Hospital worker admits falsifying record minutes before patient was found hanged
A FORMER nursing assistant has admitted falsifying an observation check-list minutes before a patient was found hanged at a psychiatric unit.
Elizabeth Watts, 38, died at the Glenbourne Unit in Plymouth on January 28 last year.
She took her own life using shoelaces despite the fact that staff were meant to undertake checks on her every 15 minutes, an inquest heard.
Reece Friend, a nursing assistant who was on shift with three other staff that night, spoke yesterday at the second day of the hearing into her death.
He said he falsely filled in an observation sheet to indicate he had checked on Miss Watts at 3.45am, without having looked in on her at that time.
She was found dead by another staff member at 4am, the hearing has been told.
Mr Friend said he initialled the sheet around the time he had a short cigarette break just minutes before she was discovered.
He said: "It was a few minutes before 4am, I saw it wasn't filled in and, it sort of became a bad habit through quite a lot of people just filling in the gaps.
"It was obviously bad practice but it was something I picked up, filling in the gaps, and that's what I did."
Mr Friend and a nurse were dismissed from their jobs following an internal investigation by NHS managers.
The inquest heard he had stated falsifying the sheet was "me being absolutely stupid".
He said that other staff may have filled in observation sheets falsely after completing checks late, but this instance was different in that he had not completed a check at all.
Mr Friend also told the inquest the allocations of which staff undertook observations on nightshifts was "less structured" than during day shifts. He said they were done "just as and when you look at the clock and you just do it regularly".
Mr Friend and a nurse, due to give evidence today, had been carrying out checks after 3am.
Miss Watts, a nurse from Appledore in North Devon, had been admitted to Glenbourne after she was suspected of taking an overdose and sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
She was suffering from depression deepened by widely-publicised allegations she had sex with a patient, the inquest has been told.
A catalogue of questions about the night of her death have been raised at the hearing – including why Miss Watts was left with her shoelaces, and how the shift was handed over.
The jury inquest continues today in Plymouth.