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How should a panel treat a nurse who steals controlled drugs but genuinely regrets their actions?

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A nurse who took used drugs from a sharps bin in a care home was investigated by the police, but how should he be treated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council?

 

Nursing Times you are the panel logo

Nursing Times you are the panel logo

Each month, Nursing Times will consider a real-life case that was heard by the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Fitness to Practise case. We’ll give you the facts of the case, as presented to the panel, and you’ll get a chance to consider what decision you’d have made if you were on the panel. You can choose your response at the end of this article and then go to The Results to find out what really happened.

 

The charge

Nurse A was referred because his fitness to practise was impaired by reason of his convictions, which he admitted. It was put to him that, as a registered nurse, he was convicted at the magistrates’ court of:

  • One count of illegal entry of premises and stealing items therein, contrary to common law;
  • One count of possession of a class-A controlled drug, namely fentanyl;
  • One count of possession of a class-C controlled drug, namely temazepam.

The background

Nurse A was working as a staff nurse and community psychiatric nurse in a hospital. At the time of the referral his role included visiting patients externally at their homes or in care homes. He had been a registered nurse for 25 years and had no previous regulatory referrals or findings. The referral indicated Nurse A was under police investigation, facing allegations of removing used fentanyl patches from a care home. He later pleaded guilty to the allegations.

Nurse A went to a care home on the pretext of visiting a resident who was a former patient of his – in fact, he went to obtain used fentanyl patches. A care assistant observed him shaking the sharps bin upside down above his head and extracting 3-4 used patches with a pen. The care assistant reported the incident to the staff nurse and it was captured on CCTV. The care home contacted the police.

During a search of his house, five fentanyl adhesive patches were found, together with a partial quantity of a temazepam tablet and half of another white tablet, which was analysed and shown to contain temazepam.

In his police interview Nurse A admitted entering the home and taking the used patches for his own use.

Nurse A’s employer has not reported any previous concerns about Nurse A taking medication and was unaware of any prescribed medication issues. No issues were raised regarding his clinical practice.

Having pleaded guilty at the magistrates’ court, Nurse A was sentenced to a suspended period of imprisonment.

At the hearing

Prior to the substantive hearing, Nurse A admitted the charge and accepted that his fitness to practise was impaired. He submitted a reflective statement to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, in which he stated he recognised the harm that would have been caused to the good standing of the nursing profession by his actions, as well as how seeing the case in the press might have affected patients he had nursed.

He recognised that damage was also caused to his employer through the publicity and was sorry for that. He was aware that his continued absence from the ward caused practical difficulties to his employers and patients.

Nurse A expressed his deep regret for any distress caused and wanted to make amends. He sought to remediate his misconduct through improving his understanding of his own behaviour by undertaking self-directed reading from a variety of sources. He showed he had maintained his clinical knowledge by completing nine online learning courses.

Results of the fitness-to-practise panel


The ftp panel can impose four different sanctions:

Conditions of practice: this will prevent a registrant from carrying out certain types of work or working in a particular setting, it may require them to attend occupational health or do retraining. The order can be applied for up to three years and must be reviewed by an FTP panel again before expiry

Caution: the nurse or midwife is cautioned for their behaviour, but is allowed to practise without restriction


Suspensions: the nurse or midwife will be suspended from practice for a period of initially not longer than one year, but this can be extended after review by an FTP panel


Striking off: a nurse or midwife is removed from the register and not allowed to practise in the UK. The nurse or midwife must apply to be readmitted to the register

Share what you believe is the right action for the NMC panel to take below and then find out what they decided: Final panel decision and reasons

Poll

Which sanction, if any, would you impose of you were on the panel?

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