A senior mental health nurse from Wales has been struck off for having sex with a “vulnerable” patient and causing her ”direct and lasting emotional harm”.
Alec Wallbank, 33, had been cleared of the charge by a jury at a crown court trial last year. But a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) panel ruled against him during a Fitness to Practise hearing this month.
“Mr Wallbank’s actions displayed a profound lack of judgment, integrity and professionalism”
The NMC makes decisions “on the balance of probabilities”, whereas a jury must prove guilt “beyond reasonable doubt”. The panel found all allegations against Mr Wallbank proved.
Mr Wallbank met the woman, known as “Patient A”, while working as a band 6 nurse and deputy ward manager on a crisis assessment ward at a hospital run by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board in 2014.
The panel heard Mr Wallbank, of Pontypridd, had flirted with and kissed Patient A while she was admitted to the ward under section 2 of the Mental Health Act. Following her discharge, he visited Patient A in a hotel room and had sex with her.
The hearing, held at the NMC site in Cathedral Road, Cardiff, was told that Mr Wallbank had contacted Patient A using a Facebook account set up under a pseudonym.
After he tried to end the relationship, Patient A attempted to kill herself by taking a drug overdose.
She was readmitted to the same ward and Mr Wallbank treated her even though he knew his actions had “contributed” to her suicide attempt, the panel found. Patient A was later transferred to another ward of the hospital and Mr Wallbank stopped the affair for good.
“The panel considered that Mr Wallbank’s actions with respect to Patient A caused her direct and lasting emotional harm”
The panel found his actions had amounted to misconduct and breaches of the NMC code. As a result, the panel determined Mr Wallbank’s fitness to practise had been impaired and he was was struck off the nursing register.
The document from the NMC hearing stated: “The panel considered that a mental health nurse having sexual intercourse with a vulnerable mental health patient immediately following discharge is extremely serious, and that it would be hard to imagine a more serious breach of the code.
“The panel considered that Mr Wallbank’s actions with respect to Patient A caused her direct and lasting emotional harm, and that his actions were the culmination of all of his behaviours towards her,” it said.
“The panel considered that Mr Wallbank’s actions displayed a profound lack of judgment, integrity and professionalism, and clearly denigrated the reputation of the nursing profession,” it added.
Mr Wallbank had denied having any sexual contact with Patient A. But key evidence heard by the panel were two Facebook messages in which Patient A had spoken about them having sex and kissing, and Mr Wallbank did not offer any denial in his response.
The NMC report said: “The panel would have expected an experienced professional nurse, faced with an allegation that he had sexual intercourse with a vulnerable patient, to have vehemently denied this allegation and to have reported it at the first opportunity. The panel noted that Mr Wallbank did not do this.”
During her evidence, Patient A told the panel that she was speaking out, because she did not want anyone else to “go through what I had” as a result of Mr Wallbank’s conduct.
Mr Wallbank was not present during the NMC hearing and he was legally represented by his father. He has 18 months to appeal the decision.
A spokesman for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said it had dismissed Mr Wallbank and referred the case to the NMC after conducting its own internal investigation.