Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Nurse sentenced for patient abuse

Penelope Webber
Penelope Webber was in charge of a ward for dementia patients

A nurse who abused two 87-year-old men with dementia at a Cardiff hospital has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Penelope Rees, 52, whose surname used to be Webber, was found guilty of two counts of ill treatment and one of neglect at Cardiff Crown Court.

Rees, of Aberdare, wrestled one patient and force fed medication to another at Whitchurch Hospital.

She received a sentence of six months, suspended for two years. The local health board is investigating.

The court heard that Rees was diagnosed at 19 with bipolar effective disorder with associated psychosis and once believed she was made of plastic and was going to melt.

He put up a good wrestle but I was too strong for him
Penelope Webber comment on her treatment of an 87-year-old patient

Judge Stephen Hopkins QC has demanded an investigation into how a nurse with a history of mental illness was employed to look after patients with dementia.

Speaking as he sentenced her "I don't think anyone who suffers as Penny Rees suffers from her own psychiatric problems was best placed to be a nurse in such stressful conditions. I'm very surprised."

He said Rees had become "lazy and indifferent" to her patients.

"You had lost the most important quality of nursing - you stopped caring for those you were employed to care for," he told her.

"Dementia sufferers never lose the right to be treated with dignity and care. You failed elderly men in both regards."

Along with the suspended sentence, he imposed a supervision requirement for the next two years on the nurse and ordered that she be electronically tagged as part of a curfew requirement between the hours of 8pm and 8am.

The court heard Rees is also due to face a hearing of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Cut lip

The trial had been told how Rees, of Ystradfellte, Aberdare, was seen kneeling on top of one elderly man, force-feeding him medicine when he refused it.

Another patient she was in charge of was spotted with a cut lip and skin tears on one arm after she had been at his bedside during an overnight shift on January 27.

The court heard Rees was asked by Nursing Assistant Ross Morgan what happened to the patient.

The prosecution said she told him: "He put up a good wrestle but I was too strong for him."

Rees had worked as a nurse for 20 years but is now suspended.

Ruth Walker, nurse director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said patient safety was a priority.

"The concerns of those involved were picked up under our care of vulnerable adult procedures and we took immediate action to safeguard our patients," she said.

"We take our responsibilities to our staff and patients very seriously, and place their care and safety at the top of our agenda.

"We will, as a matter of standard, finalise our investigation and take the appropriate action now the court proceedings have come to an end."

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