Nurse suspended after woman suffered brain injury from drinking pool water
A nurse has been suspended after a woman in her care drank water from a swimming pool, leaving her with a life-limiting brain injury.
The 22-year-old, who has autism and the mental age of a young child, would drink water 'excessively' and was unable to tell the difference between safe drinking water and the water in the pool.
Nurse Carole Halstead was chatting to a colleague as the woman drank from the pool at Dudley Leisure Centre, a disciplinary hearing was told.
The woman fell into a coma after vomiting water. Doctors said her life expectancy was significantly reduced and she is now totally dependent on carers.
She had been warned by her mother that she shouldn't spend longer than 10 minutes swimming because of her habit of drinking pool water, the Nursing and Midwifery Council panel heard.
Freetime Care Services, of which Mrs Halstead is a director, has apologised and 'expressed its their deep remorse and sadness about what occurred' in July 2014. However, it said Mrs Halstead was considering appealing the decision.
The young woman's mother said she warned the carer three times of the need to limit her daughter's swimming session to 10 minutes.
Mrs Halstead was seen chatting to a colleague as the woman drank the pool water during the session, which it was claimed by one colleague lasted 40 minutes, according to the report published following the hearing.
The report said: "The water was said to reach to approximately waist height. It is stated by a lifeguard on duty that day that she observed Patient A during her time in the pool and said that she was vocal and putting her ear to the water and collecting the water in her mouth a number of times.
"The lifeguard further states that whilst she observed you and Ms 2 tell Patient A not to drink the water, in fact you carried on talking to each other whilst Patient A was continuing to drink the water after briefly ceasing. Following the swim, the 19-year-old later began vomiting water, before falling into a coma."
She was treated for brain swelling caused by drinking excessive water at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
Mrs Halstead denied being told about the 10-minute rule but admitted not preparing an adequate risk assessment. A panel found she had also failed to prevent the woman consuming too much much water and failed to limit the time in the pool to 10 minutes.
The panel decided to suspend the experienced nurse of 24 years for 12 months from practising.
Freetime Care Services, based in Halesowen, is used by Dudley Council to care for residents.
In a statement, the firm said: "Freetime and Carole Halstead would now like to express their sincere apologies to the family of Patient A. Freetime is taking every step possible to improve their processes in the light of the NMC’s findings."