A hospice nurse has been struck off after she pocketed a £1,000 donation made by a grieving husband just hours after his wife’s death.
Carol Bowyer was handed the cash in £20 notes by the bereaved husband after his wife died at St Nicholas Hospice, Bury St Edmunds, in November 2013.
He told a Nursing and Midwifery Council panel he felt ‘proud’ to deliver the gift after making the joint decision with his dying spouse to donate to the hospice.
But Bowyer kept the money instead of handing it over to be used to help fund the hospice.
The scam was rumbled when the generous benefactor returned the day after his wife’s death to request that the donation be made in her memory.
Bowyer denied receiving any money during her shift, but later told a colleague she had discovered the ‘wad of notes’ in a tunic pocket after searching her laundry.
She handed the money back five days after accepting it and told bosses she thought she had immediately returned the cash to the man who donated it.
But she quit her job before a disciplinary hearing could take place and was referred to the NMC.
Chairman Dermot Keating said the panel considered it ‘very unlikely that she forgot about it considering the size of the wad of fifty £20 notes’ and deemed her actions to be dishonest.
Striking her off the medical register, he said: “The panel determined that Mrs Bowyer had breached the trust of ‘Male B’ who was in a vulnerable position, having just suffered bereavement.
“The handing over of the donation by him was an extremely emotional event for him particularly because the donation had been a decision jointly taken with his wife before she died.
“In taking the donation with the intention of using it for her own use she breached the trust placed in her as a nurse working in a hospice.”
The husband told the panel that after his wife died he was taken to the family room by Bowyer where he clearly recalled taking the money from his trousers pocket and feeling ‘proud’ to make the donation.
He told the panel that Bowyer had counted the money in front of him and a friend before putting it in her pocket.
Despite working three subsequent shifts after being given the money Bowyer insisted she had removed the money ‘unintentionally’.
Bowyer, who was not present or represented at the hearing, will have her name struck off the medical register with an 18-month interim ban falling away if no appeal is lodged within 28 days.
In response to the NMC ruling, St Nicholas Hospice Care chief executive Barbara Gale said: “I am shocked and saddened that someone we thought was a good nurse who we trusted has let us down in this way. The donor was proud to give us a donation in memory of his wife and trusted a member of staff with that donation. I am so very sorry something went wrong as a result of the actions of this nurse.
“We would like to reassure all the people who raise money for us that this was an isolated incident and it has never happened before. We have stringent procedures in place regarding donations and all staff receive guidance on accepting money.
“The Hospice relies on the support of the community, they trust us so it is especially disappointing to have been let down in this manner.”