Wednesday 24 Sep 2014
One of Britain's biggest nursing agencies is facing renewed criticism today about the competency of some of its staff working with highly dependent patients.
Concerns about the Ambition 24hours nursing agency were first raised last year after Inside Out obtained footage of Wiltshire man Jamie Merrett having his life support machine switched off by a nurse who didn't know what she was doing.
Now, Inside Out has learnt that the agency has been served with an improvement notice after an incident 15 months later, in which the life of a three year old girl in Surrey was put at risk.
Inside Out's investigation can be seen on BBC One in the West and South regions of England at 7.30pm.
The improvement notice requires Ambition 24hours to strengthen its recruitment procedures and to provide better training and supervision for its staff working in some specialist areas.
Ambition 24hours supplies nurses for the NHS as well as for private hospitals and nursing homes. The latest incident involved three year old Sophie Patmore who needs round-the-clock care in her home near Aldershot and uses a ventilator to help her breathe.
On 23 April last year, Ambition 24hours sent nurse Regina Koennecke to look after Sophie through the night while her parents slept upstairs. At about 2.15am, Sophie's parents Annette and Neil were woken by Ms Koennecke and told that Sophie was turning blue.
They discovered that Sophie's ventilator was not connected to the tube in her neck, her oxygen levels had fallen to critical levels and the suction machine was completely full and not working.
They say that Ms Koennecke was panicking, shouting at Sophie and hitting her in the chest to try to revive her, when she actually needed oxygen.
Annette Patmore recalls: "I came downstairs and she was really, really bad and in a terrible state and nearly died. Obviously you lose all your trust – it's all gone."
Fortunately the parents were able to stabilise the situation and Sophie recovered, but the incident was referred to both the police and social services.
When Jamie Merrett was left severely brain-damaged by the incident in January 2009 his family hoped that steps would be taken to ensure other patients wouldn't be endangered.
Jamie's sister Karen Reynolds tells tonight's Inside Out: "You would have thought that after what happened to Jamie they could have learnt their lessons and tidied up their procedures so this would never happen again but they haven't."
Ambition 24hours would not comment on the latest incident, claiming confidentiality obligations prevented them from doing so.
However, in a statement made through their solicitors, they said: "Ambition takes very seriously its responsibilities to patients, clients and nurses. Every care is taken to ensure that the highest possible standards are maintained in the recruitment and management of agency nurses. Ambition works closely with local County Councils to maintain and continuously improve standards wherever possible."
Nurse Regina Koennecke, who also works in a hair beauty business in Portsmouth, was not prepared to comment beyond a short statement. She said: "I dispute the parents' version of events and find no fault with the agency. I still work for them and I'm still very happy with them."
Meanwhile it's emerged that the NHS in Wiltshire is no longer using nurses supplied by Ambition 24hours following the Jamie Merrett incident. It has also asked its nursing suppliers not to subcontract work to the agency.
1. Inside Out's investigation can be seen on BBC One in the West and South regions of England at 7.30pm. It will also be available on iPlayer for 7 days after transmission.
2. Please ensure that all material used from this press release is credited to: BBC Inside Out, on BBC One (West and South), tonight (Monday 7 February) at 7.30pm.
3. Pictures are available from www.bbcpictures.com
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