NHS nurse is struck off for performing smear tests when not qualified

NHS nurse is struck off after nearly 500 women had to have their smear test redone when it emerged she wasn’t qualified to carry them out

  • Alison Watts worked at surgery in West Yorkshire when misconduct took place
  • The nurse failed to qualify to carry out smear tests but did not tell surgery bosses
  • Watts continued to perform uncomfortable test for almost two and a half years
  • Tribunal found Watts’ actions could have put patients at significant risk of harm

Nearly 500 women had to have their cervical smear tests redone after it emerged the nurse who carried them out was not qualified.

‘Dishonest’ Alison Watts failed to tell her bosses at an NHS surgery that she failed her course and continued screening women for almost two and a half years.

When it was discovered Watts had not passed the qualification, 461 women had to be recalled to have the uncomfortable cervix test again so they could have ‘quality assured’ tests.

Now Watts has been struck off for the shocking breach of trust, with a tribunal ruling that she put patients at ‘significant risk of harm’.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council [NMC] report said: ‘This was not a single instance of misconduct but involved 461 patients over a two year

period. There is evidence of sustained dishonesty and deep-seated attitudinal issues.’

Nurse Alison Watts, who has been struck off, worked at Undercliffe Surgery, in Heckmondwike (pictured) when she carried out hundreds of smear tests despite not being qualified to do so

Watts carried out the tests while unqualified between September 2015 and November 2017 while working at Undercliffe Surgery, a GP surgery in Heckmondwike, West Yorks.

When the practice discovered she had not passed she was dismissed.

It emerged she had also failed to properly monitor results, which had the potential to miss diagnose, and when she was investigated Watts falsified statements from colleagues, describing her as ‘reliable and trustworthy’, to deceive the NMC.

Watts made full admissions to the offences, the NMC tribunal heard.

The report said: ‘It was incumbent upon Watts to ensure that she was suitably qualified to conduct smear tests.

‘It was her duty to check if she had been awarded the qualification and she did not.

‘Furthermore, Watts continued to undertake cervical screening procedures despite this.

‘The actions of Watts had the potential to put patients at significant risk of harm, although it is accepted that there is no evidence of actual harm having occurred.

‘Watts’ failings involve a serious departure from expected standards.

Disciplinary panel found that Watts’ actions had the potential to cause significant harm to her patients as it could have led to misdiagnoses and hundreds of women had to have tests redone

‘The risks associated with Watts failing to monitor her own practice in taking smears include the potential for missed diagnoses and associated patient harm.

‘This is especially the case for those nurses who are learning to perform smears and working without supervision.

‘By continuing to carry out cervical smear tests despite Watts’ knowledge that she had never completed and passed the relevant course shows a concerning lack of integrity.

‘These elements amount to a breach of the duty of candour. This also clearly has the potential to impact on patients in the Watts’ care.

‘Watts wilfully and deliberately submitted falsified documents in support of her character as part of the NMC investigation into the concerns raised.

‘This was done to mislead a panel of the Investigating Committee and amounts to dishonesty for personal gain.’

It added: ‘Her actions involved a high level of dishonesty and amounted to behaviour that fellow practitioners would consider to be deplorable.’

The tribunal found Watts has shown little remorse.

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