• Multiple charges against former director of operations and executive nurse at Liverpool Community Health Trust were found to be proved
  • Helen Lockett was found to have bullied colleagues and attempted to minimise concerns that were raised about staffing and services

One of the leaders of Liverpool’s scandal-hit former community provider has been suspended from the nursing register for 12 months, in a ruling which has now been referred to the Professional Standards Authority.

Multiple charges against Helen Lockett, the former director of operations and executive nurse at Liverpool Community Health Trust, were found to be proved by a fitness to practise panel convened by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

They included charges of bullying behaviours and attempting to minimise concerns that were raised about staffing and services. Several charges were found not proved, including some allegations of dishonesty.

The suspension order has since been referred to the PSA, with the NMC saying the independent panel’s reasons did “not adequately explain why a 12 month suspension order was sufficient”.

It comes following an independent review, led by Bill Kirkup, into a catalogue of serious failings at the trust between 2010 and 2014, after which Ms Lockett was handed an interim suspension order by the NMC.

There has since been a long running investigation into misconduct charges against her, and three other managers who worked in the trust’s prison services. The cases against the three other managers — Debbie Moore; Paul Lawrance; and Deborah Dickerson — were all dismissed with no case to answer.

The findings report said of Ms Lockett: “[The panel] determined to make a suspension order for a period of 12 months. When deciding the length of the order, the panel bore in mind that you have already been subject to an interim suspension order for almost four years.

“However, it also had regard to the serious nature of the charges found proved and the effect of your misconduct on staff and potentially on patients.”

Ms Lockett appears to have retired from the NHS and set up a bakery business in Bristol.

The rulings have angered West Lancashire MP, Rosie Cooper, who had pushed for the original inquiries into the trust’s failings, and referred Ms Lockett to the NMC. She wanted her to be permanently struck off.

She said: “As an executive on the board of LCH, [Ms Lockett] cannot claim to be simply doing her job. She wasn’t just obeying orders, she helped set the culture and enforced the draconian measures that left staff suicidal and patients harmed.

“What has to happen before people like Ms Lockett are really held to account? Nurses who have been struck off in the past for offences such as failing to complete documentation should be asking for their cases to be reviewed in the light of this perverse decision.”

The NMC does not have the legal power to re-open panel decisions. The PSA, however, has the power to appeal decisions to the High Court.