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Final panel decision and reasons: 'How should a panel treat a nurse who steals controlled drugs but genuinely regrets their actions?'


Find out how the NMC panel acted in this case. Not yet read the case? Read the charge and background here

The panel was mindful that the proposed CPD agreed sanction between the parties was a suspension order for a period of 12 months.The panel took into account the advice set out in the Indicative Sanctions Guidance (ISG). It had regard to the principle of proportionality, weighing Nurse A’s interests together with the public interest. It has also taken account of the mitigating and aggravating factors set out in the provisional CPD agreement.

The panel bore in mind that the purpose of a sanction was not to be punitive. Although it may have that effect, its intention was to protect patients and the wider public interest. The wider public interest included maintaining public confidence in the profession and the NMC as the regulator, and declaring and upholding proper standards of conduct and behaviour. The panel considered each sanction in turn in ascending order of severity.

The panel first considered taking no action but concluded that, given the seriousness of the convictions, this would be wholly inappropriate. The panel next considered imposing a caution order, however it concluded that this would neither be sufficient, or proportionate given the seriousness of Nurse A’s actions, nor would it satisfy the public interest in this case.

The panel then considered a conditions of practice order. It was mindful that Nurse A’s actions were not of a clinical nature. It decided, in accordance with the Agreement, that conditions could not be formulated to address the substance of this case and concluded that a conditions of practice order would not be workable, proportionate or appropriate.

Accordingly, the panel concluded that a suspension order for a period of 12 months, as proposed, would represent an appropriate and proportionate sanction and that such an order would sufficiently protect the public and adequately satisfy the public interest. The panel acknowledged that while Nurse A’s actions featured serious departures from the standards expected of a Registered Nurse, his convictions, taken together were in themselves isolated, and there was no evidence of deep seated attitudinal issues. Nurse A had expressed good insight and genuine remorse. It was evident that he understood how his convictions would be viewed by other nurses and by the public; how they would impact upon colleagues and his employers; and how they would adversely affect public confidence in the profession. The panel noted that Nurse A had been open and candid with colleagues and family, and therefore the depth and quality of his insight was likely to limit the risk of repetition, at least to some degree.

The panel concluded that given all the mitigating features and in the specific circumstances of this case a striking-off order would not be appropriate as it would be disproportionate.

The panel considered that the 12-month period of suspension would be necessary to uphold the proper standards of conduct and behaviour and maintain confidence in the profession and the NMC as a regulator. It also considered that this order would provide Nurse A with adequate time to develop his insight and remediation. The panel imposed an interim suspension order for a period of 18 months, necessary for the protection of the public and otherwise in the public interest.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Any nurse who steals is a thief regardless of whether it is 2 paracetamol or CDs.
    He regrets it because he was caught
    He should have been struck off because he was dishonest. Nursing can not have dishonest nurses

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  • My concern would be what has to occur before he is reinstated? Does he have to have undergone some sort of rehabilitation, or retraining? What would happen to any future employers if he reoffended and it became known that he had previously been suspended?
    I disagree with the comment stating that a thief is a thief regardless of what is taken. Can we all say hand on heart that we have never taken Paracetamol from a drugs trolley for a splitting headache on a busy shift? I do however agree that he was sorry because he'd been caught, how long had he been using these drugs and where had they come from.

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  • After suspension, the NMC should apply a 'conditions of practice' for 3 years, with reviews annually. This is such a serious offence Nurse A will find it hard to continue his career. He has also jeopardised any trust from any other future employer/colleagues outside nursing.

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