Nurse 'bullied Abergavenny patients for years'
4:10pm Wednesday 20th March 2013 in News
A BULLYING senior nurse in an Abergavenny care home for chronic dementia sufferers verbally and physically abused patients for years, it was alleged today.
Vulnerable pensioners were routinely kept short of food and drink, sworn at, pushed and even spat on, a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel heard.
Howard Griffiths, 55, was described as a "pig of a man and a bully’’ today who abused the power and responsibility his position gave him.
Griffiths was night manager at the private Rozelle Nursing Home in Abergavenny, which has a compliment of 24 patients.
Based in a large detached house in a leafy residential suburb outside the town centre, care home residents pay up to £1,600 a month.
Shocked junior colleagues who witnessed his alleged behaviour were threatened with the sack when they tried to blow the whistle on him, they claimed today.
Five care assistants who worked under Griffiths will give evidence about his alleged treatment of patients over the three day hearing sitting in Cardiff.
Griffiths, of Wordsworth Close, Ebbw Vale, failed to attend the professional standards panel examining his case.
Panel members decided to go ahead with the hearing after concluding Griffiths had voluntarily chosen to absent himself from proceedings.
They are looking at nine allegations of patient abuse by Griffiths covering a period from early 2007 until the summer of 2009.
The allegations range from calling an elderly dementia sufferer a "slut’’ to spitting in the face of another and physical abuse.
His alleged misconduct is deemed to have impaired his fitness to practice after more than 30 years as a psychiatric nurse.
Griffiths already has criminal convictions for his behaviour to patients at the care home.
He was found guilty of two counts of willfully ill-treating or neglecting a person who lacked mental capacity in August 2010.
The Newport Crown Court jury also cleared him of eight identical charges linked to named residents at the home after a week-long trial.
He was sentenced to a 12-month supervision order and 50 hours unpaid community work.
The son of one dementia sufferer attended the hearing today in the hope of meeting Griffiths face-to-face.
David Arr, 57, of Worcester, said his mother Eileen Arr, a former Newport sub post mistress who has since died, had been a resident at the care home.
After listening to evidence of patient mistreatment he later admitted one of the unnamed alleged victims had been his defenceless mother.
"It's sickening to hear. I would never have allowed my mother to go to such a place if I had dreamed she would be treated like that,’’ he said.
Care assistant Paulette Gough earlier said she had worked up to 30 times with Griffiths on the night shift over a period of several years.
"First impressions of Howard Griffiths was that he was quite a nice bubbly person,’’ she said, reading from a statement previously given to the NMC.
"I quickly realised that this appearance was all front and he was a pig of a man and a bully.
"I think that the power had gone to his head. When he became aggressive I could see the aggression in his face,’’ she said.
She said one of the dementia patients, referred to only as "A’’, was "quite aggressive’’ and needed to be dealt with patiently.
"She spat at Howard Griffiths on this occasion and instead of ignoring her he spat back right in her face,’’ she said.
"I was completely gobsmacked and couldn't believe it.’’
Mrs Gough said she and her colleague Dawn Paull were already aware Griffiths "used to do shift after shift’’ at the care home and was looked on favourably by the management.
When they did come to report the incident she said: "It was made clear to us that it was a lot more difficult to replace a night manager than a care assistant.’’ Mrs Paull said that when she spoke to a senior member of the nursing staff he said Griffiths's word would carry more weight than theirs.
"He said that we would not be believed, 'your jobs are 10 a penny' he said.’’ "It would have been our word against his and the only other witnesses were service users who did not have capacity.’’ Both women also talked of being accused of "fabricating’’ the allegations made against Griffiths for reasons of their own.
They told the panel of an incident when an ill patient needed to be taken to hospital at the end of a 12-hour shift.
Neither care assistant could accompany the patient because both needed to take their own children to school before going to bed.
Shift manager Griffiths went to the hospital but later spoke to each woman about their conduct and gave them a verbal warning.
This was said to have been what motivated both women to report Griiffths, something both dismissed during the hearing.
Earlier Mrs Paull claimed that Griffiths had a "nasty streak’’ and would routinely shout and swear at patients.
He would try to put them all to bed as quickly as possible after starting his shift.
"He was always very strict with the service users (patients). He would always say they could only have one sandwich and only half a cup of-tea, even if they wanted more.’’ One patient, referred to only as "D’’, was a frequent target for abuse, she said.
"Howard Griffiths regularly shouted and swore at her. For example, telling her to 'f*** off'.’’ "He would go red in the face when he shouted at her. There was absolutely no reason to get so angry and act so aggressively.’’
She added: "I do not think Howard Griffiths is fit to practice in that particular environment. I think that he is a bully and lacks the patience to work with vulnerable people.’’ Mrs Paull was also asked why she and her colleague had not reported other allegations later detailed in her statement to the NMC.
"I did not report it because we thought that we would not be believed and would end up without any jobs,’’ she said.
The hearing is due to conclude on Friday.