Carer who grabbed vulnerable patient by the hair at Dungannon home struck off

Dungannon Care Home on Killyman Road.
Dungannon Care Home on Killyman Road.

A care assistant who grabbed a vulnerable patient by the hair at a Dungannon residential home, has been struck off the profession’s register.

Terence Edward Whittenham was later convicted at the local Magistrates Court on a charge of assault for the attack at Dungannon Care Home on the female resident who suffered from learning disabilities.

Findings of a Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) Conduct Committee hearing have just been published, although the incident itself took place in June last year.

The committee said Whittenham’s behaviour had been “aggressive and lacked control”, and described the attack as “an unjustified assault on a vulnerable service user”.

Whittenham, who pleaded guilty to the charge of assault and was subsequently given a suspended prison sentence, grabbed the patient by the hair, pulled her head back and shook the patient’s head from side to side.

The incident was witnessed by Whittenham’s colleague, who advised her employer that Whittenham said to her: “You never saw me pull her hair”.

In their findings, the NISCC Committee ruled: “This was a most serious act of misconduct, and quite incompatible with being a social care worker. The Registrant (Whittenham) had betrayed the trust which had been placed in him to care for a vulnerable person. and he had abused his position in a most flagrant and unjustified manner.”

Whittenham did not attend the committee hearing and, the NISCC added, did not provide any evidence of insight or remorse, nor had he given “any evidence that he has taken steps to reduce the risk which he poses”.

In a statement issued to the TIMES, a spokesperson for Four Seasons Health Care, which runs Dungannon Care Home at Killyman Road, said:

“We regret and are deeply disappointed and that a care worker could behave in this way to a person who was entrusted to his care. In doing so he let down his colleagues and the profession.

“When a care assistant reported concerns about Mr. Whittenham’s conduct towards a resident, the manager notified the relevant authorities, so triggering a police investigation, court hearing and the subsequent case before the Northern Ireland Social Care Council. We actively cooperated with the investigations.

“He was immediately suspended in line with our procedure and no longer works for our organisation.

“The wellbeing of the people in our care is our first consideration and we have an active whistle-blowing policy that encourages our staff, residents and their relatives to report any concerns they may have about any aspect of care. These are always notified to the authorities as appropriate so they can be investigated thoroughly and in a transparent way. We are grateful for the vigilance of our carer who raised these concerns.”