Nurse suspended for accessing ex partner’s confidential records

A nurse has been suspended for six months for accessing confidential benefit records to find out information on her ex-partner including their postcode.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) found Claire Louisa Thirkell, who was working as a nurse and functional assessor at the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA) at the time and whose registered address is in Essex, had accessed the records four times in July 2019 without any clinical justification or permission.

Miss Thirkell was given a suspension order of six months and an interim suspension order of 18 months.

A spokesperson for the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments said: “We take complaints about professional standards and data security incredibly seriously.

“As soon as this complaint was made, we carried out a full investigation and reported the individual to the Nursing and Midwifery Council. They were subsequently dismissed and no longer work for the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments.”

The NMC also took into account that Miss Thirkell was going through difficult personal circumstances, according to a report.

The report states IT records show she used the Medical Services Referral System four times on July 2 2019 to access the benefit data of her former partner, who is referred to as “Person A”.

She admitted to accessing the records, saying she wanted to find Person A’s postcode, at a disciplinary hearing on October 31 2019, the report continues.

However, the NMC panel did not accept this was her sole motivation, suggesting instead she sought to secure additional information with different intentions.

The information and motivation are both redacted in the report.

Miss Thirkell does not acknowledge this aspect of her motivation, the report says.

Miss Thirkell also allegedly made reference to the information in a personal telephone call with Person A, who recorded the conversation then complained to the CHDA on September 20 2019.

The recording was obtained by the CHDA, the report continues.

A section of the report read: “Whilst these concerns do not relate to patient care, the panel considered that Miss Thirkell’s actions had the potential to cause serious psychological damage to Person A.

“As such, the panel concluded that a finding of current impairment was required to protect the public.”

The panel was satisfied Miss Thirkell’s conduct was capable of remediation, but noted her limited engagement with NMC and that there was no evidence she had developed any insight into the seriousness of her misconduct.

She was informed of the CHDA’s decision to dismiss her at an outcome hearing on November 7 2019.

A virtual meeting of the NMC was held on January 7 2022 to consider Miss Thirkell’s fitness to practice, which she did not attend.

She has not worked as a nurse since the incident, according to the report.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter