The former head of nursing at scandal-hit Stafford Hospital endangered patients by running wards with skeleton staff during her eight-year tenure, a hearing was told.
Janice Harry is accused of cutting payroll costs and recommending measures designed to leave unqualified staff outnumbering qualified nurses.
She is also alleged to have “aggressively” rejected concerns raised by staff at the hospital, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) heard yesterday. NMC barrister William Davis said Harry had presided over an ‘unacceptable decline in the standards of nursing care offered.
Mr Davis told the hearing: “It’s not said she was directly, and personally, responsible for the numerous examples of poor care.
“On the contrary, the evidence suggests her time spent on wards and with patients was limited.”
He added that staff felt “unable to report problems”, were treated rudely, and sometimes “reduced to tears” by her rebukes.
Harry worked for Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 1998 and the summer of 2006. She previously served as a board member with the West Midlands Regional Health Authority and Wolverhampton NHS Trust.
Some of the charges against her relate to the full eight-year period she held her post at Stafford Hospital.
Among the allegations include Harry refusing to even look at incident report forms brought to her by staff, and of failing to ensure Accident and Emergency was properly staffed.
Mr Davis said she advised the trust’s board that the ratio of qualified to unqualified nurses could be reduced to 4:6 “without affecting patient care”.
Harry has been prevented from working in nursing since October 2010, when she was made subject to an interim suspension order.
A previous hearing against two Accident and Emergency nurses accused of faking patient records to meet waiting time targets heard Ms Harry was part of a “bullying culture by senior management”.
Casualty nurse Katherine Kelly, who appeared as a witness and does not face any allegations, said the director of nursing “would often shout at nurses about breach targets”.
Ms Kelly told a hearing held on March 5: “Nurses were punished by the trust if they spent more time with the patients, if this resulted in them breaching the four-hour targets.”
A total of 55 nurses and midwives from Stafford Hospital have been referred to the NMC over accusations of misconduct since the publication of Sir Robert’s first report in February 2010.
Harry denies the charges against her. The hearing in London continues.