Misconduct hearing after Crouch End teenager choked on own vomit at Whittington Hospital

Two nurses have faced a misconduct hearing for ignoring the plight of a teenage girl who died after choking on her own vomit at the Whittington Hospital.

Crouch End teenager Lassania Aslam suffered five epileptic fits in the space of 24 hours after being admitted to the hospital in Magdala Avenue, Highgate, in March 2007.

The 17-year-old inhaled vomit after a seizure and suffered irreversible brain damage.

Senior nurses Caroline O’Rourke and Mary Subaste failed to ensure she was looked after properly as her brain was starved of oxygen, a Nursing and Midwifery Council panel heard on Thursday (November 22).

Lassania died four days later, with hospital neglect contributing to her death, the panel heard.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council found the nurses’ fitness to practise impaired by reason of misconduct.

Ms O’Rourke was handed a caution and Ms Sebaste was given an 18-month condition of practice order, which will prevent her from being the sole nurse on duty or managing a ward.

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Panel chair Michael Cann said: “The failure to ensure neurological observations were undertaken and recorded was a breach of duty of care serious enough to constitute misconduct.

“Every patient must always be monitored and observed, and these observations recorded.

“This requirement is so basic that every nurse should be aware of it.

“Not doing so makes it is impossible to accurately assess whether the condition of the patient is improving or deteriorating and make decisions on whether to call for medical intervention, which must be taken expeditiously.

“The panel notes the coroner’s finding in this case that basic standards of practice for neurological observation were not followed.

“While not attributing blame for the death, this observation serves to underline the potential risk to patients if standard observations are not undertaken.”

Ms O’Rourke was in charge of the unit where Lassania was taken after suffering two epileptic fits in Accident and Emergency.

She failed to ensure neurological observations were carried out after Lassania suffered a seizure just after midnight on March 26, 2007, and did so again after a fit the next morning at around 7.40am.

Night shift nurse Ms Subaste admitted failing to ensure observations were taken following three fits during the night.

Lassania, who suffered from learning disabilities and was a long-standing sufferer of epilepsy, was admitted to the hospital at 5am on March 26, 2007 with vomiting and fever.

Both nurses have admitted they failed in the care that Lassania received in the days she before her death on April 1.

An inquest in March 2008 into Lassania’s death heard admissions from hospital staff that basic care had not been given.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing resumed this week after being adjourned in August.

Ms O’Rourke, who now works in a care home in Ireland, earlier told the hearing of her regret over the failures to properly care for Lassania.

“I would have, looking back in reflection, not stood over the nurses but been near enough to be confident the patient was being looked after,” she said. “I would make sure the observations had been done, not naively expect them to have been done.”

Asked what she would do differently if she was working that shift again, she replied: “Everything.”