Nurse who abused mental health patients struck off

The former Tawel Fan ward at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd
Robert Lang worked on the Tawel Fan ward at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd [BBC]

A “callous” and “cruel” nurse who physically abused vulnerable patients on a mental health unit in north Wales has been struck off.

Robert Lang worked on the Tawel Fan ward at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Denbighshire before it was closed in 2013 due to concerns about care.

A panel of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) found that the psychiatric staff nurse had “caused harm” to three elderly patients by using unnecessary force on one man.

He also kicked a half naked man multiple times on the floor and forcibly administered medication to an elderly woman.

The NMC’s report noted that Robert Lang had said in 2014 that “it was a difficult ward and that staff were under pressure”.

But a Fitness to Practice panel concluded in April that Mr Lang’s “misconduct” was “callous, cruel and unprofessional” showing a “complete lack of care” and “indicating a harmful deep-seated attitudinal problem”.

The family of one of the patients abused by the nurse said she was glad Mr Lang had been prevented from working again as a nurse, adding: “It’s a tiny bit of justice”.

The NMC committee heard how the nurse had “ferociously” bent a patient’s arthritic knee when helping him into a wheelchair in June 2013, causing him to scream in pain.

They also heard how in 2012 or 2013, Mr Lang had been speaking to a colleague in an office when a dementia patient had crawled into the room wearing only an incontinence pad.

The colleague described how Mr Lang had told the patient to leave, but as the patient could not understand, he kicked him away.

Robert Lang, who had worked in healthcare in north Wales since 1983, was also found to have forcibly given medication to a patient who was resisting it in October 2013.

He did this by pushing the patient’s chair back on its rear legs and forcing a syringe into the patient’s mouth, causing them to "cough and splutter".

A relative told BBC News Mr Lang had treated patients “inhumanely” and that he was “not fit to be a nurse”.

The NMC panel concluded Mr Lang’s behaviour would be seen as “deplorable” and amounted to misconduct.

Tawel Fan
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board closed the ward in 2013 after a patient's relatives raised concerns [BBC]

The panel said Mr Lang had told the NMC in January 2023 that he was not interested in engaging with their disciplinary process and had no intention of returning to nursing.

He was referred to the NMC in 2014 by his employer Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) after they suspended him following investigations into practices on the ward.

The health board’s mental health service has been under sustained scrutiny, but Mr Lang is believed to be the first member of staff to be struck off in relation to events at Tawel Fan.

Carol Shillabeer, chief executive of BCUHB, said: "Mr Lang's actions were appalling - he abused the trust he had as a healthcare professional.

"On behalf of the health board I apologise for the significant distress patients and families have experienced as a result of his actions.”

Asked why the Fitness to Practice process had taken 10 years to complete, Paul Johnson, Deputy Director of Professional Regulation at the Nursing and Midwifery Council, apologised.

“Fitness to practise cases can be complex and there are many factors that can impact the length of time it takes to reach a decision,” he said.