Louisa Swinburn banned from nursing over baby salt dose

A Nottingham nurse who admitted giving a four-month-old baby a fatal dose of saline solution has been struck off.

Samuel McIntosh, who was born prematurely on 1 March 2009, was being cared for at the high-dependency unit of the Queen's Medical Centre (QMC).

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) found Louisa Swinburn guilty of misconduct at a hearing in London on Tuesday.

Mrs Swinburn will no longer be able to work as a nurse, the NMC said.

Nottingham Coroner's Court was told in 2010 that two nurses - staff nurse Swinburn and sister Karen Thomas - became distracted and gave Samuel McIntosh 50ml of sodium chloride solution, instead of 5ml, in July 2009.

He suffered swelling to the brain following the error and later died.

Samuel, whose parents are from Mansfield, was born at Nottingham's City Hospital. He weighed 580g (1lb 5oz) at birth - a sixth of the normal weight for a full-term baby.

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Media captionSam's parents say they will never forget him

He suffered from lung problems and had breathing difficulties and was transferred to the QMC aged 18 days.

Samuel's weight eventually rose to 2.8kg (6lbs 3oz) and there was talk of him going home.

Mrs Swinburn's misconduct also related to photos on Facebook of her asleep on duty.

She admitted posting the photo on Facebook herself which showed Samuel in his cot in the background, without his parents' consent, but denied falling asleep on duty.

A conduct and competence committee found all allegations against the nurse proved and determined that her fitness to practise was impaired.

The second nurse, Ms Thomas, who administered the fatal saline dose with Mrs Swinburn, as explained at the inquest, has been allowed to return to work following an internal hospital trust investigation.

'Equally culpable'

Jenny Leggott, director of nursing and midwifery at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "After a full investigation we are confident that Nurse Thomas is fit to practise as a neonatal nurse in our hospitals.

"She has met rigorous standards set by our trust and the Nursing and Midwifery Council since she returned to work."

Samuel's parents Sarah and Robert said: "Sam is always there in the back of our minds - we think about him all the time.

"We've not had three children, we have had four. We're always grateful for the ones we have but there is always one missing," said Mrs McIntosh.

"The NMC seems to be sending out the message that a breach of confidence is worse than the death of a patient.

"The only difference between the two nurses is that one breached Sam's confidentiality by posting a picture on Facebook.

"They are equally culpable for what happened."

'Dreadful mistake'

Panel chair Peter Harvey said: "The panel considered Mrs Swinburn's wide-ranging misconduct and her lack of insight into a catastrophic drug error was extremely serious and the risk of repetition could not be excluded."

He added Mrs Swinburn's behaviour was "fundamentally incompatible" with continuing to practise as a registered nurse.

Nottingham University Hospitals Trust confirmed Mrs Swinburn was dismissed in August 2010 over the Facebook photo.

She was also disciplined over the salt overdose, which was the subject of a separate investigation. The findings of this inquiry have not been published.

At an inquest into Samuel's death in November 2010, Nottinghamshire Coroner Dr Nigel Chapman recorded a narrative verdict.

He said there was no doubt that a dreadful mistake had taken place, but ruled that it did not fall into the category of a gross failure.

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