UCL Medical School


Sarah's Story


I was in my final year, doing my assistantship on a care of the older person (COOP) ward. The team had given me six patients of my own to look after so I was going to see Mrs Nicholas, an elderly lady who was in a side room. I was putting on my apron and gloves and I could hear that there was a healthcare assistant (HCA) in the room. She was arguing with Mrs Nicholas because Mrs Nicholas didn’t want to get out of bed. The HCA didn’t know I was there and, as I opened the door, I saw her slap Mrs Nicholas several times on the leg and say, “That’ll teach you to argue with me".

Sarah’s reaction

I was completely horrified that anyone would treat a vulnerable older person in that way. It goes against everything we’ve been taught at medical school. I didn’t think the HCA realised that I’d seen her hit Mrs Nicholas as she had her back to the door and I didn’t know what to say to her. After she had left, I went to see Mrs Nicholas and made sure she didn’t have any injuries. I kept thinking that I’ve got to tell someone about this. I told the registrar on the team about it and he agreed that it was really serious and that I should tell someone what had happened. I filled in the online reporting form on the Raising Concerns website and I said they could contact me because I wanted to know what would happen. I also emailed the Matron for that ward and told her what I’d seen.


As it was a matter of patient safety, the QAEU contacted the Trust immediately to ensure that a similar incident didn't happen again. I also met the QAE CTF to discuss the incident further. The following week, the CTF contacted me again and told me that the Trust had suspended the HCA and that they were going to have a formal disciplinary meeting. They asked me if I’d be able to give verbal evidence at the disciplinary meeting and I said yes as I wanted the HCA to understand how serious her behaviour was. I was quite anxious before the disciplinary meeting, but it was fine in the end, they just asked me tell them again what I’d seen.

After the meeting, I was told by the QAEU that, as this was the first report of this type about this HCA and she’d been under a lot of stress, the Trust had allowed her back to work after some re-training and with certain limitations on what she could do.

Raising Concerns Reporting Form