Nurse cautioned after fatal drug mistake

Colin Whalley with daughter Jacqui Whalley, granddaughter Samantha Ranson and great grandson Jacob-Kai Ranson
Colin Whalley with daughter Jacqui Whalley, granddaughter Samantha Ranson and great grandson Jacob-Kai Ranson

A nurse has been cautioned after admitting giving a patient a day’s dose of a drug in under an hour.

Mary Sanchez, a nurse a Whiston Hospital, admitted that she had failed to administer aminophylline, a drug used to open constricted airways, as had been prescribed to Colin Whalley from St Helens.

The great-grandfather who had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) had been admitted to Whiston Hospital with breathing problems in November 2011. He died two days later.

A hearing at the Nursing and Midwifery Council in London heard that Mr Whalley, who had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) should have been given two doses of aminophylline.

One dose was meant to be given undiluted over a 20-minute period and a second, in diluted form, over 24 hours. But the four day hearing heard that the second dose was administered incorrectly, undiluted in little more than an hour.

The panel accepted that Ms Sanchez’ had shown genuine remorse but were concerned that she did not seem to fully understand how the error had occurred.

As a result, the panel concluded that her fitness to practice remains impaired. The caution order will be removed from her record after a year.

Ms Sanchez’s colleague at Whiston Hospital Carmel Pendleton was also accused of misconduct as she had acted as second checker but failed to ensure the medication was administered correctly.

However, the panel concluded that despite her admission of misconduct her fitness to practice was not impaired.

In 2014, a coroner ruled that the incorrect administration of a drug by a Whiston Hospital nurse played “a significant role” in Mr Whalley’s death.

The much-loved grandfather-of-three and great-grandfather-of-five had suffered breathing difficulties since 2004, died at Whiston Hospital on November 18, 2011.

The inquest heard the nurse tasked with delivering the drug, Ms Sanchez, had earlier consulted a fellow nurse, a senior doctor and a ward pharmacist - who had specified on two occasions how it was to be administered.

She has since apologised to Mr Whalley’s family for her error.

In his narrative verdict, Mr Sumner accepted that Mr Whalley, who had been admitted to hospital with breathing problems two days earlier, “was a man in poor health”.

But he said: “The actual time that the drug took to be infused varies according to witnesses between 20 and 70 minutes. Whichever figure is taken, it is far less than the 24 hours required.”

Mr Whalley’s widow, Norma, 69, of Rivington Road, said: “I still get upset daily because only half of me is left. I’ve reached a settlement with the trust now but the money means nothing to me without Colin here. We had been planning our golden wedding anniversary but that’s all gone now.”

A spokeswoman for St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust previously insisted lessons had been learnt.

She said: “The trust has unreservedly apologised for an error which meant Mr Whalley received an infusion of medication over too short a period of time and quickly carried out a full investigation.”