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  • Heather McGee

The shocking case of Lucy Letby: What lessons can Healthcare employers learn?

On 21st August 2023, neonatal nurse Lucy Letby, the most prolific child serial killer in modern British history, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a whole life order. The 33-year-old will spend the rest of her life behind bars after being convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill six other infants at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Although these appalling and shocking crimes were the actions of a single individual, this case is a stark reminder to employers of the importance of upholding workplace safety measures and protecting patients and staff alike.

So, what lessons can healthcare employers learn from the chilling case of Lucy Letby?

  • A clear need for a rigorous hiring process with thorough background checks and safety assessments

  • A change in culture to encourage open communication from employees without any fear of retaliation

  • Defined processes for conducting internal investigations to respond to concerns involving possible misconduct

  • Support for employees involved in sensitive cases as witnesses, including resources and counselling services for those experiencing emotional distress

While all of these points are crucial to creating a workplace that is committed to the welfare of employees and patients, vigilance in the hiring process has to be one of the key takeaways from the Letby case. Thorough background checks and safety assessments are critical, particularly when hiring for such sensitive roles. Ongoing monitoring and performance evaluations should also be firmly part of the process, along with spot checks to help uncover any potential problems.

We see issues of inconsistent background checks time and time again, in the form of healthcare impersonators, who have forged qualifications or who have not completed thorough background checks. Here are some clear examples that highlight the importance of strict background checks in the healthcare industry, although these are only two of many recent cases:

The case of a fake psychiatrist who forged a medical degree

Zholia Alemi worked as a psychiatrist for more than two decades with a fake medical degree certificate and was subsequently jailed for seven years. During her time working with the NHS, she had the power to detain mental health patients against their will.

Alemi worked across the UK and studied to be a doctor in New Zealand in the early 1990s but did not finish her course. She forged a degree certificate and a letter of verification, with the word ‘verify’ misspelt. Despite this, Alemi managed to work as a consultant clinical psychiatrist.

This case highlights the importance of strict practices when background checking applicants who wish to work in healthcare, especially as they are responsible for the health and wellbeing of other individuals, some of whom may be vulnerable. As well as thoroughly checking education qualifications, additional checks including Identity and Right to Work, Standard or Enhanced DBS and Employment history are required.

Nurse without full background check suspected to be stealing drugs from hospital

A nurse who worked in a hospital in Iowa, United States was fired for the suspected theft, on two occasions, of Fentanyl, which is a powerful painkiller used for severe pain relief, according to IOWA Capital Dispatch.

State inspectors investigated the hiring process the nurse had gone through and found that the hospital had failed to conduct a complete background check on the individual.

The background check revealed that the nurse had two criminal convictions but did not indicate how serious the crimes were and the hospital failed to secure the required state approval before hiring her. The hospital also failed to check any non-criminal findings of abuse or if they were present on the state’s Sex Offender Registry.

This case highlights the importance of carrying out thorough background checks and standard and enhanced DBS checks on healthcare individuals to identify any criminal convictions.


The Lucy Letby case along with the many cases of healthcare impersonators, serve as a reminder to all organisations within the healthcare industry of the importance of hiring, managing and investigating situations effectively.

If you’re hiring within the healthcare industry, the risk of not completing thorough background checks is not worth taking. VettingGateway can help you complete all required checks for your new hires quickly and easily. Book a demo with us below to find out how we can help you.

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