A general practice nurse has been struck off after she gave spare Covid-19 vaccine doses to friends during the coronavirus pandemic, even though they were not eligible at the time.
Diana Mary Morris, a registered nurse since 1986, was working at a GP surgery in Gloucestershire when she administered spare doses of the jab to the group, which included her own husband, during the third national lockdown in early 2021.
“If a vaccine was spare, and was going to be disposed of, then rather than waste it I tried very quickly to find someone to take it”
She claimed that she did so to “avoid waste” and to stop vaccines being thrown away. However, her employer insisted that “spare” doses would likely have gone to eligible patients the next day.
Between February and April, 2021, Ms Morris facilitated the unauthorised vaccination of almost a dozen people who were not eligible for the vaccine at the time, did not inform her surgery, and attempted to conceal the breach of professional standards.
A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) fitness to practice (FTP) panel met at the end of October to decide what, if any, sanctions should be taken against Ms Morris.
At the time, the surgery was offering Covid vaccines to eligible groups, including those aged 70 or over, those living in a nursing home or deemed clinically vulnerable, and frontline health or social care staff.
A clinician would be expected to check a patient’s identity and eligibility for the vaccine, if they had recently been infected with Covid, or if they had any allergies before receiving the jab.
However, on several occasions, Ms Morris’ conduct was found to have fallen below these expectations, noted the NMC.
On 11 February 2021, she administered a Covid-19 vaccination to an ineligible patient and aided a colleague – referred to in the FTP proceedings as Colleague A – in giving others at Colleague A’s home.
The next day, Ms Morris told another colleague – Colleague C – that 29 people had been vaccinated by the surgery’s team, concealing that 11 of those were not eligible for the jab.
Ms Morris administered a Covid-19 vaccination to several other patients who were not eligible across the preceding two months.
Among these patients, were family members or friends of staff at the practice, along with her own husband – who was registered with a different GP surgery.
The panel also heard how Ms Morris took steps, including the accessing of patient files, to prevent her actions from being discovered.
She, and Colleague A, continued to administer unauthorised doses with no risk assessments and without informing the surgery until an anonymous letter told her employer and she was reported to the NMC.
Ms Morris was not present at the FTP hearing, but provided statements via email during the time since proceedings began in 2022.
In an email on 26 January 2022, Ms Morris described working at the surgery during the lockdown period as “mentally draining”.
She denied wrongdoing, but said that she “deeply regret[ted]” going along with what she claimed was Colleague A’s plan.
“I have an impeccable record prior to this and have always prided myself on being an excellent nurse with a very caring and compassionate nature,” she said.
“[I] would certainly never knowingly put any patient at risk. I now feel ruined, have lost everything, my home, my job, my reputation, and am now also struggling mentally, for which I now have prescribed medication from my GP.
“I currently am not working and haven’t done so since. I would like to return to some form of caring work in the future, if at all possible, as I have always loved working and caring for people.”
Another letter to the NMC, in December 2022, said she was “under massive pressure to vaccinate as many people as possible”, and further denied that her actions amounted to misconduct.
In a later statement, dated June 2023, Ms Morris wrote: “If a vaccine was spare and was going to be disposed of then, rather than waste it, I tried very quickly to find someone to take it.
“The charges against me are indicating I should have binned the spare vaccine, rather than use it up and save lives,” she added.
Ms Morris later admitted her wrongdoing, but FTP panellists determined that she lacked remorse or insight into her actions.
“By assisting Colleague A and administering vaccines herself to ineligible people, Ms Morris deprived those that were eligible and those that were at the most risk,” an NMC investigator noted.
“This conduct did not take place on one occasion, it was repeated. The surgery was clear that if there were any vaccine doses left they went to the next person on the list of eligibility.”
The FTP panel accepted the recommendations from its investigators, dubbing Ms Morris’ actions as “a significant and repeated departure from the standards expected of a registered nurse”.
They deemed a strike off as the only proportionate sanction in the interest of public safety.
Ms Morris was handed an 18-month interim suspension order. If this decision is not appealed, a formal striking off order will replace the interim one.