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Smear test error nurse struck off for putting women at risk

Karen Boyle affected at least 16 patients while working at Strathcalder Practice in East Kilbride.

East Kilbride: Karen Boyle failed to carry out her duties properly at Strathcalder Practice.
East Kilbride: Karen Boyle failed to carry out her duties properly at Strathcalder Practice. Google 2019

A Scots nurse has been struck off for putting women at risk from cervical cancer by covering up smear test errors.

Karen Boyle affected at least 16 patients while working at Strathcalder Practice within the Alison Lea Medical Centre in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) inquiry looked at patients treated by the nurse between January 2016 and February last year, and in the case of 16 women clinical records were logged saying a smear had had been taken "but no result was subsequently identified".

The hearing found the tests had either not been sent or were labelled incorrectly which led to them not being identifiable.

The panel claimed the nurse's actions had put women at risk by potentially delaying the detection of pre-cancerous cells at an earlier date which could have delayed treatment to patients.

The NMC also claimed that Boyle's actions would have caused stress to patients having to endure another smear test and wait longer for their results.

In one incident, a woman attended for a post-natal smear test and was told to return 12 weeks later but her records were updated saying the procedure had been carried out.

In another case, a patient left the surgery before a smear test was carried out. However, Boyle recorded that she had carried out the test and falsified the clinical results.

It was also found that Boyle, who joined the practice in 2016, hadn't sent some tests to the laboratory.

A woman was told that 'insufficient cells' had been taken to give an accurate result and had to undergo another test.

It was later discovered no smear sample had arrived at the lab, nor had there been a notification letter sent by the lab to the patient.

'Instead of being open and honest about the reasons for requiring the smear tests to be retaken, Mrs Boyle gave an incorrect rationale to the patients'
Nursing and Midwifery Council panel

The NMC stated: "Mrs Boyle had given the misleading explanations that insufficient cells had been taken on the patients' first smears and therefore the tests had to be repeated.

"Instead of being open and honest about the reasons for requiring the smear tests to be retaken, Mrs Boyle gave an incorrect rationale to the patients."

Prior to joining the practice in 2016, Boyle had previously worked at a clinic in Glasgow for 14 years.

She was said to be an experienced tested who "would have been familiar with the correct procedures, guidance and policies in relation to smear taking".

Boyle resigned from her post on February 8 last year after a full investigation was launched by a consultant in public health medicine at NHS Lanarkshire.

'In the panel's view, Mrs Boyle's actions were not isolated, but represented a repeated and systematic course of conduct, over a period of time'
Nursing and Midwifery Council panel

Following this, Boyle disengaged with NMC's regulatory proceedings and offered no evidence of insight, remorse or remediation.

Striking Boyle off the register, the NMC stated: "In the panel's view, Mrs Boyle's actions were not isolated, but represented a repeated and systematic course of conduct, over a period of time.

"The panel determined that fellow professionals would consider Mrs Boyle's actions in relation to the charges found proved, deplorable.

"The panel concluded that Mrs Boyle's actions fell significantly below the standard required of a registered nurse and therefore amounted to misconduct."

'We would like to apologise for any distress caused by this incident'
Strathcalder Practice partners

Following the panel's findings, the partners at Strathcalder Practice told STV News: "We would like to apologise for any distress caused by this incident.

"We contacted the women who were potentially affected and re-invited them for a smear test.

"If we identify any staff competency issues, these are fully investigated and dealt with in accordance with our policies and procedures which may include notifying the relevant regulatory authority."

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