Nurse struck off for punching vulnerable teenager

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The mental health nurse threw two roundhouse punches and a series of other blows, a hearing was told.

A mental health nurse has been struck off after punching a vulnerable patient at a Knowsley hospital.

During a night shift at Victoria Gardens Hospital in Huyton, Donald Riziva threw a punch at a 16-year-old boy who had been in his care at the specialist rehabilitation facility. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said Mr Riziva’s actions in 2019 had amounted to “unprofessional, violent conduct” which betrayed his duty of care.

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As a result, Mr Riziva, who was employed through an agency and first registered in 2008, has been barred from nursing permanently.

A witness statement read at the four-day hearing claimed Mr Riziva threw two roundhouse punches at the teenage patient before a further three blows were struck.

The nurse, from Bootle, chose not to take part in the hearing. An email sent by him to the panel ahead of the proceedings said: “I feel I have done my part working as a Mental Health nurse.

“It has been a complete three years out of the profession and reflecting on circumstances around my suspension, I feel I am safer both physically and mentally and thus excuse myself. It will be beneficial for both parties to get the case closed completely.”

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Mr Riziva said receiving letters or emails regarding this issue had caused him “some unnecessary trauma and after effects.” He added: “I am done with nursing.”

The report said the charges stemmed from a night shift in which Mr Riziva was on duty at Victoria Gardens Hospital in November in the care of a 16-year-old vulnerable patient with complex mental health needs, which included violent tendencies and required three-to-one nursing. At the time of the incident, Patient A was the only patient on Dovecot ward.

Victoria Gardens Hospital in Huyton. Image: Google Street ViewVictoria Gardens Hospital in Huyton. Image: Google Street View
Victoria Gardens Hospital in Huyton. Image: Google Street View | Google Street View

Mr Riziva accepted the charge of failing to correctly use de-escalation techniques when presented with challenging behaviour from Patient A. In an email to the panel, he admitted the incident had occurred in 2019, adding: “With the circumstances at hand at the time, after having been headbutted, stabbed on the eye, I felt my life was in extreme danger, as the events happened in a flush of a second I acted in the heat of the moment trying to free myself from the situation.”

The panel considered that Mr Riziva may have responded under pressure or fear and found he provided a plausible account which included photographic evidence of an injury he sustained. Given the evidence in Patient A’s clinical notes in the entry dated November 19 at 07:15, the panel found it more likely than not that Patient A had a pen during the incident and was using it as a weapon.

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A witness statement from the former lead nurse at Victoria Gardens outlined how Mr Riziva had ended up in a confrontation with Patient A. It said the Mr Riziva put his hand on Patient A to guide him from an office, at which point the teenager headbutted him.

The statement added: “The registrant moves forward as though to punch/push Patient A away. Patient A then punches the registrant. The registrant runs towards Patient A who still has his hands up in fighting mode the registrant.

The nurse’s evidence said Mr Riziva threw two roundhouse punches at the teenage patient before a further three blows were struck.

Mr Riziva’s initial incident report detailed how he attempted to “block myself by moving arms quickly to protect my face” but this led to the boy sustaining a cut to his lip. The former nurse also sustained a cut to his finger.

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The panel concluded Mr Riziva had caused the cut accidentally. However, it was felt his behaviour had amounted to unprofessional, violent conduct which betrayed his duty of care and betrayed the trust of the patient. As a result, he was struck from the register.

Responding to the report, a spokesperson for Elysium Healthcare, which runs Victoria Gardens, said: “The safety and wellbeing of our patients is our highest priority, and we will always act to ensure this is upheld.

“As soon as this incident was reported to us in 2019 the individual in question was referred to the Disclosure and Barring Service and ceased employment with the hospital. We set, and expect, the very highest standards from our colleagues, who occupy a position of trust caring for vulnerable people.”

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