Nurse says Scots hospital bosses tried to blame him for death of OAP given drug despite allergy

A whistleblowing nurse who tried to prevent a patient being given medication to which he was allergic has claimed bosses tried to blame him for the man’s death.

Mental health expert Stephen McLaughlin, 42, has called for an independent inquiry into how Edward McCluskey, 88, died after being given seven penicillin doses.

Medical staff gave the medicine to the great-grandad despite his family informing carers it could make him ill.

Stephen is also an emergency response lecturer and teaches nurses and doctors how to spot allergies. He claims his reputation as a health professional was damaged by health board leaders and was warned he could lose his job if he contacted Edward’s family about the care he got.

Edward was given seven doses of penicillin and died in agony weeks later after suffering a painful rash which his loved ones believe also affected his internal organs.

They fought for answers but said they hit a brick wall and believed there was a cover-up.

The great-grandad, who suffered dementia, was taken into the Inverclyde Royal Hospital’s Larkfield Unit for elderly mental health in Greenock on December 22, 2016. He was diagnosed with a urine infection and prescribed an antibiotic on December 28.

Edward McCluskey’s body covered in a rash

Stephen claims he questioned whether Edward had an allergy then refused to give the medication and called a doctor.

But the doctor is alleged to have failed to check his Kardex (a desktop file system that gives a brief overview of each patient) and was unaware of the allergy.

Stephen said: “Due to this involving serious health and safety matters, I now have no option but to utilise protections within public disclosure legislation and expose the whole situation in its totality.”

On December 30, Stephen was approached by a nursing assistant who had noticed Eddie had a rash around his groin and asked him to look at it. He said: “I was 90 per cent certain it was an allergy and I told her not to use any creams until I was able to speak to a doctor.

“I looked at his Kardex and saw he was allergic to penicillin. I dispensed his medication into a cup and left it in the drugs trolley so that if the doctor diagnosed something other than an allergy, the medication would be able to be administered quickly.”

Stephen claims he was called away to assist a colleague during an emergency. A doctor had overruled him by the time he returned.

He added: “I still refused to give him the medication. But the senior nurse told me she and a doctor overruled me.”

Edward McCluskey

A serious clinical incident review later congratulated Stephen for spotting the error and trying to have it rectified. However, eight months after Edward’s death, the health board began disciplinary action against him which led to him being suspended for a year.

He is still not allowed to work unsupervised. He said: “I want the family to know I am sorry.

“I wanted to get in touch with the family but I was told I would lose my job and my nursing registration. This has ruined my reputation.” Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie has already called for an investigation.”

A spokesperson for NHSGGC said: “Mr McLaughlin is involved in internal workforce processes that require internal conclusion and as such we cannot comment further on his case.

“However, we encourage him to bring forward his whistleblowing case in order that a supported review is undertaken.

“All actions relating to the sad death of Mr McCluskey in January 2017 were fully investigated at the time.

“We always aim to involve families in this process and this investigation included engaging with Mr McCluskey’s family both during and after the completion of the investigation. We would once again reach out to the family so we can discuss their concerns and fully investigate any recent claims.”

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