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Stephen Hawkings former nurse suspended amid secret misconduct hearing

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Professor Stephen Hawking with nurse Patricia Dowdy Stephen Hawking’s former nurse has been suspended as a secret hearing takes place over allegations of “serious” misconduct, it has emerged.Patricia Dowdy, 61, has been banned from practicing since the scientist’s family lodged a complaint against her in 2016.A hearing into the case is currently taking place at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), but the details of the allegations have been kept secret and the public and the media have been banned from attending.The decision to hold the tribunal behind closed doors has raised concerns about open justice.Mrs Dowdy worked for the A Brief History of Time author for around 15 years and was frequently seen at his side.Prof Hawking died aged 76 at his Cambridge home in March last year, more than 50 years after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.Cambridge is where the alleged “misconduct” took place, according to details on the NMC website.Further publicly available documents show that Mrs Dowdy was suspended in March 2016, a decision which is normally only taken when the allegations are sufficiently serious.The “substantive” hearing against her is likely to last until January 18, but it will remain behind closed doors. A source with knowledge of the inquiry told the Mail on Sunday that the allegations were “pretty serious”. In 2004 Professor Hawking’s second wife Elaine Mason was accused of abusing the physicist by ten nurses who had cared for him after he was repeatedly taken to hospital with injuries including a broken wrist, and cuts to his face and lip.Police took no action after both Prof Hawking and Ms Mason denied the allegations.It is not known whether Mrs Dowdy was one of the nurses involved in the complaint.A source close to Prof Hawking told the Telegraph: ““I knew Pat, she was lovely. She was fully qualified. I don’t know what this is all about, but I’m sure it’s nonsense. And now Stephen’s not here to protect her.”Matthew McClelland, Director of Fitness to Practise at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said: “Our legislation and guidance is very clear that hearings usually take place in public. “Sometimes there are important reasons – including in this particular case – why we hold hearings in private in order to protect the interests of all individuals affected. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Mrs Dowdy, from Ipswich, Suffolk, said that she had “no comment” to make on the proceedings.  Professor Stephen Hawking with nurse Patricia DowdyCredit:REX/Shutterstock read more