crucial to the patient. She said the pharmacist had written “do not omit” on patient notes and that the nurse “should have been aware of the importance of obtaining it.”

Mr Dowlman said to Opuku-Badu: “You knew her critical medication was missing on the 13th. It is a nurses duty to make sure a patient gets their medication and on the 14th she still did not have any.”

“You must have seen that was a problem. She was elderly, frail and vulnerable. It would have been dangerous for someone in that position to have a seizure.”

As well as Opuku-Badu, there were two temporary agency nurses caring for patient during the 72 hours and Opuku-Badu said that it was the responsibility of other staff to highlight any ambiguity in the charts or medication.

He said: “The best thing to do is to find the previous person [who made the record] and ask them, no one asked me.

“The staff following my shift should have asked why there was a difference in the records.”

He said the reason there is no record of him obtaining the drugs is that he did not feel like he needed to inform anyone of it.

Opuku-Badu told the disciplinary panel that he had three small children aged four, eight and 11 and his wife could not work because of health issues.

The hearing continues until next week.