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Nurse who wore golliwog doll wrote race relations policy

The Telegraph | Thursday, 5 July 2012 | Click here for original article


Susan Horton: Horton and Cullum were found guilty of more than 60 charges while running the Ian Bennett ward in the hospital in 2006 and 2007.  Photo: CENTRAL NEWS
Susan Horton: Horton and Cullum were found guilty of more than 60 charges while running the Ian Bennett ward in the hospital in 2006 and 2007. Photo: CENTRAL NEWS

A nurse who clipped a golliwog doll to her uniform to mock black colleagues went on to draft council policy on race relations, a hearing was told.

Susan Horton branded a junior nurse a "gorilla" and made monkey noises while discussing a doctor at St Mary's Hospital, in Kettering, Northants.

Her colleague Sarah Cullum also made racist remarks and once said "these will be okay, they're all white" when a fresh batch of student nurses came on duty.

An NMC panel found both nurses guilty of misconduct for the campaign of verbal and physical abuse on the ward of which they were in charge. It ordered they both be struck off.

The hearing was told after she was sacked by the hospital in 2007, Horton was hired by Wellingborough Council as a Community Safety Officer, which includes overseeing anti-social behaviour problems.

"During her time at the council, Susan wrote a policy on race hate and delivered a talk on that to 300 employees at the council," said John Lynch, representing Horton.

"She has been shaken to the core by what happened," he said.

"She has been on the verge of losing hope, and the prospect of her not being able to work as a nurse has weighed heavily on her."

A stack of glowing references for Horton were handed to the panel, many expressing shock at the severity of the allegations that had been made against the nurse.

Mr Lynch added: "Taken together, they paint a picture of a knowledgeable, caring, diligent, and highly professional registrant, entirely at odds with the allegations you have found proved."

Horton and Cullum were found guilty of more than 60 charges while running the Ian Bennett ward in the hospital in 2006 and 2007.

Healthcare assistant Sandy Smith had told the hearing Horton and Cullum swapped racist remarks when they met for shift handover.

She said Horton's golliwog was on her uniform "so it was always accessible."

Ms Smith said:"'On a number of occasions I witnessed Ms Horton pointing at the golly and pointing at the black nurses."

Horton made monkey noises while discussing a black doctor, referred to her as "scary Mary" and said she "shouldn't be allowed to breed."

She also joked about "saving the bananas for Mary', the hearing was told.

On one occasion, two black nurses from Guyana were chatting in the staffroom in their native language.

Ms Smith told the hearing: "Ms Horton and Ms Cullum both made the comment that they were 'jabbering away in their gobbledegook'.

"It was said in a very belittling way and it wasn't very nice to hear."

Horton also referred to black colleagues as 'n*****s' and remarked 'they look like apes'.

Ms Smith said she also witnessed Ms Horton force-feeding an elderly woman who didn't want to eat.

She said the incident took place in the ward dining room about three years ago and was seen by many other patients.

"It was a very unpleasant scene to witness," she added.

"She was literally pushing food into her mouth."

The hearing was told Cullum branded a patient a 'parasite' and refused to serve him any more toast when he asked for three Weetabix for breakfast.

Cullum referred to the hospital's Carlton ward as 'The United Nations' and said: "There is not a single white face, they are all black"/

Tom Hoskins, for the NMC, told the hearing the nurses were "engaged in widespread racial abuse of members of staff at all levels, from students to nurses at the same level and doctors".

Horton also hit and kicked a male patient in his mid-70s, identified only as Patient B, although she was cleared of dragging him from his bedroom to a corridor by his feet.

Both nurses shouted at Patient B, said he smelled of urine and asked if he was gay and if he liked sharing a room with men.

"These two senior staff members acted in partnership, in alliance, setting a very poor example of standards for junior staff on the ward and the care of patients", said Mr Williams.

"Right thinking members of the public demanded equality for the treatment of patients and staff.

"We were concerned to learn about the physical and verbal abuse found and proved in this case, particularly the homophobic and racist abuse."

Cullum alone was found guilty of suggesting Patient B "should have come out years ago".

She also left another female patient, referred to as Patient D, on the floor for two hours until she became "cold to the touch" saying "leave her there, she can get herself up".

Cullum also told another man, 'Patient C', when the ward ran out of his medication: "If you can't wait, you know where the door is".

Horton was found guilty of saying: "Well I'm not having her, she'll be black" and "We don't do black" during the same incident.

While referring to medical staff, she commented "how come none of the doctors speak English?" and added: "I now need a shower because I smell of curry".

Giving evidence Horton had strenuously denied making racist comments but had described the Golliwog doll she wore as 'lovely'.

Horton added: "I think quite a few people had one, Sister Cullum had one."

"It was a key ring but large; about four inches tall, (made of) stuffed cloth.

"It looked like a like a black doll that people of my generation have grown up with - you see them everywhere."

Cullum's representative Sarah Christie-Brown said she was 'sucked in' by behaviour on the ward which had become a 'way of life', added Ms Christie-Brown.

"My client does not accept she acted in partnership with Ms Horton, but she has admitted in evidence the consequences of her interaction with Ms Horton", she said.

She said Cullum, a nurse of more than 30 years' experience had reflected on her personal circumstances at the time of the abuse and deserved a second chance.

"Personal problems, family losses, studying, and lack of support combined to seriously affect Ms Cullum and had serious consequences in terms of her behaviour," said Ms Christie-Brown.

"This was a period of terrible behaviour but it was behaviour completely out of character.

"People behave out of character for many reasons and people can be restored to themselves and regain their moral compass.

"Ms Cullum has shown enough understanding to allow the restoration to take place."

Panel chairman John Williams said: "The comments made were racist in nature and, according to Ms Cullum, had become a way of life on the ward.

"There was physical abuse of patients and use of inappropriate language when referring to patients both in front of them and behind their backs.

"Many junior staff who made allegations were in fear of the two registrants, and in particular feared the consequences to them if the behaviour of the registrants was reported by them."

Mr Williams suggested their conduct may be "irremediable".


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