In hospitals across the UK, nurses continue to change into new clothes and prepare for another day caring for patients. But many have been “shaken from the bottom” by Lucy Letby’s case and some fear that the foundation of public trust has been shaken.
That was the message from senior nurses on Tuesday as the terror of a child killer’s sentence subsided and the profession prepared for a long quest to reassure families and patients that the crime was committed. Letby’s evil, and the institutional failures that seem to have allowed them to continue, are truly an anomaly.
The biggest focus is on neonatal nurses, responsible for caring for and often saving the lives of the smallest and most vulnerable – infants.
The Neonatal Nurses Association is encouraging its members to seek help and says it will have an impact on all of them. “Your work, day in and day out, is necessary, valuable and is making a positive difference for babies and families,” it told them in a Facebook message. “We recommend that you seek support when needed and recognize as an individual how this ruling can make you feel challenged.”
At the Countess of Chester hospital where Letby worked, there was a sense of shock, anger and guilt because her crimes had not been prevented.
Dr Amanda Lee, a neonatal nurse for more than two decades and now a senior lecturer in nursing at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “You can see people are questioning what happened. out, why is this happening?” “As happened with Beverley Allitt, you start questioning everything you do.”
Allitt, a nurse at a children’s ward in Lincolnshire, killed four infants in 1991.
Letby’s crimes – killing seven children and attempting to kill six more – hit the heart of the nurses’ responsibility to “do no harm,” Lee said. What happened, she said, was “almost like a professional light-heartedness”.
“People keep calling Letby ‘nurse’ but now she’s not a nurse,” Lee said. “It really makes me feel uncomfortable as a professional nurse. My professional status means that I have to keep my faith with the public; that I did no harm.”
She said: “There was some limited consolation that Letby was ‘an outlier but it happened under everyone’s watch’. “People around her will question, should I do anything differently.”
Ann Lloyd Keen, president of the Patient Association, a campaigning charity, said nurses have the privilege of being trusted by society but “if we can’t take care of babies then we will What?”
In addition to patient advocacy, Keen is a registered nurse who has worked in neonatal care and served as minister of health under Gordon Brown.
She said the nurses were “appalled that it went undetected” and suggested that Letby’s “white, blonde, middle-class” might influence not stopping her for her ” doesn’t look like a murderer,” adding: “The sad reality is that if you were black, brown, Asian, you would probably have been investigated a lot quicker.
“I am angry at the way this is managed,” Keen said. “The guilt surrounding the clinicians involved in that case would be enormous.”
Dr Ravi Jayaram, consultant pediatrician at Countess of Chester hospital, said he raised concerns about Letby several times months before the police were alerted.
“Right now, safety is not a priority for the NHS,” Keen said. I hear nurses tell me quite often that they know they don’t care to the standards they want. How can you be aware of safety when you are breastfeeding in the hallway?”
Dr Jayne Chidgey-Clark, who leads the NHS-funded Freedom of Speaks network, which gives staff a place to voice concerns, said the Letby case “shocked me to the bone. marrow… [and] I’m sure nurses across the country are feeling the same way I do right now.”
She said nurses “can – and must – speak up if something is wrong”, adding: “The judge called Letby’s actions ‘cruel almost sadistic’.
“The horrific acts of such criminals in the healthcare sector are extremely rare. I hope the actions of this one individual do not erode that trust. We have seen in times of pandemic that the majority of nurses come to work, sometimes putting their health in jeopardy because they care deeply about the people they care for and their families. Surname.”