A CARE home nurse who stuffed a flannel into a patient’s mouth and threatened to hit him was given a suspended prison sentence yesterday.

Jacqueline Duncan-Smith admitted abusing 86-year-old dementia sufferer Patrick Whelehan at Hempton Field care home, in Chinnor, on September 11.

She was sacked in October and last night was given a 12-week suspended prison sentence at Oxford Magistrates’ Court. Duncan-Smith was also told to pay £380, comprising £100 compensation, an £80 victim surcharge and £200 costs.

Mr Whelehan’s daughter Fiona Burns, and her husband Sean, said they were sorry she did not get a longer sentence.

Mrs Burns, 49, from Kidlington, said: “I felt she needed to be punished.

“You can’t brush these things under the carpet.”

They said they could not fault the current staff, but criticised home owners Four Seasons, which has care homes across the country.

Mrs Burns said: “We hadn’t had a letter from them or a phone call until they found out it was in the Oxford Mail.

“But this has happened in their home.” Mrs Duncan-Smith, 34, was assigned to give Mr Whelehan a sponge bath, with another nurse, Hannah Briggs.

When she fetched a flannel used to wash his “more intimate areas”, he clenched his fist at her and became verbally abusive.


  • Horrified: Patrick Whelehan’s daughter Fiona Burns, right, with her children Mark and Kayleigh and husband Sean at Oxford Magistrates’ Court yesterday

She said to him: “I’ll hit you harder, then what you going to do about it? Chase me?” and shoved the flannel into his mouth.

Ms Briggs did not report the abuse to her manager until Friday, October 4, and the home waited another four days before phoning police.

In her first interview with police, Mrs Duncan-Smith denied forcing the flannel into her victim’s mouth, claiming she dropped it on his face and it fell in.

Duncan-Smith’s solicitor, Jayne Wilkinson, acknowledged the “devastating” impact the abuse had on his family.

She said: “The mere fact we have someone here who is not able to make a victim impact statement makes it all the more powerful.

“We know the current climate of what is going on in care homes and we know the trust people put in staff. Mrs Duncan-Smith says the job is difficult and poorly rewarded. She did it for five years and she says what happens when you go into work is you have to switch off so you don’t become emotionally attached to people.”

It was also said of Duncan-Smith that in her five years working as a carer, she has tended to “switch off” to avoid becoming emotionally attached to those in her care.

Magistrate Dennis Young said: “He was a vulnerable victim and you were in a position of trust and you attempted to conceal the offence.”

Duncan-Smith, of Oak End Way in Chinnor, was also ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.

Four Seasons Health Care said the Hempton Field, which houses 30 residents, has a “zero tolerance” approach to any inappropriate conduct by staff and said there have been no other such incidents recorded in “recent years”.

The home met all five national standards of care when it was last inspected in November.