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Nurse ‘slapped elderly patient while he lay in hospital bed’, court told

17 May 2023 4 minute read
Withybush Hospital. Photo via Google

A nurse slapped an elderly and vulnerable patient in the face while he lay in his hospital bed, a court has heard.

Primrose James, 51, of Victoria Road, Southend-on-Sea, Essex is on trial at Swansea Crown Court for ill-treating a person who lacks capacity at Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest, on May 31, 2022.

It is alleged James assaulted 80-year-old Dennis Warlow while helping with his personal care, becoming aggressive after he hit out at another staff member.

James denies the charge and claims to have been acting in self-defence.

Mr Warlow, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, had been a patient on the hospital’s orthapaedic ward since January that year after fracturing his hip, and was said to be at times disruptive and violent, the jury heard on Wednesday.

The incident happened after Mr Warlow hit out at healthcare assistant Holly English and James who were working together to change his bed linen.

Ms English said James then became aggressive, slapping him multiple times to the left side of his face, and using her index finger to forcefully poke him to the forehead.

‘Horrible man’

She claimed James became confrontational and while assaulting him told him he was a “horrible, horrible man”.

Ms English said she was left “shocked” by what she had witnessed and reported the incident that night to leading ward nurse Christine Schofield who in turn told ward sister Nicola Jones.

Opening the trial Sian Vaughan, prosecuting, said: “He [Mr Warlow] suffers from Parkinson’s disease, he had multiple mobility issues and he was in fact deemed as having lost capacity or not having capacity in April of that year.

“He was quite a vulnerable man, quite frail. But he was a difficult patient who sometimes presented with behavioural problems.

“The defendant worked as a nurse and had done so for a number of years.”

The prosecutor said James was an agency nurse who had worked on the ward for around two years.

She said that, at around 2am, Mr Warlow became incontinent and the defendant helped Ms English change his sheets.

Ms English said she rolled him towards her and as she rolled him back he attempted to hit James with his left hand.


Ms Vaughan said: “Immediately, the prosecution say, Primrose James in retaliation or anger smacked Mr Warlow to the left side of his face. She then slapped him multiple times to his face, while telling him off for hitting out at her.

“The prosecution will say she was aggressively poking at his forehead at the same time. And during this assault, she used words and was shouting at Mr Warlow saying things like ‘you horrible, horrible man’.

“Finally, she pressed her fingers into the side of his nose with enough force to move his head.”

Ms Vaughan said that when James was later approached by Ms Jones, the ward sister, she told her “I don’t hit patients”.

When she was later interviewed about the incident, James described Mr Warlow as a “difficult patient” but said the only contact she had with him that night was when she blocked his arm from hitting her.

Giving evidence, Ms English said: “As soon as he [Mr Warlow] went to hit out at Primrose, Primrose slapped him across the face. She was quite angry and confrontational with him.

“She slapped him a couple of times to his cheek and she started poking him on his forehead. It was quite aggressive.

“She then used her finger and pressed to the side of his nose to push his face away from her.

“I was shocked. I felt quite intimidated,” she added.

Ms Jones told the court that it was “never appropriate to hit or tap a patient”.

The court heard Mr Warlow had hit staff at the hospital on a number of occasions before the alleged incident.

In police interview, James told officers she had used her hand to “block me from being hit” by the patient.

“I was just trying to block him away from hitting me,” she said.

“It’s not the first time he has hit me. I didn’t hit him. The only time I had contact with him is when I blocked him. I didn’t poke him.”

The trial, expected to last for two days, continues.

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