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Fitness to practise medicine impaired, says medical tribunal looking into Dr Valerie Murphy in charge of Connor Sparrowhawk’s care

14 Nov 2017

Dr Valerie Murphy’s fitness to practise medicine has been found to be impaired by misconduct. This was decided by a medical practitioners tribunal on Sunday 12 October.

Dr Murphy was in charge of the care of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk at an NHS facility in 2013. Connor, who had epilepsy, learning disabilities and autism, died after having a seizure in the bath.

Yesterday, the tribunal found that Dr Murphy has not recognised the extent of her failings. It also concluded that “she appeared to be looking for excuses”.

The tribunal said that Dr Murphy was not willing to accept responsibility for her actions. It also noted that she had shown no remorse and has not apologised to Connor’s mother, Dr Sara Ryan.

In August, Dr Murphy admitted to 30 failings in Connor’s care. The tribunal later found a further nine failings were made. According to the tribunal, Dr Murphy has appeared to only take responsibility for those failings that could not be denied.

Epilepsy Action’s deputy chief executive, Simon Wigglesworth, said: “Around 1,000 people die every year as a result of their epilepsy and as many as 400 of these deaths could be prevented.

“Dr Murphy repeatedly failed to take responsibility for Connor's care and treatment plan. It’s clear she did not carry out the appropriate risk assessments or take into account key guidelines, including advice from Epilepsy Action in his care plan.

“Dr Murphy was also found to show a distinct lack of remorse over these failings. This will bring no comfort to Connor's family, given his death was absolutely avoidable.

Care plans are there for a reason – to ensure epilepsy treatment and management is as safe and effective as possible.

“It is vital that professionals caring for people with epilepsy in care, support and treatment settings have been properly trained. It’s important that they fully understand the condition and all its implications. In fact, it is the very least that people with epilepsy deserve.”

The tribunal will continue on 19 February 2018 for three days. The decision may lead to Dr Murphy being struck off from the profession.

Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust was in charge of the facility Connor was at when he died. The trust recently pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety law in Connor’s case. 


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