§ Mr. MORTON
asked the President of the Local Government Board whether he is aware that, in regard to the death of a man named Almond that occurred a few-hours after he had received a bath at the Hemel Hempstead Workhouse Infirmary in October, 1909, one of the three untrained assistant nurses named Bellamy was committed for trial at the subsequent Hertford Assizes on a charge of manslaughter, although the evidence showed that there had been no intimation from the doctor that anything was the matter with the man, that he was not being bathed in any sense as an invalid, but according to the usual practice, and that, although after the man's death it was alleged that the doctor said he was suffering from bronchitis, no treatment was-ordered for it, and no notice given to the nurse of it, and that the grand jury 213 refused to return a true bill against her; whether he will say which of the rules mentioned in the subsequent letter of 8th December last from the Local Government Board to the Workhouse Nursing Association was it nevertheless suggested that Nurse Bellamy broke, and on what occasions, and in what way, and, in view of the result of the trial, on what grounds was it suggested that the catastrophe in question was due to her conduct; whether he will say on what grounds, and at whose instance, and on what information, Nurse Bellamy was, alone of all the witnesses, in effect put on her defence at the inquest, and on what grounds, at whose instance, and on what information was a warrant taken out by the police, before the inquest was concluded, for the arrest of the nurse, and not for that of the responsible head, the superintendent nurse or the medical officer; and whether, in view of the suggestions made against the nurse in the letter of 8th December last from the Local Government Board, on the one hand, and of the observations made by the learned judge in charging the grand jury and the subsequent action of the latter in throwing out the bill, on the other hand, he will, in the public interest, order a public inquiry, as Nurse Bellamy has requested?
§ Mr. BURNS
The circumstances connected with the lamentable bathing fatalities which occurred at the Hemel Hempstead Workhouse at the beginning of October were most carefully investigated by officers of my Department, and received my close personal attention. The letters.addressed by the Board to the guardians and to the Workhouse Nursing Association on 8th December indicated the considered conclusions of the Department, and I have seen no reason to depart from them. The guardians have now entirely reconstituted the nursing staff, and I do not doubt that the action which has been taken will prove effective. I am satisfied that no advantage could result from further inquiry into the circumstances which occurred six months ago and have already received the fullest investigation, and I am not prepared to direct such inquiry. I have, of course, no jurisdiction or responsibility with regard to the proceedings before the coroner, nor in connection with the subsequent prosecution.
§ Mr. MORTON
May I ask whether he does not think it only fair and right, seeing that, the grand jury threw out the Bill and taking into consideration the remarks of 214 the judge, that this young woman ought to have the opportunity of getting her character reinstated?
§ Mr. BURNS
In answer to my hon. Friend, I have given this very close and serious attention. One other fact to be referred to is that this subject came before a coroner's jury on 15th October, and the coroner's jury came to a verdict of man-slaughter against Nurse Bellamy. Nurse Bellamy was dismissed by the guardians on 19th October. The grand jury threw out the bill. It is a serious matter that one man should die as the result of accident or negligence or even misadventure, and I do not think, in justice to Nurse Bellamy, that her friends are well advised in pressing the claim for investigation.
§ Mr. MORTON
Arising out of that further answer, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why the medical officer, who is responsible for these cases, and the superintendent of the nurses were not prosecuted, they being the people actually in charge?
§ Mr. BURNS
My hon. Friend is entirely mistaken as to the facts. Nurse Bellamy was responsible. She did not communicate with the medical officer certain facts with regard to the deceased patient which she should have done, and the guardians dismissed her. The whole thing was gone satisfactorily into, and I do not see any need for further investigation.
If any doubt arises as to the advisability of bathing, medical officer should be referred to; and in bathing the sick, nurse should always be present.
§ Nurse Bellamy herself was not present; the porter bathed the man, and the medical officer was not notified.