Nurse banned for failing to report child sex abuse claim

Emily Whitelaw was found to have put the young girl 'at serious risk of serious harm'.

Struck off: Emily Whitelaw claimed she wasn't supported in her role. <strong>Pixabay</strong>
Struck off: Emily Whitelaw claimed she wasn't supported in her role. Pixabay

A nurse has been struck off for failing to act on a mother’s concern that her young daughter had been sexually abused.

Emily Whitelaw was found to have put the girl “at serious risk of serious harm” for failing to report the allegation involving the child’s step-grandfather to social services or the police.

The Clackmannanshire mum initially revealed her concerns to a family support worker.

When the allegations were reported to Whitelaw, the former health visitor for NHS Forth Valley told her colleague to take no further action as she believed the claim had been fabricated.

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Whitelaw, who was in charge of the child’s case, failed to document in the youngster’s record how she reached that decision.

She also failed to promptly visit the girl to conduct a welfare check as to her safety and did not contact the child’s mother to discuss or clarify the allegation.

At a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practise hearing in London last week, a panel heard that the concerns were raised with Whitelaw in June 2015.

A presenter told the NMC panel: “Regardless of whether Miss Whitelaw thought this was true or false, she should have immediately reported the matter for further investigation.

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“It was her responsibility to report such matters so that they could be further investigated by the social services department and/or the police.

“In situations like this, Miss Whitelaw would also have been expected to promptly visit the child to ensure their safety, undertake a risk assessment and to contact the mother to discuss this issue but failed to do so.”

In September 2017, the NMC received a referral from the NHS board over Whitelaw’s failure to provide appropriate care to the vulnerable child and her inability to adequately manage her health visitor caseload.

An audit of Whitelaw’s work “revealed a considerable number of errors in record-keeping, conducting assessments and improper delegation”.

In the case of another child – who had issues with their behaviour, speech, sleep and toileting – the investigation uncovered that there was no assessment or plan recorded in the youngster’s notes despite the family’s history of “paternal criminality, substance abuse and violence”.

The NMC were told: “By failing to fully engage with the family or escalate concerns regarding the family’s non-engagement, Miss Whitelaw was not supporting [the child] to develop and grow to their maximum potential.”

Whitelaw, who accepted that her fitness to practise was impaired by reason of her misconduct, claimed that she was not properly supported in her role.

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She also provided reflective pieces where she expressed remorse and acknowledged her failings.

However, the NMC presenter stated: “There have been repeated failings in her handling of safeguarding concerns involving extremely vulnerable children.

“The concerns in this case are serious and wide-ranging and would therefore be difficult to remediate.”

The presenter stated that while there is no evidence that Whitelaw’s failings had caused direct harm to any of the children under her care, her actions and omissions had the potential to put the young girl at “real risk of serious ongoing sexual abuse”.

The child is now in foster care and requires support in relation to emotional and physical health.

Whitelaw has since retired from the profession.

Striking her off the register, the NMC stated that allegations of suspected sexual abuse should not have been dismissed without any investigation.

In a written ruling, the panel said: “Ms Whitelaw’s actions and omissions were significant departures from the standards expected of a registered nurse and such serious breaches of the fundamental tenets of the profession are incompatible with her remaining on the register.

“The parties agree that a striking-off order would be the most appropriate and proportionate order in this case.”


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