Page last updated at 20:36 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 21:36 UK

Undercover filming 'only option'

Margaret Haywood
Margaret Haywood worked undercover on the Panorama documentary

A nurse secretly filmed at a hospital because it was the "only option" to reveal the neglect of elderly patients, a disciplinary hearing has been told.

Margaret Haywood, 58, filmed at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton for a BBC Panorama programme in July 2005.

Elizabeth Bloor, the producer, told the Nursing Midwifery Council there was "an over-arching public interest".

Ms Haywood has admitted breaching patient confidentiality but denies her fitness to practise has been impaired.

Ms Bloor told the hearing in London: "We needed to see what was really happening so we felt our only option really was to ask somebody to go undercover on a ward and that person really should be a nurse."

When Margie went to work at this hospital she was clear from the minute she walked in that there was a problem
Elizabeth Bloor, Panorama producer

Ms Haywood, of Liverpool, who has been a nurse for more than 20 years, had previously helped the BBC in an advisory role with a film about carers in 2003.

At the fitness to practise hearing on Tuesday, Ms Bloor said she had wanted to produce the Undercover Nurse documentary because Panorama had received up to 5,000 complaints about conditions.

Ms Haywood agreed to work on the programme, and got nursing shifts at the Royal Sussex Hospital, she said.

"When Margie went to work at this hospital she was clear from the minute she walked in that there was a problem."

'Competing duties'

Ms Bloor told the hearing the BBC had to obtain consent before showing any of the patients in the programme.

She also said five telephone calls and "a couple" of emails were received complaining about the programme, which included covert filming inside the hospital.

"None of these complaints went any further and in most cases were not justified."

Ms Bloor told the panel that questions had been asked in the House of Commons about the issues investigated, and the Royal College of Nursing did research into dignity on hospital wards in the wake of its broadcast.

In closing submission, Dr Karen Johnson, for Ms Haywood, said her client had to balance the "two competing duties" of the rights of her patients and the responsibility of demonstrating the hospital's problems for the benefit of future patients.

She asked the panel to note that Ms Haywood "considered fully what her responsibilities were" and "acted in a way that would improve patient care".

In November the panel found there was no case to answer on two other charges which Ms Haywood had originally faced.

It found no evidence that she broke the NHS Trust's policy on whistle-blowing by raising concerns about patient care in the documentary, or that she failed to assist colleagues when a patient was having a seizure.

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